The Sharks seem pretty, pretty boned after Sunday’s 5-0 loss to the Blues, which gives St. Louis a 3-2 series lead. And it’s not even the whole verge-of-elimination thing; San Jose has faced that before, and they’re still here. But if they’re to complete another series comeback, and win yet another Game 7, they’ll probably have to do it seriously shorthanded.
By the end of the game, the Sharks were without Erik Karlsson, Tomas Hertl, Joe Pavelski, and Joonas Donskoi, and with Evander Kane and Micheal Haley ejected, had nearly as many skaters in the dressing room (six) as left on the bench (seven). Head coach Pete DeBoer didn’t offer any injury updates, so it’s not clear who’ll be ready to go for Tuesday’s Game 6 in St. Louis, but Game 5 offered evidence that for Karlsson, a superstar when healthy, having him at less than 100 percent might be worse than not having him at all.
Karlsson missed most of the last two months of the regular season with a groin injury, and it’s clear that it’s seriously bothering him again:
He’s played fewer and shorter shifts since apparently re-aggravating it in Game 4, and even when on the ice he didn’t look at all like himself. His bad turnover led to St. Louis’s first goal, and his inability to get back to cover Vladimir Tarasenko forced Brent Burns to trip up the winger, leading to a penalty shot that Tarasenko would convert to make it 3-0. Watch Karlsson labor as he tries to keep pace with Tarasenko; he’s clearly in a lot of pain, and even worse, he’s a liability right now:
Karlsson played just 3:03 in the second period and did not play at all in the third. He probably shouldn’t have played at all. Or, at the very least, San Jose should have dressed a seventh defenseman.
“I mean, hindsight’s 20-20, you know?” Sharks coach Peter DeBoer asked. “We make those decisions based on reports we get form the player and medical (personnel), and the report was he felt he could play and get through the game. So, you know, it’s easy to sit here and say now, ‘Yeah, sure you have regrets.’”
A hobbled Karlsson would be bad enough, but in the third period shit really hit the fan. Tomas Hertl had been hit high by Ivan Barbashev earlier in the game, and while he played in the second, he did not emerge from the dressing room in the third. It’s hard not to speculate—and to come up with the pretty obvious diagnosis—after watching him take a shoulder to the chin.
DeBoer said that no-call was crucial, and also the beginning of the end.
“Arguably five-minute major on Tommy Hertl that, if it’s called, maybe that’s a momentum-changing play right there,” he said. “But we come out of the first down 1-0, and then Hertl can’t go and, you know, Karlsson can’t go. So we started taking on some water.”
Joe Pavelski was leveled by a hit from Alex Pietrangelo, which looked cleaner than the Hertl hit but may have had the same outcome. Pavelski, who missed six playoff games with a concussion suffered in the first round, immediately left the game and did not return. “When Pav got hit high,” DeBoer said, “we lost our composure in the third. Not our finest moment, but I understand where that emotion’s coming from with what he’s been through, and we just have to regroup.”
The frustrated Sharks earned 32 minutes of penalties in the third, including 10-minute misconducts for Evander Kane and Micheal Haley. And then, just for bad measure, Joonas Donskoi took a friendly-fire puck to the face. He did not return to play, though he was back on the bench for the very end of the game.
In all, Sunday could really not have gone worse for the Sharks, not without the giant shark mouth they skate through for introductions deflating and trapping Logan Couture for all eternity. (I want to make clear that that did not happen, though you’d be forgiven for believing it.) Normally, it’s no problem for a veteran team to shake off a brutal loss, but this one’s after-effects will still be felt. Can Karlsson play? Should he? How serious are Hertl’s and Pavelski’s apparent head injuries? Is Martin Jones going to stop doing stuff like this? (He’s not injured. Just...not great.) The Sharks already have a 3-1 comeback in their trophy room, and have had a blessed run of luck, so it might be dumb to count them out now. But non-elimination games don’t get more brutal than Game 5.