The Sharks finished the 2017-18 season one point away from second place in the Pacific Division. They finished with 100 points, one behind the Ducks with 101 and Vegas who won the division with 109.
Two rounds into the playoffs those same Golden Knights would eliminate the Sharks in six games.
The 100 points to end the year was only one more than their total from last year, with San Jose holding onto their third-place spot in the division. This Sharks team seemed like it may have had more potential than last years, however.
San Jose fell in the top ten in goals for and against as well as in the top ten in powerplay and penalty kill percentage. They made a trade at the deadline for Evander Kane who started producing right away. Kane tallied 14 points as a Shark alone in the last few months of the season.
Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture and Tomas Hertl all had career years in terms of points in 2017-18 with Brent Burns tallying the third most of his career. The Sharks were a veteran-led team who were two years removed from a Stanley Cup Final appearance.
In the first round, they faced the Anaheim Ducks and handled them easily. They swept the Ducks and totalled 16 goals in the first round and held Anaheim to just four. Despite not having Joe Thornton for the playoffs San Jose was able to get plenty of production elsewhere.
Through both rounds, Couture (12pts-4G-8A) Hertl (9pts-6G-3A) and Pavelski (8pts-2G-6A) led the fish in points. They also got some dominating performances from goaltender Martin Jones.
Jones finished with a .926 SV% and 2.29 GAA. Anaheim had a total 132 shots through four games but never scored more than two goals in a game.
What went wrong?
Marc-Andre Fleury. Mostly. The Flower has been a machine these playoffs and was an absolute wall through most of the second round. In the games, the Sharks lost in this series it seemed in most cases that it would be impossible to score on Fleury.
The Sharks pushed two games into OT, winning one and losing the other. They then won Game 4 by a 4-0 score. In Game 4 Jones was particularly masterful stopping all 34 shots he faced.
Despite the blowout loss in Game 1, this was a hard-fought series that I expected to go one more game. Vegas has proven that their group of misfits can score. And a lot. Game 1 was a lopsided 7-0 blowout win. The Golden Knights outscored the Sharks 22-14 throughout the series.
When it came down to it in an elimination game, San Jose was shutout in Game 6 as Vegas scored three times on 32 shots and Fleury earning the 28 save shutout. The underdog Knights proved to be too much for the ageing veteran Sharks.
Is there a heartbeat?
Yes. The Sharks don’t have a tonne of free agents heading into the offseason. Joe Thornton and Evander Kane are the two of the most significant names to hit the market. The biggest task will be coming to terms with the most significant name on the list. Tomas Hertl is an RFA, and San Jose will have to make it a priority to lock up their Czech star.
The Sharks have a roster where the bulk of the talent is still young and in their prime. Logan Couture (29) Mikkel Boedker (28) Joonas Donskoi (26) Tomas Hertl (24) Timo Meier (21) Marcus Sorensen (26) and Martin Jones (28) have yet to reach 30 years old.
With a group of young talent and a solid veteran goaltender who’s looking like he is starting to enter his prime don’t count the Sharks out. With the ageing Ducks looking less promising for the future San Jose is looking poised to challenge Vegas next year for the Pacific Division title.
The window may not be open for long with a combined 12 UFA’s and RFA’s going into the 2018-19 offseason. So, look for San Jose to make a run next year while they have the majority of their roster in place.