If the San Jose Sharks are to fall short again in their still unconsummated attainment of the Stanley Cup, Sunday will forever be known as “Black Sunday” in team history.
At home, with a rubber Game 5 of the Western Conference finals set with the St. Louis Blues, the Sharks not only were humiliated in a 5-0 loss, but may have lost three of their best players for the potential closeout Game 6 in St. Louis.
I had favored the Sharks in this series, believing not only in their talent but in the ongoing “team of destiny” thing that had seen them pull off a miracle or two in getting this far.
Karlsson Injury A Killer
There was no hiding from the NBC cameras on Sunday for Erik Karlsson. Sitting off to the side of the Sharks’ bench, the two-time former Norris Trophy winner’s grimaces during the second period were a featured part of the game recaps from there.
Bothered by what was believed to be a recurrence of a late-season groin injury to his left side, Karlsson was a liability on the ice to that point in the game. His last shift came with 7:04 left in the second, and his status for Game 6 - and beyond, if the Sharks get that far - seems very much in doubt.
Karlsson just couldn’t move in Game 5. Normally one of the best, most elegant skaters in the league, Karlsson looked like an aging beer-leaguer out there.
Assuming Karlsson can’t go for Game 6, the Sharks are thus deprived of one of the game’s all-time best puck movers out of the defensive zone. He also is an elite power-play quarterback.
The Sharks will likely have to go with Tim Heed to replace Karlsson, and he’s played all of two games so far in the postseason and just 37 in the regular season. That’s a drastic dropoff.
Pavelski, Hertl May Be Out Too
Also hurt on Black Sunday were Sharks captain Joe Pavelski and one of their other top forwards, Tomas Hertl. Both sustained “upper body” injuries that sure looked like they were to the head.
Pavelski, the team’s leading goal-scorer during the regular season with 38, has already missed six postseason games with a head injury, following that scary tumble to the ice in Game 7 of the first round against the Vegas Golden Knights.
Hertl, the team’s regular-season points leader among forwards (74), was sorely missed after taking a high hit from the Blues’ Ivan Barbashev in the first period. If Karlsson, Pavelski and Hertl all are no-gos for Game 6, the pressure on guys such as Brent Burns, Logan Couture and goalie Martin Jones go up significantly.
More Reasons To Bet The Blues In Game 6
The Enterprise Center figures to be the loudest building in Blues history Tuesday night. Blues fans have had to wait since 1970 from their team’s last appearance in a Stanley Cup Final.
Petro, what would claiming a spot in the #StanleyCup Final mean to you, your family, Bob Plager, Brett Hull, Jay Bouwmeester, Alexander Steen... heck, the whole city?! #stlblues#WeAllBleedBluepic.twitter.com/fGEnjzYIXB— St. Louis Blues (@StLouisBlues) May 20, 2019
With a win the Blues would play the they played in that Final - the Boston Bruins (remember that picture of Bobby Orr flying through the air? That’s the last action the Blues have seen in the Finals since that iconic NHL moment).
A win in Game 6 would be the Blues’ first Cup Finals home-clinching win since a double-overtime victory over the Minnesota North Stars in 1968. It’s going to be LOUD in the building.
Since allowing that controversial hand-pass-assisted overtime goal in Game 3 at home, the Blues have played a stifling, swarming brand of defense that has limited San Jose to just one goal.
No way are the Blues going to want to go back to the Shark Tank for a Game 7, a place that has seen voodoo go against two previous opponents - Vegas and Colorado - in such games.
Frankly, I’m surprised the line is so low right now on the Blues at -157 for Game 6 at 888Sport. I say hop on that before it perhaps changes when more of the Sharks’ iffy medical situation is known. The Blues are -385 to win the series at 888Sport.
There’s no such thing as a lock in the Stanley Cup playoffs. And we’ve already seen these Sharks rise from two previous coffins in these playoffs. This time, however, it looks like they’re time is up.