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Canucks Pacific Division Rival Preview: San Jose Sharks

The Sharks have eaten the Canucks alive in recent years. Will the gap finally begin to close?

NHL: San Jose Sharks at Vancouver Canucks
Apr 2, 2019; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Vancouver Canucks defenseman Quinn Hughes (43) and goaltender Thatcher Demko (35) defend the goal against San Jose Sharks forward Barclay Goodrow (23) during the first period at Rogers Arena.
Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

After nearly bowing out to Vegas in Round One, the Sharks felt like a team of destiny.

That was until their run was cut short by an even more unlikely opponent.

Between their four-goal power play outburst and that Game Three hand pass controversy, the Sharks eventually ran out of luck, losing once again in the Conference Finals after a barrage of injuries.

Their roster heading into 2019-20 has been cut short not by injuries, but by the salary cap. Joe Pavelski was the largest loss, but the Sharks also had to let Joonas Donskoi, Gustav Nyqvist and Joakim Ryan walk as well.

By shedding them, Doug Wilson was able to make Erik Karlsson the highest-paid defenceman in hockey. He also signed Timo Meier to an extremely fair deal while absolutely fleecing 56-point man Kevin Labanc.

The verdict? San Jose is still a very dangerous hockey team, although they have question marks at every position.

In: Dalton Prout (free agency, CGY), Jonny Brodzinski (free agency, LA)

Out: Joe Pavelski (free agency, DAL), Joonas Donskoi (free agency, COL), Joakim Ryan (free agency, LA)

Quick Take: The Sharks are shaping up to be one of the most intriguing teams to watch in the Western Conference. Will they remain at the top of the NHL after re-signing Erik Karlsson, or will their warts force them to tumble down the standings?

Brent Burns is 34 years old and Karlsson might be injury prone, but both remain two of the best defenceman in hockey. And even after losing Pavelski, they still boast three 30-goal scorers in Timo Meier, Tomas Hertl and Evander Kane. That doesn’t include Logan Couture and Labanc either, meaning the Sharks still have a dangerous top six.

Now, their third line last year with Joe Thornton, Marcus Sorensen and Kevin Labanc gave them some secondary scoring. If one (or both) of Thornton and Patrick Marleau sign with the team, it could remain a strength. If they don’t, the Sharks could have some secondary scoring issues.

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-San Jose Sharks at St. Louis Blues
Will Jumbo Joe return to the Sharks?
Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

After Sorensen’s 30 points, the next-highest scoring forward on the roster from last season is Barclay Goodrow, who had 17 points. The Sharks will need the next Kevin Labanc to come up from the AHL and provide a scoring boost. They have some candidates in Lukas Radil, Dylan Gambrell and Alexander True.

The real wild card will be their goaltending. Martin Jones was one of the worst starting goalies in the league last season, and back-up Aaron Dell was also underwhelming. Marc-Edouard Vlasic also had a down season and is now 32. With an aging defence and some inexperience on the third pairing, the Sharks could be in trouble if Jones is a below-average starter once again.

Sharks overall record in 2018-19: 46-27-9: 101 points (2nd in Pacific Division, 2nd in Western Conference, 5th in NHL)

Sharks 2018-19 record against Canucks: 3-1

Anaheim and Los Angeles aren’t as challenging as they used to be, but the Sharks continued to give the Canucks nightmares last season.

Poor Mikey DiPietro knows that all too well, as the Canucks Swiss cheese defence let him to get feasted on by the Sharks during a 7-2 loss in February. Prior to that, the Sharks beat the Canucks back in November, which ended up being the team’s 8th loss in a row.

Vancouver did win a meaningless game against the Sharks in April, but since the calendar flipped to 2017, the Canucks are 2-11-1 versus Bay Area fishies.

Could this be the year the Canucks finally close the gap on the Sharks? San Jose is clearly still a more loaded team, but the gap between the two seems to be closing. For viewership sake, that would be a bonus since the first three meetings are all featured on Hockey Night in Canada.

The Canucks better hope that they can close the gap and win a few more contests in this “rivalry.” This is the only Pacific Division opponent that Vancouver will face five times this year, which means there’s an extra game in the Shark tank for the Canucks to endure.

Canucks vs. Sharks games in 2019-20

  • Saturday, November 2nd @ San Jose (7:00 pm)
  • Saturday, December 14th @ San Jose (7:00pm)
  • Saturday, January 18th vs. San Jose (7:00pm)
  • Wednesday, January 29th @ San Jose (7:30pm)
  • Wednesday, March 25th vs. San Jose (7:00pm)