After winning the Erik Karlsson trade sweepstakes this offseason, the San Jose Sharks became the favorites to win the Stanley Cup. But as the Dallas Stars know, winning the offseason doesn’t necessarily equate to winning on the ice.
It’s not that the Sharks are bad. They’re just not setting the NHL on fire the way many envisioned they would after an addition of Karlsson’s caliber. They sit third in the Pacific Division, but equal the Stars in points (33 through 29 games played, one more game than Dallas has played). Because the Pacific Division is arguably the weakest in the league, it’s one of the only things keeping them from sitting outside the playoff picture today.
They haven’t really separated themselves from the cluster of teams that could be competing for a wild card spot (Dallas, Vegas Golden Knights, Minnesota Wild, Edmonton Oilers and, to a lesser degree, Arizona Coyotes and Vancouver Canucks). Just six points separate all of those teams.
Consistency has been lacking in their overall game, with a lot of win-loss-win-loss on their schedule so far. If that sounds familiar, it’s because the Stars are much the same way this year. But whereas Dallas has the excuse of a new system, a new-to-the-NHL head coach, and a boatload of injuries to their starting six defensive corps, the Sharks have none of those.
So what’s up in the Bay area?
They’re looking for some consistency, and head coach Pete Deboer mixed up the coaching staff’s responsibilities prior to their impressive 5-1 win over the Carolina Hurricanes a few days ago. Maybe that will give the team the fresh look it needs to get consistent in their efforts and turn their two games won in a row to a full-on streak.
The Stars, on the other hand, will look to continue their utter dominance at home and extend their own streak to four games in a row tonight. Home isn’t where their woes lie - and with the team hitting the road for yet another week-long road trip, getting points today will keep them competitive in the Central Division — arguably the hardest in the league.
Two teams that look so similar but are worlds apart in circumstance. Who comes out on top tonight?
Dallas Stars Lineup
Jamie Benn - Tyler Seguin - Alexander Radulov
Devin Shore/Roope Hintz - Martin Hanzal - Jason Spezza
Blake Comeau/Valeri Nichushkin - Radek Faksa - Tyler Pitlick
Mattias Janmark - Jason Dickinson - Brett Ritchie
Esa Lindell - Miro Heiskanen
Gavin Bayreuther - Roman Polak
Joel Hanley - Taylor Fedun
Ben Bishop is the expected starter in net.
San Jose Sharks Lineup
Tomas Hertl - Logan Couture - Joe Pavelski
Timo Meier - Joe Thornton - Marcus Sorensen
Evander Kane - Antti Suomela - Joonas Donskoi
Melker Karlsson - Barclay Goodrow - Kevin Labanc
Radim Simek - Brent Burns
Brenden Dillon - Erik Karlsson
Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Justin Braun
Martin Jones will get the start.