San Jose Sharks’ goalie James Reimer (47) is scored against by the Edmonton Oilers during second-period in Edmonton on Thu Apr 13, 2023 (Canadian Press via AP News photo)
By Matthew Harrington
The San Jose Sharks season mercifully ended Thursday night in Edmonton, with the Sharks dropping a 5-2 loss to the Edmonton Oilers in the finale. San Jose can now finish as low as 29th in the overall standings pending the Columbus Blue Jackets result Friday night.
Erik Karlsson assisted to finish the year with an eye-popping 101 points on 76 assists and 25 goals. It would take some extreme mental gymnastics and talks about +/- and standings for him to not earn the Norris Trophy as the league’s best defenseman. Noah Gregor scored for a second night in a row and Steven Lorentz also lit the lamp for the Sharks (22-44-26).
The Oilers received goals from Evan Bouchard, Leon Draisaitl and Evander Kane and Mattias Janmark, last year’s money laundering trade target for the Sharks vis-a-vis a move to Vegas, scored two goals for the Oilers (50-23-9). Draisaitl also had a pair of assists and Connor McDavid was held to as many points (1) as goaltender Stuart Skinner.
Janmark scored his 9th of the year on a deflection 4:16 into the first period after Skinner played the puck from behind his own net to Mattias Ekholm. Ekholm, still in the Oilers end, fed the puck to Janmark going down the middle. While Janmark was originally turned away by a defensive poke check on a gritty net front swoop, he found his own rebound to beat James Reimer.
Leon Draistail scored an Oilers club record 89th power play goal on a backdoor tap-in, his 52nd goal of the year, at the 6:56 mark of the first for a 2-0 Edmonton lead. The goal was a combination from Draisaitl (128 points) and two other Century Club members Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (104 points) and not so much presumptive but guaranteed Hart favorite Connor McDavid (153).
Noah Gregor pulled the Sharks within one at 2-1 by driving the net on a Thomas Bordeleau’s rebound at the 9:44 mark, lighting the lamp for the 10th time this year in his hometown. Lorentz picked up the secondary assist for the first of two points on the night.
Bouchard put the Oilers up 3-1 after taking a Draisaitl no-look backhander in the home plate area for an easy slot chance at the 5:02 mark of the second period. Mattias Janmark scored a shorthanded goal against a tired Sharks power play unit with 4:56 left in the period to put the lead at 4-1.
The Sharks would get a power play goal back with 1:12 left in the period thanks to Lorentz’s 10th of the year assisted by Tomas Hertl and Karlsson, but that would be the last of their scoring for the 2022-23 season. Kane scored the dagger with just under 5 minutes left in regulation for the 5-2 final, adding insult to injury after getting away with a high stick that stunned Henry Thrun long enough for the Oilers forward to get into place for an easy goal.
The Sharks wrap up one of their worst seasons since the expansion days with the opportunity to possibly score a top-three (maybe even first overall) pick in the NHL Entry Draft this summer. First-year general manager Mike Grier will have his hands full this offseason with some decisions on players in long-term but cumbersome deals and limited cap space while hoping to supplement the young talent still learning the game like Thrun, Bordeleau and William Eklund with veterans who can contribute and fill key roles.
Also of question will be the netminding, with Kaapo Kahkonen being the only NHL goaltender under contract next season. Whether Erik Karlsson gets traded and whether the Sharks can land the top overall pick or another generational talent will dictate the competitive level of this team next season and in the years to come.