May 11, 2019
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Karlsson wished for opportunity now in front of Sharks –


SAN JOSE — Having an eye on the Stanley Cup Final isn’t something that’s come about recently for the Sharks. San Jose has been focused on hockey’s biggest stage since before the 2018-19 campaign even started, when the team acquired Erik Karlsson from the Ottawa Senators.
Now, after a rollercoaster regular season, the two-time Norris Trophy-winning defenseman and his teammates are gearing up for a Western Conference final run. In talking to the press ahead of Game 1, Karlsson reflected on joining the team at the start of the season and how the Stanley Cup Final has always been in the team’s sights.
“Once I got traded here, I knew we had a great chance,” Karlsson told the press. “(They were a) great team already, for me to come into and kind of find my way. And here we are. We put in the work throughout the whole year and in these playoffs to get to this position.”
This isn’t EK65’s first trip to a conference final, of course. He and the Sens made it through seven games in 2017 before Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins knocked them out of the running for the Lord Stanley’s Cup. Karlsson admitted he can’t compare both conference final trips since the current one hasn’t happened yet. But he did acknowledge his level of confidence in San Jose is very high.
“I feel more confident, comfortable now than maybe I did then,” he said. “I think with Ottawa, it was a little unexpected. We weren’t looking that far ahead. Here, I think, this year, we’ve taken an aim at the Cup Final since Game 1. That’s our expectation.”
Karlsson’s season with Team Teal hasn’t been without its ups and downs. It took him a bit of time to get acclimated to San Jose after having only played with Ottawa during his professional career. Then came the mid-season injury that left him sidelined until the last game of the regular season. As the Sharks’ playoff run has continued, Karlsson’s level of play has only improved.
“Erik’s one of the best players in the game, look at the journey this year,” Sharks’ general manager Doug Wilson said. “He’s an important part of our team. He’s a difference-maker.”
Wilson was quick to point out that the Sharks are a “sum of their parts,” as opposed to relying on one single player. Karlsson is part of that winning equation.
“We’re going to win in different ways on different nights with different guys stepping up,” he said, “and I think that’s the beauty of our group.”
[RELATED: Sharks preparing to play more physical series vs. Blues] There is still no indication as to how long Karlsson will play for San Jose. For the time being, the Sharks are focused on making their playoff run last even longer.
“For me, this is a privilege, and something when I got traded here that I wished for,” Karlsson said. “But there’s no guarantees. Everything that this team and this organization has shown me is that they’re willing to put in the work to get to where we want to go. And now we’re sitting here and have some work left to do.”

It all comes down to this.
After surviving grueling seven-game series against both the Vegas Golden Knights and the Colorado Avalanche, the Sharks have made it to the fifth Western Conference final in franchise history. 
Their quest for Lord Stanley’s Cup continues Saturday when they welcome the St. Louis Blues to The SAP Center for Game 1 of the Western Conference final.
Eight wins secured, eight to go to capture NHL immortality.
Here’s how to watch Game 1 between the Sharks and Blues on TV and streaming live online, as well as pre and postgame coverage on NBC Sports California.
When: 5 p.m. PT on Saturday, May 11, on NBC (Sharks Playoff Live starts at 4 p.m. on NBC Sports California)Live Stream: NBC Sports app; fuboTV — Try a free trial (MyTeams by NBC Sports app for pregame/postgame)

SAN JOSE — In their previous playoff series, a big key for the Sharks was shutting down the Avalanche’s stealthy top line.Having successfully defeated Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon-led offense, San Jose now faces a new challenge in the Western Conference final — the St. Louis Blues’ top line.
The Blues, arguably, have a deeper roster than the Avalanche, which gives the Sharks more players to watch. But Brayden Schenn, Jaden Schwartz, and Vladimir Tarasenko combine to make the biggest threat San Jose’s defense will face in their new best-of-seven series. While the Sharks are familiar with these opposing players from the regular season, facing them in a playoff setting will be a whole other task.
San Jose isn’t as familiar with what Schenn brings to the table in a playoff setting, given the last time the Sharks and Blues faced each other in the playoffs he was playing for the Philadelphia Flyers. But he has been successful centering St. Louis top trio through two series, winning 49.57-percent of his faceoffs and contributing four points (one goal, three assists) through 13 playoff games. While he was kept off the scoreboard for the bulk of the Blues’ second-round series against the Dallas Stars, he remains a skater that can out plays in motion.
The last few seasons haven’t been kind to Schwartz who has dealt with a number of injuries. But St. Louis’ current postseason run is proving to be the most productive of his career. Through 13 playoff games, he has tallied a career-high 11 points (eight goals, three assists) including a pair of two-point games during the series against Dallas. This is a player that can get on the scoresheet multiple times a night if he’s given the room to do so. 
San Jose is very familiar with what Tarasenko can do on the playoff stage, and there’s no doubt he will keep San Jose’s blue line busy. (More on that matchup shortly.) He’s tallied five goals through 13 playoff games – four of which came on the power play. 
Defending this top-line trio will pose different challenges for the Sharks’ defense than they faced with their last playoff opponent. The Avalanche thrived off of their own speed and gaining momentum off the rush. The Blues, on the other hand, plays a much heavier game, and their top line is going to use its mix speed and muscle to step behind San Jose and bash into their zone.
[RELATED: Sharks can’t say enough about Pavelski] Suffice to say, we’ll likely see Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Brent Burns going up against St. Louis top line quite a bit. But they aren’t the only ones who will have to push back against this line. As Sharks’ broadcaster Bret Hedican pointed out in NBC Sports California’s Facebook live segment on Saturday morning, Tarasenko doesn’t need a lot of room to shoot the puck. Getting in his shot lanes and taking those opportunities away will be crucial for the Sharks.
While the Blues have plenty of weapons they can use against the Sharks, being able to hold that top line off is going to be a key factor for the entire series.

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