San Jose Sharks: How did Erik Karlsson earn a star without a point?

(Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
(Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images) /

There’s a generally held belief in most ‘in the know’ hockey circles that when Erik Karlsson and Brent Burns are locked in, the San Jose Sharks seemingly always have a chance to win.

It makes sense, right? The duo is arguably the best defensive pair in the West/Pacific Division and have developed incredible chemistry over the past three seasons since Karlsson was acquired from the Ottawa Senators for Chris Tierney, Dylan DeMelo, Josh Norris, Rūdolfs Balcers, the Sharks’ first-round pick in 2020, a second-round pick in 2019 and a conditional second-round pick in 2021, and have remained a force of nature even as their team’s fortunes have started to fade.

In Burns, the Sharks have a big, bruising blue-liner who shoots like a winger and hits like a cement truck. He’s a powerplay specialist, an offensive defenseman, and the kind of player any team would love to have headlining their defensive rotation – that is, unless you have an even better defender to pair up with him.

Unfortunately for fans of the Arizona Coyotes, Los Angeles Kings, and the rest of the West/Pacific Division, the Sharks may just have that in Karlsson, who is being paid like the best defenseman in NHL history.

While Karlsson has been mildly underwhelming during his tenure in the teal, orange, and black – having failed to score double-digit goals in either of his first two seasons with the Sharks – that isn’t necessarily his fault. No, the 30-year-old Landsbro, Sweden native has been limited to 53 and 56 games in each respectable season due to injury, and those issues have prevented the former two-time Norris Trophy winner from shining like the golden Centurion that was once embroidered on his chest.

Erik Karlsson was in vintage form during the San Jose Sharks’ win over the Blues.

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Which brings us to the topic at hand: How on Earth did Erik Karlsson get a star in the San Jose Sharks’ win over the St. Louis Blues without scoring a point?

I’ll give you a hint: He played incredibly good defense.

Leading the team in TOI at 30:43, Karlsson played like a man on fire, melting the ice in his wake. He skated with purpose, rocketed the puck out of his zone on the power play, and just generally looked like a certified star. Though his lone shot attempt didn’t go in – which is rather expected considering the show wasn’t a particularly good one – Karlsson’s two blocks were tied for the most on the team alongside fellow defenseman Mario Ferraro and was his takeaway, which was one of only two secured by the team alongside one from Logan Couture.

Though there isn’t one specific number on the stat sheet that immediately jumps out as being ‘star-worthy’ – save maybe the aforementioned blocks and takeaway – the Sharks would have 100 percent lost the 2-1 nail biter to the Blues if Karlsson had played with just a little less oomph.

As counterintuitive as it may sound, Karlsson played such lights out, fundamentally sound defense that he barely shows up in the NHL Highlights recap of the game. How often can you say that?

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When you’re getting paid $12 million a season, it’s imperative to find ways to impact a game even when your shots aren’t falling. If Erik Karlsson can continue to play lights-out hockey for 30 minutes a night like he did on that fateful night against the St. Louis Blues, it doesn’t particularly matter how many points the 30-year-old defenseman scores on any given night, as he will consistently put his San Jose Sharks in a place to succeed and vie for the fourth playoff spot in a top-loaded West Division.