SAN JOSE — He’s no ordinary Joe.
Which means that he is not easily replaced.
The San Jose Sharks opened their second-round playoff series Friday — a clash against the eighth-seeded Colorado Avalanche — without the services of captain and first-line forward Joe Pavelski, still feeling the effects of a scary injury suffered earlier this week.
“We miss him everywhere,” said Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer prior Friday’s late date with the Avs at SAP Center. “He’s our captain, so it starts in the dressing room and on the bench and with his composure, especially this time of year with the emotion of the game. So he’s missed there. And on the ice, he does it all. He blocks shots. He takes faceoffs. He plays power play. He plays penalty kill. First minute, last minute, whether you’re up or down . . .
“Is that enough?”
San Jose’s skipper was, predictably, not so long-winded on Pavelski’s status beyond Game 1.
The 34-year-old Pavelski is officially day-to-day. DeBoer, like any other bench boss during the Stanley Cup playoffs, would rather provide his credit-card deets than a more in-depth medical report.
Pavelski’s injury — and the controversial major penalty that was assessed to Cody Eakin on that faceoff sequence — has been the talk of the hockey world since the Sharks’ incredible comeback in their winner-take-all series-capper against the Vegas Golden Knights.
After their captain cracked his head on the ice, the Men in Teal cranked it up with four man-advantage markers in a span of 4:01 to erase a three-goal deficit.
The good news is the Sharks — thanks to that power-play explosion, then thanks to Barclay Goodrow’s overtime winner — are through to the second round.
The bad news is that, until further notice, they will be missing one of their marquee men.
Pavelski scored a team-high 38 goals during the regular season. He tallied twice more and added a pair of assists in that seven-game slug-fest against the Golden Knights.
“(Pavelski) is obviously a heart-and-soul guy of this team,” said Sharks defenceman Erik Karlsson, who piled up nine assists during the opening round. “He’s been around here for a long time and has a lot of respect in this room and he does things better out there, I would say, than some other guys.
“But again, this is the reality of things — guys go down and you’re going to need other guys to step up until you know he’s ready to come back. We’re excited about that, that someone else is going to get an opportunity to step in and fill that hole. Whether he is going to do the same things as Pavs does, I don’t know, but it’s an opportunity for someone else to come in and make an impact.”
With Pavelski unavailable for Game 1 against the Avalanche, trade-deadline pickup Gustav Nyquist was promoted to patrol the right wing on the top trio, while centre Logan Couture was preparing to take draws on both sides of the ice. (Pavelski, a righty, and the left-handed Couture usually split the dot duties.)
Joonas Donskoi isn’t quite ready to return, so Lukas Radil was bumped up the lineup for the series-opener and fellow rookie Dylan Gambrell — with all of 11 regular-season spins on his resume — logged his playoff debut on the fourth unit.
“We don’t have a replacement (for Pavelski) but it has to be by committee,” DeBoer said. “That’s what you build depth for all year. And we like our depth, that’s one thing. The guys going in, we trust. They’ve done it here before. They’ve played. We like their game. So I’m excited about our depth guys and the opportunity they’re going to get.”
NOT ENOUGH CUSHION
SAN JOSE — Nathan MacKinnon is not so different from you and I.
The Colorado Avalanche superstar was, like every other hockey fan on the planet, perched on the edge of his couch cushions Tuesday, glued to television coverage of a Game 7 showdown between the San Jose Sharks and Vegas Golden Knights.
Your couch might not be as comfy.
Your flat-screen might not be as big.
But MacKinnon, just like the rest of us, could hardly believe his eyes.
“We were kind of awaiting our winner,” MacKinnon said after Friday’s morning skate at SAP Center in San Jose. “I saw that it was 3-0 with eight minutes left and obviously I assumed we were playing Vegas. And then all of a sudden, it completely changed.”
The momentum changed with a major penalty to Cody Eakin — the NHL has since admitted that was a poor call, reportedly apologizing to the Golden Knights organization — and then with four power-play goals by the Sharks.
The Avalanche changed their hotel reservations from Sin City to San Jose.
“Most teams play similar to one another nowadays, so it’s not like we were scouting their systems or anything,” MacKinnon said of Tuesday’s must-see TV. “I caught the third period, when everything kind of happened. It was a crazy game.
“Like everybody else, you’re on your couch watching hockey. It was a really fun game to see, one of the craziest games in memory, I’m sure.”