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Can Karlsson finish what he started?

Can Karlsson finish what he started?

I still think I’m one of the best players in the world.

Erik Karlsson told us that last October and forgive us if we didn’t believe him.

Karlsson enters season with confidence

At that point, the San Jose Sharks star came off successive disappointing campaigns.

In 2020-21, he scored just 22 points in 52 games. That 0.42 points per game was his lowest since his 0.43 rookie season.

In 2019-20, he posted a more robust 40 points in 56 games, before thumb surgery ended his year and COVID put the NHL’s season on hold. But when they spoke to scouts during that campaign, they all agreed there was something not quite right about his game, a little less pick-me-up in his step, perhaps because of an off-season groin surgery.

But Karlsson, true to his claim, started 2021-22 with authority, with a total of 26 points in his first 33 games, playing with a consistent offensive and defensive enthusiasm that we hadn’t seen since halfway through his first season in San Jose. The Sharks responded in kind and by mid-year they had a tenuous hold on the last wildcard spot in the West.

Karlsson, Meier lead sharks on both sides of Puck

But then, in mid-January, Karlsson had forearm surgery, and although he returned in March, his game and the Sharks weren’t quite out, with San Jose finishing 20 points out of the playoffs.

As good as Karlsson was for three months last year, it didn’t keep his name out of the trade rumor mill last summer:

REPORT: Sharks open to burn trade or Karlsson

But here’s Karlsson again, after scoring two goals in a 4-3 defeat to the Tampa Bay Lightning, reminding us once again that he can still be one of the best players in the world.

The Sharks are only 3-8-0, but in 11 games Karlsson has six goals and five assists. That 6 out of 11 is the best goalscoring start of a season in his career; he had 5 in 11 to kick off 2012-13.

He currently leads all NHL defenders in goals and points.

This afternoon’s performance follows a commando run and OT winner against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday.

“The last two games he looked like a winner of the Norris Trophy,” offered San Jose Sharks head coach David Quinn.

So and it feels like I ask this question every year since he arrived in San Jose, is Erik Karlsson back?

And wait a minute, didn’t I compare Karlsson three days ago with Albert Pujols with the Angels and Michael Jordan with the Wizards?

Erik Karlsson and the Philosopher’s Stone

First let me say that Pujols was an All-Star with Los Angeles or Anaheim and Jordan was still losing 20 points a night in Washington. I didn’t call Karlsson Willie Mays with the Mets.

But, and I can bear what I said, it wasn’t a compliment either. Pujols was an All-Star with the Angels, but he was the leading hitter of our generation with the St. Louis Cardinals. And I don’t have to tell you what Jordan did when he wasn’t with the Wizards.

So is Karlsson back?

I can answer the question the same way I answer it every year after he puts on a game to remember.

Here’s another article from last year:

How does Karlsson transform sharks that can affect Hertl?

Here’s one from 2020-21:

Quick Thoughts: Swedish Spring in St. Louis, Sharks Win 2-1 Shootout

And here’s a pre-San Jose Hockey Now paean from 2019-20.

It’s always the same question when Karlsson has a great game: can he keep it up?

Nobody expects Karlsson to keep shooting 22.2 percent (career: 6.7).

But for years I had no doubt that Karlsson can still be one of the best players in the world on any given night. But the real best players in the world bring them the most every night for an entire season, which Karlsson hasn’t done since he was with the Ottawa Senators.

In his own way, I think Karlsson knows too.

It’s about how it ends. It’s been a long year, he acknowledged when asked about his personal best start to the season.

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