SAN JOSE, Calif. — The Sharks’ defensemen dominated the headlines entering the Western Conference quarterfinals.
But Golden Knights defenseman Shea Theodore has been just as much of the story as Brent Burns or Erik Karlsson.
Theodore entered Thursday night’s Game 5 with five assists and a highlight-reel goal. San Jose’s two former Norris Trophy winners have combined for one goal and six assists in the first four games.
“Shea’s still a younger defenseman in this league, but he’s elite,” forward Alex Tuch said Thursday after the Knights’ morning skate. “He definitely is. He’ll get to their status once he gets more recognized and once he gets more experience. There’s two really good offensive defensemen over there and Shea’s been producing offensively for us, but I think he’s been lights out defensively, too. That’s something people don’t give him enough credit for. He’s going against top guys every night and shutting them down. It’s been good to see.”
The 23-year-old Theodore continues to improve his game and was excited about showcasing his talents against two of the league’s most highly-skilled defensemen in this series.
“I think everyone wants to elevate their play in the playoffs and do everything they can to help the team win,” he said. “I didn’t play into it, though. I just wanted to try to move the puck, try to skate and be a threat. I think it’s worked out so far.”
Coach Gerard Gallant was pleased with Theodore’s development before his stellar play in this series. Gallant, though, did answer a question about his spectacular Game 4 goal by discussing how he prefers seeing Theodore play stellar defense to flashy offense.
“Shea’s played great hockey,” Gallant said Thursday. “We’ve seen that the last two years. We knew that before we got him and we signed him long-term last year. He’s a kid that’s developed and he’s only 23. He’s getting better all the time.”
Knights forward Mark Stone erupted for six goals in the first four games of the series and hasn’t even tried to hide his excitement on the ice with some strong celebrations.
“Playoff hockey,” said Stone, who was acquired from the Senators at the trade deadline. “It’s always fun. These are the type of games you want to be playing in as a hockey player. If I wasn’t having fun, I’d probably still be in Ottawa.”
Stone might celebrate again after the season as he was announced as a Selke Trophy finalist on Wednesday, which goes to the best defensive forward in the league.
“It’s a cool thing,” he said. “I think when you look at most of the players who have won the award, guys like Jonathan Toews and Anze Kopitar … Those types of guys are special players, so to be in that category is pretty cool.”
Gusev skates with third line
Nikita Gusev was again a healthy scratch Thursday night, though there was a bit of a development involving the newest Knight during the team’s morning skate.
Gusev took rushes with the third line of Cody Eakin, Alex Tuch and Tomas Nosek while the rest of the scratches skated as an extra line.
Replacing Nosek could be possible should he Gusev enter the lineup at some point in the postseason.