The San Jose Sharks finished second in the Pacific Division with 101 points. The 101 points came with spotty goaltending all season long and missing Erik Karlsson for a significant amount of time. The Sharks managed to score 289 goals, or 3.52 goals for per games played, which had them second in the League in both categories behind the Tampa Bay Lightning. The offense pretty much carried the team to a spot in the postseason.
The Vegas Golden Knights finished third in the Pacific Division with 93 points, and didn’t allow too many goals throughout the season (228). The Golden Knights are a balanced team, but with finding the right line combinations, the team has finally started clicking on offense. Max Pacioretty, Paul Stastny and Mark Stone have been finding some chemistry since Stone was acquired around the NHL Trade Deadline in February. The Golden Knights played much better at home (24-12-5) than on the road when they finished under .500 (19-20-2).
The Regular Season Series Rundown
The two teams played four times and split the season series. The two teams first faced off on Nov. 24 in Vegas, and the Golden Knights easily pulled out the 6-0 victory. The second game was on Jan. 10, again in Vegas, but this time the Sharks pulled out the 3-2 win. The third game was in San Jose on Mar. 18, where the Golden Knight pulled out the 7-3 win. The fourth and final game was on Mar. 30 in San Jose where the Sharks managed to get the 4-3 win in overtime.
Special Teams Recap
The San Jose Sharks are in the same boat as most of the playoff teams with only one part of the special teams play being really good. The Sharks power play finished at 23.6%, which was good enough for sixth overall. They had 57 power play goals while allowing nine short-handed goals, which can be cut down come postseason play. The Sharks penalty kill finished at 80.8%, which had them at 15th overall. The Sharks allowed 45 power play goals and scored nine short-handed goals of their own.
The Golden Knights power play needs some serious work to have an impact on this series. The team finished 25th overall in the NHL at 16.8%. The Golden Knights scored only 39 power play goals, but only allowed two short-handed goals all season. The penalty kill was just okay in the regular season. The penalty kill finished at 80.9% to rank 14th overall in the NHL. The team allowed 44 power play goals, but scored 11 times while down a man.
The key players for the Sharks this series are going to be Logan Couture and Tomas Hertl. The two players are the first and second line centers so they will be playing against the Golden Knights’ best defensive forwards at any given point during the series. If Couture and Hertl can find a way to produce whether at even strength or on the power play then the Sharks will force the Golden Knights into some matchup problems.
The key players for the Golden Knights in this series are the second line, which consists of Max Pacioretty, Stastny and Stone. The three are finally starting to find some chemistry and the Golden Knights will need them to continue finding it. The team will need at least two lines to compete with the Sharks, who can put the puck in the opposition’s net.
Martin Jones will need to step up his game in the playoffs because he has been allowing goals all season long. Sometimes the goals are because of bad team defense in front of him, but Jones has allowed his share of soft goals/savable goals this year. He needs to come into this series focused and ready to go so he can track the puck to make saves for his team that they’ll need him to make. Jones needs to be in position to make timely saves to keep his team in games.
The Golden Knights need to find a way to win some games on the road since they haven’t played well away from T-Mobile Arena this season. The lack of success on the road will make the home ice advantage even more important even though they only play three games at home this series. A nice way to start the series would be to come out in game one and get the road win to get that monkey off their backs.
The Sharks Advance If…
The team can play solid defense and get some good goaltending. The offense has carried the team this season so scoring the goals shouldn’t be a problem for this team. The defense will need to tighten up and play smart hockey. They’ll need to avoid the turnovers and mistakes in their own zone especially around their own net.
The Golden Knights Advance If…
The good playoff Marc-Andre Fleury shows up in the net. Fleury can either run hot or cold in the playoffs. The goalie can either look spectacular or look like he couldn’t stop a beach ball from getting behind him. They’ll need to steal a game or two on the road to have a shot at advancing into the second round.
Sharks-Golden Knights Series Prediction
The Golden Knights will find a way to win a game or two on the road and take the series in six games. Fleury won’t necessarily be amazing, but he’ll make more stops for his team than Jones will. Jones may actually get pulled in a game in this series because he is playing so bad. The Golden Knights will play disciplined hockey and win the even strength battle.