Both the San Jose Sharks and the Vegas Golden Knights swept their first round opponents, the Anaheim Ducks and the Los Angeles Kings respectively. The Golden Knights are out to continue making expansion team history, but the Sharks have proven themselves too. What will the battle of the San Jose Sharks vs. the Vegas Golden Knights look like?
What to Expect from the San Jose Sharks vs. Vegas Golden Knights
One thing that stood out for Vegas and San Jose in the first round was their goaltending. Vegas starting goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury gave up just three goals on 130 shots in four games against the Los Angeles Kings. He had a .977 save percentage and a 0.65 goals against average. Sharks starting goaltender Martin Jones gave up just four goals on 132 shots against the Anaheim Ducks. He had a .970 save percentage and a 1.00 goals against average. These two goaltenders were the best of the best in the first round. If they can continue in the second round, this could be a low-scoring, highly-competitive series.
Great defensemen help great goaltending. San Jose’s top defensive pairing consists of Paul Martin and Brent Burns, who were plus four and had two points in the first round. The Vegas top defensive pairing consists of Brayden McNabb and Nate Schmidt, who were minus one and also had two points in the first round. While the Vegas top defensemen have a lower plus-minus, they still did not allow more than two goals per game. The defensemen have their work cut out for them in this series to be better than the other team’s defensemen.
First Line vs. First Line
Vegas’ first line consists of Jonathan Marchessault, William Karlsson and Reilly Smith. The three combined for seven points in four games. San Jose’s first line consists of Evander Kane, Joe Pavelski and Joonas Donskoi. The three combined for 12 points in four games. While these first lines are playing against the top goaltending, they are bound to rack up points.
Will the Golden Knights Momentum Run Out?
The Golden Knights finished the regular season at the top of the Pacific Division with 109 points. Then, they swept the Los Angeles Kings in their first ever playoff series. You have to wonder if this team will ever get tired. They averaged 1.75 goals per game in the first round and will likely average around the same if Jones plays as well as he did in the last round. If they score less or Fleury does not play as well as he did in the first round, the Golden Knights could be in trouble.
Will the Golden Knights Need Ryan Reaves?
With a highly-competitive series could come a heavy-hitting series. The Sharks have several players who are not afraid to fight if it means changing the momentum of the game or standing up for a teammate including Brenden Dillon, Evander Kane, Joe Pavelski and Marcus Sorensen. If the Golden Knights lose a game in this series and need something to change the momentum, they might consider putting forward and enforcer Ryan Reaves in the lineup for the first time this postseason.
I expect this series to be very close and go six or seven games. Ultimately, I think the Golden Knights will win. They have the goaltender with more playoff experience and they want to win more than any expansion team I have ever seen.
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