San Jose Sharks (3) vs Las Vegas Golden Knights (1)
— NHL (@NHL) April 19, 2018
First Round Recap
With both these teams sweeping their way into the second round, we didn’t get much of a sample of what they can bring to the table.
However, both teams should make for an exciting and entertaining second round match-up.
Vegas Golden Knights
Won first round series 4-0 over LA
Post-series handshake line
WE’RE GOING TO ROUND TWO!!! pic.twitter.com/blJSRZ7d9H
— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) April 18, 2018
The Vegas Golden Knights shocked the world by being the best expansion team in its first year than any other to date. They not only broke records in terms of wins, points and by being the first expansion team to make the playoffs but they also became the first to move past the first round.
And they did it in four games.
The Knights faced the veteran savvy, and playoff experienced LA Kings team in the first round. They swept LA by only scoring seven goals through the entire four games and had a powerplay percentage of just 8.3% while holding a staggering 92.3% penalty kill rating.
They were able to do so by only giving up three goals through the series.
Marc-Andre Fleury was the backbone of the Vegas Golden Knights through the first round. The Flower made 127 saves on 130 shots faced from the Kings. That averages out to a .977 SV% (best in the playoffs so far) and a 0.65 GAA.
Reilly Smith led the team with three points (0G-3A) in the first round.
Depth scoring was a huge contributor to Vegas’ success in moving onto the first round as all seven goals scored for them were by different players. Shea Theodore, Alex Tuch, William Karlsson, James Neal, Erik Haula, Brayden McNabb and Cody Eakin each scored for the Pacific Division Champions.
Notable Players to Watch
As mentioned the Knights are productive depth wise with players in every corner of the roster finding ways to be effective. This is the time to look at some of the more experienced guys to step up.
James Neal had two points (1G-1A) in the first round. His only goal came in Game 3 to solidify a 3-0 stranglehold on the series. Playing on the second line with Alex Tuch and Game 2 OT hero Erik Haula could be an opportunity for “Big Game James” to start adding to his career 46 playoff point total.
He rly rly is the Real Deal pic.twitter.com/UtjOEB4lev
— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) April 16, 2018
San Jose Sharks
Won first round series 4-0 over Anaheim
— San Jose Sharks (@SanJoseSharks) April 19, 2018
The Sharks finished third in the Pacific Division behind the Ducks and Knights but still swept a Ducks team who had been dealing with injuries. The offensive explosion of the Sharks over the past month has been an impressive piece to their early playoff run.
The Sharks scored a total of 16 goals in the first round while only giving up four goals. They had a powerplay percentage of 30% and a penalty kill of 83.3% against the Ducks. San Jose generated an average of 32.3 shots per game.
What’s more impressive is the Ducks averaged 33 shots per game but could only score four goals through four games. Martin Jones was second in SV% and GAA in the first round with a .970 SV% and a 1.00 GAA. Jones had one shutout in the first round while facing the ninth most shots.
Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski led the team in the first round with five points each. Nine players scored a goal for San Jose with Tomas Hertl, Marcus Sorensen and Evander Kane each scoring three goals.
Notable Players to Watch
With players like Couture and Pavelski being obvious candidates, I look for production from a newly acquired Shark.
Evander Kane is my player to watch. As mentioned earlier Kane scored three goals in the first round. With this series being more of a defensive battle than the first, it’s understandable that Kane may not light up the scoring sheet.
But with goals most likely being hard to come by with an elite goaltender on the other end of the ice, I see Kane adding to his 18 total points as a Shark and in moments when it will be needed. Pairing him on the first line with Joe Pavelski and Joonas Donskoi will surely see Kane get plenty of ice time and opportunity to come up clutch in big-time situations.
— San Jose Sharks (@SanJoseSharks) April 17, 2018
Goals were not an issue in the regular match-ups for these teams. Vegas outscored San Jose 14-11 through the four games with two of the four going into overtime. Both teams have solidified a much stronger defensive game since the last meeting on March 31, so it will be interesting to see how they match up in the second round.
This could be one of the more exciting series of the second round. It may not be an offensive explosion, but a defensive chess match could lead to a tightly contested battle, leaving you on the edge of your seat. Look for both goaltenders to be lights out with the possibility of plenty of OT with two of the four regular season matchups going into extra frames.
Vegas will depend more on Marc-Andre Fleury with the lack of scoring on their end in the first round, going up against a Sharks team that was able to almost score at will.
In the end, I do see a tooth and nail fight with the Sharks pulling away late in the series with their powerhouse scoring ability.
My Prediction: Sharks in 6 games.