While other NHL teams are still thrashing it out, the Vegas Golden Knights and San Jose Sharks have already seen off their first round opposition and will meet in the second round of the playoffs. Vegas thumped the LA Kings, while the Sharks circled and devoured the Anaheim Ducks.
How did we get here?
Both teams swept the first series but by virtue of scheduling, Vegas were the first to progress. Despite winning all four games, the series wasn’t exactly a classic with just a total of 10 goals scored by both teams. The Golden Knights arrived at the playoffs on the heels of the best inaugural season by an expansion team ever, and there was no doubt that Gerard Gallant‘s boys would play like their lives depended it.
It wasn’t clear which Kings team would turn up, while nobody’s favourite for the cup, there was the potential for the Kings to grind out some more of the boring, trudging wins that led the team to the playoffs in the first place. There was a glimmer of hope in game two for the Kings, which needed two periods of overtime to find a game winner.
The Sharks’ route to the second round was much more boring, and the Sharks-Ducks series was by far the least interesting of any playoff match-up, probably ever. Even the 8-1 win in game three was boring. San Jose turned up to do a job, which they did, but the Ducks’ performance can be summed up with this Simpsons quote: “You can fog a mirror, Seymour, but I wouldn’t say you’re alive”.
Harsh? Probably, but also true. Just like a fight between their namesakes, the Ducks couldn’t handle the Sharks and Peter DeBoer’s apex predators managed this series as the formality that it was, and calmly progressed.
So what should we expect in the second round?
As division-mates; the Knights and the Sharks met four times in the regular season with Vegas taking the points from three of those games:
11/24/17 – VGK 5 – 4 SJS (OT)
02/08/18 – VGK 5 – 3 SJS
03/22/18 – SJS 2 – 1 VGK (OT)
03/31/18 – VGK 3 -1 SJS
On paper, the Golden Knights have the edge in this series, but only just. They also have home ice advantage so the first two games will be played at the T-Mobile Arena. The performance of Marc-Andre Fleury may well be the deciding factor in this coming series, the hero of game four, and three-time Stanley Cup winner is easily the Golden Knights’ MVP. In San Jose’s net Martin Jones has allowed just four goals so far. This is likely going to be a series decided by goalies.
|Goals For||Goals Against||Power Play||Penalty Kill|
The Knights may be rapid, but their opposition looks to be more dangerous in front of net, nine different skaters have scored for the Sharks and Tomas Hertl, Marcus Sorensen and Evander Kane have each netted a trio of goals already. The Knights have seven goalscorers, each with just one goal.
The Sharks have the third best PP in the playoffs, while Vegas have the second worst (the Kings were the worst), but the Knights have the best penalty kill. So those kinda even out.
This is going to be a difficult series to call, as both teams have strengths and weaknesses that complement the other team. I think the Sharks will edge this one, but it’s a moot point as whichever team wins will still have to face the Nashville Predators (yeah, I’ve written off the Avs).
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