Vegas Golden Knights (43-32-7 93pts) v. San Jose Sharks (46-27-9 101pts)
Regular Season Series:
For the second time in franchise history, the Vegas Golden Knights will be taking on the San Jose Sharks in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Last season these two teams met in the Western Conference Second Round which saw the Golden Knights defeat the Sharks in six games.
For the Knights, they took a step back this season compared to last as they lost key veteran forwards James Neal and David Perron to free agency, however, they would pick up forward Paul Stastny via free agency and forward Max Pacioretty via trade with the Montreal Canadiens during the offseason. Also William Karlsson scored 24 goals this season compared to last season’s career high of 43. The Trade Deadline acquisition of forward Mark Stone from the Ottawa Senators gives the Knights a solid scoring threat going into these playoffs.
For the Sharks Evander Kane did not disappoint in his first full season with the team. Netting 30 goals and becoming a vital part of the powerplay, Kane is ready for a deeper run with the Sharks this postseason. Also Joe Pavelski had himself a solid 38 goal season, and is looking to step up and continue to help lead the Sharks in the playoffs.
On defense for the Golden Knights having Nate Schmidt in the lineup is vital for the team. Vegas went 8-11-1 during his 20 game suspension, but once Schmidt got reinserted into their lineup the Knights would turn it around and go 11-3-1 in their first 15 games with Schmidt in the lineup. Plus the continued growth of Colin Miller and Shea Theodore have helped greatly during this season.
On defense the Sharks went for broke when they traded for All Star Erik Karlsson during the offseason. Him along with fellow All Star Brent Burns will be looked upon to bring the offence from the blue line. However, one has to wonder about the health of Karlsson as he has missed a lot of time due to a groin injury.
For Vegas they have Marc-Andre Fleury who was the driving force for the Golden Knights run to the Stanley Cup Finals last year. Fleury, who is a three time Stanley Cup champion, knows what it takes to win in the playoffs and this will be his third time facing off against the Sharks in the playoffs.
For the Sharks they have Martin Jones who will be hoping that the third time is the charm for him in his head to head battle with Fleury. Jones has proven that he is a reliable goalie taking them to their lone Stanley Cup Finals appearance in which they lost in six games to Fleury and the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2016.
VGK Powerplay – 16.8% 25th Overall
SJ Powerplay – 23.6% 6th Overall
Going into the playoffs the Sharks have the advantage over the Knights in regards to the powerplay. With threats like Karlsson, Burns, Joe Thornton amongst others, the edge is in the Sharks favor.
VGK Penalty Kill – 80.9% Tied 12th Overall
SJ Penalty Kill – 80.8% 15th Overall
For the penalty kill, both teams are very even with eachother. If the Sharks dominate powerplay can overpower the Knights penalty killers then this will be the difference maker between the two teams.
Prediction: SJ in Six Games