Whoa, hey, remember hockey?
Let’s hope the Sharks (45-27-10, 3rd Pacific) do, since they’re likely to have their hands full tonight starting their second round series visiting the (Las) Vegas Golden Knights (51-24-7, 1st Pacific). The only two teams to sweep their opponents in round one, the Sharks and Knights obliterated the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings, to the joy and celebration of literally everyone everywhere.
It’s been eight days since the Sharks last played, and nine for the Knights, so if rust were ever a factor in the Stanley Cup playoffs, it should affect both teams equally. If the season series is to be any guide, the Sharks are in tough, as they went a pedestrian 1-2-1 against Vegas, with the lone win coming in over time. The addition of Evander Kane to the teal roster, however, makes that record a little academic.
There’s no doubt that goaltending will be a story line in this series, as the Knights’ Marc-Andre Fleury and the Sharks’ Martin Jones rank first and second, respectively, in playoff save percentage (.977 to .970) and in goals against average (0.65 to 1.00). Stellar goaltending couldn’t save the Kings, Jonathan Quick posted a .974 save percentage in their series, fat lot of good it did him.
If there’s some silver lining to cling to heading into game one, it’s the Sharks’ offense. For a deep dive, check out Erik’s deep dive on match ups from Tuesday but, scratching the surface, Vegas scored seven goals on the lower seeded Kings, and the Sharks scored 16 on the third place Ducks. If the standings are any indication, the Knights struggled more with a worse team than the Sharks did in round one, therefore the Sharks are guaranteed to win the series.
By similar logic, no other team swept the first round, so the Sharks are guaranteed to win the Stanley Cup. If A, then B. If B, then C. A, therefore C.
Evander Kane -- Joe Pavelski -- Joonas Donskoi
Tomas Hertl -- Logan Couture -- Mikkel Boedker
Timo Meier -- Chris Tierney -- Kevin Labanc
Marcus Sorensen -- Eric Fehr -- Melker Karlsson
Paul Martin -- Brent Burns
Marc-Edouard Vlasic -- Justin Braun
Brenden Dillon -- Dylan DeMelo
Scratched: Joakim Ryan, Joel Ward, Jannik Hansen, Dylan Gambrell, Barclay Goodrow, Antoine Bibeau
Injured: Joe Thornton (knee)
Head coach Peter DeBoer takes an “ain’t broke, don’t fix” approach to the line up, as he is wont to do, and while Thornton is a long shot to play in the series at all, he is especially a long shot tonight. Like, the longest.
Alex Tuch -- Cody Eakin -- Ryan Carpenter
William Carrier -- Pierre-Edouard Bellemare -- Tomas Nosek
Shea Theodore -- Deryk Engelland
Jon Merrill -- Colin Miller
The Knights seem primed to load up their top six a little more than they did against LA, Perron skated with Haula and Neal this morning, not with Eakin and Carpenter as he had done in the first round. However, gamesmanship takes center stage in the post season, so we’ll have to wait until game time to be sure.
Sbisa is reportedly healthy enough to play after missing the first round series with injury, but will watch from the box tonight.
Where to watch
Broadcast: NBCSN, SN, TVAS, CBC
Stream: NHL.tv / NHL App
Radio: 98.5 KFOX / NHL App / Sharks App