The San Jose Sharks (45-27-10) enter tonight's game four against the visiting Vegas Golden Knights (51-24-7) with an air of desperation. After a heartbreaking over time loss at home on Monday night, the Sharks trail the Knights 2-1 in the series, and cannot possibly relish the idea of winning three games in a row, two of which would be in Vegas, should they lose tonight. Over the entire history of the NHL, 28 teams have won a series from a 1-3 deficit out of 302, not the best odds.
The Sharks seemingly did not read my gamethread on Monday, since they continued to take boneheaded penalties in game three, with Tomas Hertl and Brenden Dillon taking turns headhunting behind the play. If our boys can't get their discipline in line, this series is going to be pretty short, as the Knights' power play has racked up five power play goals in three games, two of which were that very night.
Marc-Andre Fleury boasts a save percentage of .960 this postseason, and a .943 against the Sharks. Those are unsustainable numbers and, while they're bound to come back to Earth eventually, it may not be in this series or even this playoffs, and the Sharks need to do more to make adjustments mid game. All of Vegas' regulation goals on Monday came off of crisp East-West passing plays. The Sharks would be well served by moving away from the Brent Burns slap shot and adopting some of their opponents' strategies for keeping the keeper moving.
While win and you're in seems to be the mantra for Vegas' lineup tonight, the Sharks are playing very coy with their roster. Head coach Peter DeBoer has said that everyone is a game time decision, but this morning's optional skate provided more than a few nuggets for discussion. Practice saw Joe Thornton taking line rushes with Joe Pavelski and Barclay Goodrow, which could mean anything from Thornton's return, to Evander Kane's absence, to a huge promotion for Goodrow, to a significant demotion to my close personal best friend Chris Tierney, to boring old gamesmanship. While Thornton confirmed to the media after practice that he was not in the lineup for tonight, it wouldn't be the first time he misled us about his status. Similarly, it wouldn't be the first time Kane missed a morning skate only to play that evening.
Further, it seems Paul Martin's miscue on William Karlsson's game winning over time breakaway will cost him, as it looks probable that Joakim Ryan will make his NHL playoff debut tonight in the veteran's stead. With Vegas' key strength being their speed in transition and break out, it's no surprise that the 37 year old's game is ill suited for this series, and hopefully an injection of youth on the back end can limit the Knight's neutral zone speed.
TL;DR: A 2-2 series is good, a 3-1 series is bad. Go get 'em.
Evander Kane -- Joe Pavelski -- Barclay Goodrow
Tomas Hertl -- Logan Couture -- Mikkel Boedker
Timo Meier -- Chris Tierney -- Kevin Labanc
Marcus Sorensen -- Eric Fehr -- Melker Karlsson
Joakim Ryan -- Brent Burns
Marc-Edouard Vlasic -- Justin Braun
Brenden Dillon -- Dylan DeMelo
Scratched: Paul Martin, Joel Ward, Jannik Hansen, Dylan Gambrell
Injured: Joe Thornton (knee)?, Joonas Donskoi (lower body)
Golden Knights Lines
Tomas Nosek -- Pierre-Edouard Bellemare -- William Carrier
Shea Theodore -- Deryk Engelland
Jon Merrill -- Colin Miller
Where to watch
Broadcast: NBCSN, CBC, TVAS
Stream: NHL.tv / NHL App
Radio: 98.5 KFOX / NHL App / Sharks App