I love it when a plan comes together.
The Sharks, I imagine, do too, and had to have enjoyed the fruits of their labor against heated rival Vegas. In their 5-2 win, everything seemed to go their way; Marc-Edouard Vlasic had a great game, Brent Burns potently generated offense and collectively, their game plan was executed to near-perfection.
Beyond the individual contributions of players, the Sharks got a full-fledged team effort tonight. They dominated play offensively, were stout defensively (Vegas and players like Mark Stone are going to score over the course of a seven game series, the key is limiting them and controlling play) and got good play in net from Martin Jones. When the Golden Knights wanted to focus on hitting, the Sharks were content to focus on possessing the puck and using it to try and score.
The Sharks team we saw tonight didn’t look like the group that struggled so mightily towards the season’s end. It looked much more like the group that, with a healthy Erik Karlsson, went on a tear and put the league on notice. While the Golden Knights will likely bounce back and come into Game 2 with renewed vigor, the Sharks have mapped out a blueprint in beating them. The question will be: can they execute it consistently?
We’ll be one step closer to the answer following Friday night’s matchup.
20:00: We’re underway! Logan Couture wins the draw against William Karlsson, and the second season has officially begun!
17:07: The referees may be setting a tone early: egregious cross-check to the back of Micheal Haley from Brayden McNabb, no call.
15:58: The Golden Knights have taken a few runs at Erik Karlsson early; no doubt intentional considering his recent injuries.
14:56: Alert save from Martin Jones as a puck bounces away from Marcus Sorensen and gets directed on net by Alex Tuch. Good to see him dialed in early.
13:58: Reilly Smith races with Brent Burns on a partial breakaway, but Jones makes the save. Juicy rebound left out front, but Smith unintentionally dislodges the net.
9:45: Erik Karlsson feeds Timo Meier with a beautiful cross ice pass. He’s already connected two tonight.
9:29: William Karlsson takes a dangerous shot from a sharp angle, eerily similar to his overtime winner in Game 3 last year. Yikes.
9:20: Brayden McNabb attempts a huge hit on Erik Karlsson, continuing the trend of Vegas targeting him with the body.
7:04: Sharks’ fourth line creating havoc; a mishandled puck by Marc-Andre Fleury leads to two chances for Micheal Haley.
6:25: Pierre-Edouard Bellemare desperately pulls down Haley and a penalty is called. Sharks head to the power play.
5:26: Fleury looking very sharp (surprise, surprise) with a few nice saves shorthanded.
5:18: Joe Pavelski takes a puck to the chin and mouth area, and unintentionally redirects a shot from Brent Burns past Fleury for a power play goal! Not the way he normally likes to score those redirection goals. Pavelski went straight to the tunnel following the goal, dropping a glove on the ice.
4:02: Brenden Dillon gives William Karlsson a rough ride down to the ice. The Sharks are answering the bell physically. Pavelski still not back on the bench, may be in concussion protocol after taking that Burns shot to the jaw area.
1:51: Timo Meier heads down the tunnel after taking a stick to the face from Jon Merrill. It wasn’t a typical high sticking penalty. Merrill was finishing a check into the boards and caught Meier with the end of his stick, but this stands out as a bad missed call from the refs. Sharks are short two forwards for (presumably) the rest of the period.
END FIRST: Sharks 1, Golden Knights 0
San Jose played the period exactly as they were hoping to, allowing Vegas only five shots on goal. They can only hope for the same moving forward, in addition to Pavelski and Meier returning healthily.
20:00: Second period starts now! Pavelski not back on the bench, Evander Kane has taken his place on the top line.
19:50: Pavelski has rejoined the Sharks bench, wearing a full face shield and leaking blood from his mouth; truly the demeanor of a captain.
19:44: Timo Meier gets caught reaching very early in the period and gets called for a stick infraction. Vegas gets their first power play opportunity.
17:29: Vegas moved the puck well during their time with the extra man, but nothing gained as Timo Meier skates out of the box.
14:58: Yard sale in front of Fleury as Hertl creates a dangerous chance from an excellent cycle. Evander Kane and Deryk Engelland wrestle behind the net, Engelland drops his gloves, Kane doesn’t. After some deliberation, Dillon and Marchessault go to the box on offsetting minors; Dillon for a punch, Marchessault for diving (“unsportsmanlike”) following the punch.
13:57: Engelland takes a lazy penalty, reaching in on and hooking Tomas Hertl. Sharks getting a 4-on-3.
13:25: Pavelski called for the trip on Nate Schmidt, and he is not happy about it. Schmidt tripped over the leg of Pavelski while Pavelski was down.
13:01: Brent Burns showcases his ridiculous release, and beats Fleury over the shoulder with a wicked wrist shot! 2-0, Sharks.
12:16: Marc-Edouard Vlasic scores for San Jose! It’s 3-0, Sharks now.
11:28: Mark Stone scores for Vegas, just as the power play expires. While this goal won’t count as a power play goal, it was definitely created while Vegas had an extra skater.
11:05: William Carrier brings down Logan Couture and the Sharks are headed back to the power play.
10:15: Stone steals the puck from Burns and gets a dangerous shorthanded chance on Jones, who comes up big with the save.
4:46: Dillon dives to separate the puck from the attacking Vegas player; what could have been a breakaway becomes harmless.
:54: Evander Kane tries to feed Hertl on the rush. No good, but the Sharks are really in the driver’s seat offensively.
:17: Erik Karlsson sends a gorgeous feed to Evander Kane cutting in front of Fleury, who slices it mid-air and gives the Sharks a 4-1 lead!
END SECOND: Sharks 4, Golden Knights, 1
20:00: The third period begins as the Sharks look to close out the Golden Knights.
19:42: Reilly Smith streaks down the ice and puts a backhand shot on Martin Jones, who makes the save. Erik Karlsson had to quickly move laterally, and he showed no indication of issues with his groin.
18:21: Nick Holden slashes the hands of Joe Pavelski and the Sharks go on the early power play.
17:09: Stone, on a shorthanded two on one, opts to shoot rather than pass, and fires over the net.
16:22: Holden is back out of the box. The Golden Knights had legs on the penalty kill and generated some good shorthanded chances,
14:20: Haley and Paul Stastny take offsetting roughing minors after a skirmish in front (and on top of) Marc-Andre Fleury.
10:55: McNabb cross-checks Sorensen and this time, doesn’t get away with it. Sharks heading to power play number five.
8:16: Vegas gets a chance to get back into the game with a power play. Barclay Goodrow takes a minor penalty for slashing.
4:49: Vegas heads to power play number four, as Kevin Labanc takes a hooking penalty.
4:34: Mark Stone gets his second goal of the night, picking the corner on Martin Jones. 4-2 Sharks.
2:24: Fleury is on the bench for the extra skater. Smith gets a breakaway (something Jones has struggled with all season), but gets denied. Jones can’t find the puck, and a massive pileup ensues.
1:49: Vlasic breaks up the cycle in the defensive zone, and gets the puck to Hertl, who skates it out and puts it into the empty net! 5-2, Sharks. Vlasic has looked sharp all night.
:29: Kane and Ryan Reaves both get tossed, game misconducts for both. Reaves jabbed Kane with his stick, Kane did the same.
FINAL SCORE: Sharks 5, Golden Knights 2
Finally, the second season begins.
There have been numerous in-depth breakdowns and analyses of the matchup, all vastly superior and more insightful than the short preview here, but tonight, it can be said with certainty that two teams that notoriously dislike each other will leave it all on the ice, both seeking a critical early lead in their first (and for one team, only) playoff series of the year.
While these clubs met in last year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs, with the Golden Knights defeating the Sharks in six games en route to a loss in the Stanley Cup Final, these teams are very different, both having made impactful additions since then — primarily San Jose’s additions of Erik Karlsson and Gustav Nyquist and Vegas’ acquisition of Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty. Additionally, there have been both progressions and regressions among players who faced-off last year on both rosters, such as this year’s breakout of Timo Meier, or major point drop-off of William Karlsson.
Vegas will continue to miss Erik Haula, while the Sharks have several players who are (potentially) playing through, or recently returning from, injury, including Tomas Hertl, Joe Pavelski and Erik Karlsson.
Truly, the only thing we can be certain of is that there will be an equal or greater number of Karlssons on the ice tonight than there have been at any other point this season.
Expected scratches: Joonas Donskoi, Lukas Radil, Tim Heed (healthy), Radim Simek (knee)
Golden Knights (via Las Vegas Review Journal)
Jonathan Marchessault — William Karlsson — Reilly Smith
Max Pacioretty— Paul Stastny — Mark Stone
Tomas Nosek — Cody Eakin — Alex Tuch
William Carrier — Pierre-Edouard Bellemare — Ryan Reaves
Nate Schmidt — Deryk Engelland
Brayden McNabb — Shea Theodore
Jon Merrill — Nick Holden
Expected scratches: Erik Haula (knee)
Where to Watch
Puck drop is at 7:30 p.m. Pacific/10:30 p.m. Eastern from the SAP Center in San Jose. The game will be broadcast nationally on NBCS and TVA, on NHL.tv (although you should consult their blackout detector) and on the radio via KFOX 98.5 in the Bay Area.