On Sunday afternoon, San Jose Sharks faced the Vegas Golden Knights in the sixth game of their opening round series. Vegas came into this tilt with a 3-2 series lead, so a win would see them clinch the series on home ice, a feat they have yet to accomplish.
This game started at 4 p.m. San Jose time; normally, I do not like afternoon Sharks games, but given how long this one went, I am thankful for the early puck drop.
For the Sharks, the biggest story of the night was in goal. We here at Fear The Fin Hockey Blogging and Hydrodynamics, LLP. have been critical of Martin Jones’ performance earlier in this series, but he absolutely kept the Sharks in this game. His 58 saves set a Sharks franchise record for the most saves in a postseason game and the most of his career.
The Golden Knights would have won this game in regulation with ease, were it not for Jones. To the eye test, Jones looked like a different goaltender than the one we saw earlier in the series. He seemed more in control of his movement and appeared to do a better job tracking the puck. I am not a goalie coach, but even to my untrained eyes, Jones looked like he was in better position more often than he has been of late.
The Golden Knights dominated possession throughout the game. At the end of the game, Vegas had out-shot the Sharks 44 to 20. Furthermore, the Knights had 61.7 percent of the score- and venue-Adjusted (SVA) shot attempts at 5-on-5 and 65.91 percent of the expected goals (xG).
All four Vegas lines were better than 50 percent of SVA shot attempts, but the line of Jonathan Marchessault, William Karlsson and Reilly Smith owned the puck; the trio had 64.36 percent of the 5-on-5 SVA shot attempts. The combo of Mark Stone, Paul Stastny and Max Pacioretty wasn’t as quite effective from a shot attempt perspective, finishing with only 60.65 percent of the shot attempts, but they were far more dangerous, generating 71.10 percent of the expected goals while they were on the ice.
Contrast this with the Sharks best line of Joe Thornton, Marcus Sorensen and Kevin Labanc, who had 54.13 percent of the 5-on-5 SVA shot attempts. No other line was above 50 percent in this metric.
As the game wore on, Vegas looked to be the quicker team and the Sharks played a collapsing defensive game that limited their ability to cleanly exit the defensive zone. As we can see on the shot map below, Vegas shot from just about everywhere in the offensive zone, but they did not manage a particularly high number of shots from the area right around the net. This can be attributed to the defense collapsing to prevent passes to that area and doing a good job of clearing out rebounds.
The Sharks played much better in overtime than they did in regulation and had a number of chances to close out the game in the first extra frame — none better than this mad scramble in front of the Vegas net:
In the second overtime period, the Sharks were visibly tired. This is not surprising, considering the length of the game, and that Peter DeBoer shortened his bench. For instance, Joakim Ryan got almost no ice time. He played just 7:12, while Brent Burns, Erik Karlsson, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Justin Braun all saw over 36 minutes of ice time. Burns led all skaters with 42:31.
Through the first ten minutes of the second overtime, the Sharks did not have a shot on goal. In fact, they did not register a single shot attempt in that time. It turns out that Tomas Hertl’s short handed effort was the only shot they would need.
These show just how dominant Vegas was for most of the game:
TL;DR: Vegas’ skaters outplayed the Sharks’ all night, but Martin Jones kept his team in the game until Tomas Hertl won it in double overtime.
Game 7 will be on Tuesday at 7 p.m. PT at SAP Center.