Things started fairly well for San Jose Sharks. They looked to be on their game early, and they looked to have again limited early chances by the Last Vegas Golden Knights. Unfortunately for the home team, the good vibes only lasted about halfway through the opening 20 minutes. After the Knights’ first goal, the rest of the game felt eerily similar to how the preceding six games had figured.
The proceeded to take the majority of 5-on-5 shots in all three regulation periods and generate most of the expected goals in the first and third. As their lead mounted, it was by all accounts the Sharks’ playoff lives flashing before their eyes. Las Vegas ticked off goal after goal as seconds ticked off the clock until ...
With half of the third period remaining, Joe Pavelski was tangled in a brutal cross check-then-hit-again-in-midair fall after a faceoff that resulted in him lying motionless and bloodied on the ice. The referees, after initially not calling a penalty, awarded the Sharks a five-minute major penalty after the fall. The call is certainly debatable. Replays show that the initial cross check may not have been as high as initially decided and that the cause of the injury was the unlucky head and ice collision.
What was not debatable, however, was the fact the Knights allowed four power play goals in five minutes. It’s unfortunate when the referees play such a role in a pivotal game, a pivotal moment in a series. But to absolve the Knights of all their sins during the ensuing few minutes wouldn’t provide a fair prospective, either.
In the end, the Sharks put together what was easily their best period of the entire series. In overtime, San Jose took 57 percent of the shots, generated nearly 71 percent of all expected goals (Natural Stat Trick), and piled on four rush scoring chances to seal the series victory.
If we put this game and series behind us, we can quiver in our boots again at the thought of Mikko Rantanen and Nathan MacKinnon, who this postseason have been even more dangerous than the Knights’ vaunted Stastny—Stone line.
Mats Zuccarello has been one of the best this playoffs creating in the slot, and Miro Heiskanen has been disrupting plays often in the defensive zone. https://t.co/F9OrIXVza1 pic.twitter.com/ZqF5UCHNR3— Matthew DeFranks (@MDeFranks) April 21, 2019
Hello people, hello. Game 7 is here and I, for one, am terrified. It’s been a rough-and-tumble series, and the Game 6 victory came courtesy of ... Martin Jones? Certainly we are in the upside down at this point in time.
16:18: Not a bad power play, not a great power play. Sharks have transitioned from a volume-based attack with the man advantage to one designed to look for holes in the middle of the ice—expected goals, in other words.
15:45: McNabb goes to the penalty box for cross checking Hertl into the boards, and the Sharks have another opportunity to rack up scoring chances. Their power play has been a strength all series, and capitalizing on it early will be a good way to secure a Game 7 win.
13:43: Sharks somehow don’t sneak in a power play opportunity that saw the puck tread water on the goal line. Looks like Fleury just barely got his blocker hand on the puck to stop Sorensen in the blue paint. Things are looking good for the home team so far, but the next penalty is almost certainly going the other direction.
9:50: The Knights slide a rebound into the back of the net after the Sharks ice the puck on a stretch pass. The play was against the run of play, but that’s how things work in the playoffs. The shot deflects off Goodrow’s stick, off a Knight stick, off Jones and into the area right in front of the net. The rest was academic.
7:24: Karlsson, E. trips Brandon Pirri to send the Knights to the PP. The Knights man advantage has really done a number on the Sharks poor penalty kill, sliding the puck into the spaces between aggressive forwards. San Jose has improved as the season has worn on, but taking a penalty while down a goal is not helpful.
6:34: CLOWN SHOW! Alex Tuch takes out Braun and turns Vegas’ power play into a 4-on-4 situation. Both teams thrive with open space and speed plays. It’s frightening for both goaltenders.
4:57: Though the Stastny line has gobbled up all the counting stats, the Marchessault line has been the Knights’ best performers in terms of shot differential most of the series. It’s not a surprise those three scored, and the Sharks will have to limit their ice-tilting abilities for the balance of the game.
End First: Sharks 0, Knights 1
On the one hand, the team that has scored the first goal has gone on to win the previous six games of this series. On the other hand, the Sharks, uh ... took half of all the 5-on-5 shots and generated 26.2% of all expected goals. Sigh. San Jose will be fighting the recent odds, but the history of the series doesn’t predict the future. The Thornton line, Meier, and the Vlasic-Burns pair were the home team’s best players in the first period. Erik Karlsson had an uncharacteristically (for him generally, but not for him this series) poor period, on the ice for just one San Jose shot at 5-on-5 but helped the Sharks surrender six. If he gets things going in the right direction, so, too, should San Jose.
19:00: Meier gets a golden opportunity to knock in a Vlasic shot after a 2-on-1 he created, but he falls into the boards hard as he tries to bat in the rebound out of mid air. He falls down hard and skates gingerly to the bench, favoring his arm. He’d been great all game, and his presence will be crucial to the Sharks chances.
14:59: Meier’s going to score soon.
14:07: This game is a whirlwind. I’ve no idea what’s happening, to be forthcoming. Sharks need to slow down the Marchessault line, and Meier needs to put one away. Karlsson and Dillon need to figure themselves out. Would love to see Ryan—Karlsson, E. pair.
13:38: Ryan Reaves (who else) takes out Jones behind the Sharks net and the hosts will have an opportunity to sink their (proverbial. No one out there has any) teeth into a couple more minutes of power play. They’ve been entering the zone fine, and mostly setting up fine, but they haven’t found that final pass to unlock an easy goal. Look for more shooting from the circles for rebounds or far post.
10:00: The Knights send a limp wrister through traffic. Eakin deflects the puck into the back of the net, but his stick was at least parallel with the player’s shoulders. This play is under review.
10:00: This is going to be close. Would be a huge break for the Sharks if this goes the other way (duh).
10:00: There wasn’t enough clear evidence to overturn the call of “good goal,” and the Knights will skate away from Eakin’s tip with a two-goal lead.
9:22: Fleury robs Meier on a chance in tight. The Couture—Meier pair continues to be the Sharks’ best threat this series and tonight especially. While the current score line isn’t encouraging, the fact those two have been able to do what they’ve wanted to far is a good sign for the home team.
6:20: Hertl creates another opportunity, but Braun just can’t connect with the puck as it’s falling back to the ice. A split second later, and he would’ve had the Sharks’ first goal.
End Second: It’s unfortunate that the score is the way it is. San Jose has played well enough to have a couple of goals in this contest, and the Knights have effectively been lucky and very opportunistic for their own markers. The Sharks edged the Knights in expected goals at 5-on-5 when you adjust for the score and venue (Natural Stat Trick), but the Knights took 56 percent of all adjusted shots, which is the sign of a team that simply does not give in, even when leading. The Sharks’ first line—Meier especially—remains the team’s brightest glimmer of hope. Should San Jose come back to win this game, it will likely be by the (stick) blade of that trio.
20:00: I hate this. Let’s go.
17:06: Hedican points this out in the broadcast, but the Sharks simply aren’t getting any bounces. There seem to have been countless moments where a rebound or shot just doesn’t land in time for a Shark second chance or to defy physics long enough for the Knights to knock the rubber off the goal line. In a short playoff series, anything can happen, and the Sharks are experiencing some nothing in the wrong direction.
16:24: The Knights get a few quick passes in the Sharks zone and Pacioretty sends a shot through Jones’ five hole that shouldn’t have squeaked through. The hole is deeper, but the Sharks have some fire left. Expect plenty of the Sharks’ top three lines and top four defenders.
10:47: Pavelski goes down hard and there’s a lot of blood on the ice as he lays there for quite a while before the referees blow the play dead. Pavleski is finally helped off the ice by Thornton and Kane, and Eakin gets a game misconduct.
10:40: San Jose makes quick work of the long penalty. A shot banks off a Knight, the Sharks get a bounce (finally), and Couture sends the Sharks’ first puck of the night into the net.
9:51: Erik Karlsson sends a shot into the slot, Tomas Hertl gets the blade of his stick in the right place, and the Sharks are suddenly within one goal with a few minutes left in the power play.
7:07: Um, folks? Couture takes a pass from Labanc and Burns and finds the right side of the net to tie the game at three. A perfect way to deliver for their fallen captain. Let’s hope Pavelski is OK.
6:39: Kevin Labanc finds space through traffic and finds the back of the net once more to give the Sharks the lead and to slot home the series’ first lead change. The Sharks still have time in the power play to add to their lead.
3:39: Labanc takes a penalty in his defensive zone after a flurry of chances for the Knights. This penalty kill is ... how do we say, large?
3:11: A dangerous opportunity for Stone sees Jones come up with a nice glove save to preserve the Sharks’ sudden lead. San Jose hasn’t been able to clear yet.
2:50: An errant shot clears its own zone.
1:57: The Knights are offside on their power play zone entry. That comes just after Pirri can’t finish a cross-crease pass. This is wild.
0:47: Marchessault adds a tying tally with Fleury pulled. It certainly felt as though that goal was coming the way the Knights were pressuring the Sharks during the closing moments of this contest. Some serious resolve will be tested here.
End Regulation: Sharks 4, Knights 4
Whoavertime. It was a near steal at the end there, but ultimately, the Sharks spent too much time on their heels just trying to survive a late push rather than try for the insurance goal. The Golden Knights are nothing if not resilient, and it’s not surprising that they were able to fight their way back into the game in the dying minutes. Though the Sharks capitalized on their long power play, the Knights have controlled much of the game at 5-on-5, leaving the door open for a tough overtime period if that trend continues. The Sharks will have to power their way through some even-strength hockey to skate away with this thing.
12:20: Sorry, I can’t look away.
7:34: This has honestly been the most breathless period of hockey I’ve ever watch, and I’ve probably watched a few hundred games of the ole stick-puck. There is just chance after chance after chance, and every time there’s a chance it feels like I have to stop to catch my breath. I hope you’re all enjoying this as much as I am, but also look after yourselves. Breathe and stand up occasionally and all that.
6:50: I know they don’t have any choices, but the fact Karlsson, M. is on the second line right now is a travesty.
6:14: The Couture line has another amazing opportunity. The puck goes the other way, and the Knights narrowly miss turning the lights off at SAP Center. This is absolutely wild.
4:49: Icing against the Sharks with “a tired group out there.” I’m going to need a couple hours of meditative breathing to get to bed tonight.
FINAL: Barclay Goodrow? BARCLAY GOODROW. I JUST WOKE UP EVERY SINGLE NEIGHBOR IN MY BUILDING AND I’M NOT SORRY
Goodrow did not play the first 15 minutes of OT...that was his second shift.— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) April 24, 2019
While Goodrow and Labanc and Couture—the latter of whom lit up the scoreboard during the Sharks’ elongated power play—will receive the recognition for a well-played game, it was Meier who stood above the rest. The Sharks took 50 percent of all 5-on-5 shots (after adjusting for score and venue) for the game. Meier was on the ice for 66 percent of all shots. He helped the Sharks to a 67 percent expected goal share when the team mustered just 47 percent of them.
Here we go.
It’s do or die tonight, when the San Jose Sharks face the Vegas Golden Knights for the last time this postseason in Game 7. Tonight will end the series and one team’s season. The stakes are the highest they’ve been since ... well, since the two other times the Sharks could’ve been eliminated this past week.
This series has been one of the most entertaining in a very weird playoff season. There have been words and fair number of blows exchanged. Through it all, the Sharks have focused on clawing their way to here. Game 7.
Let’s not linger too long. Remember to breathe.
Expected Scratches: Micheal Haley (lower-body injury), Tim Heed, Lukas Radil
Golden Knights (via NHL.com):
Max Pacioretty — Paul Stastny — Mark Stone
Jonathan Marchessault — William Karlsson — Reilly Smith
Tomas Nosek — Cody Eakin — Alex Tuch
William Carrier — Pierre-Edouard Bellemare — Ryan Reaves
Nate Schmidt — Deryk Engelland
Brayden McNabb — Shea Theodore
Jon Merrill — Colin Miller
Expected Scratches: Erik Haula (lower body injury), Nikita Gusev, Ryan Carpenter, Nick Holden, Jimmy Schuldt, Brandon Pirri, Valentin Zykov
Where to watch
Puck drop is at 7 p.m. Pacific/10 p.m. Eastern at SAP Center and will be broadcast nationally NBC Sports in the U.S., SportsNet 360 in Canada, NBCSCA in San Jose and AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain in Vegas. The radio call will be on 98.5 KFOX in San Jose and through the Sharks app.
Goodrow did not play the first 15 minutes of OT...that was his second shift.— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) April 24, 2019