Sharks vs Golden Knights Preview: Special Teams
Special teams helped the Sharks win the first round. They might not be so lucky in the second.
When comparing the Sharks to the Vegas Golden Knights, the area of special teams is one that makes the team seem very comparable to each other. Between the regular season and the playoffs, the Sharks numbers have remained constant, while the Golden Knights numbers have looked a little different after having to go against the LA Kings’ penalty kill.
During the season series, the Sharks and the Golden Knights each scored three power play goals, and through most of the series, the penalty kill was more of a factor than the power play.
Rather than one team being able to show dominance on the power play, it will be more up to the penalty kill to be the difference-maker in this series, as both teams have strong power play units.
Both the Knights and Sharks took the same about of penalties, 13 and 12 respectively, during each of their series. Both teams had strong showings on the penalty kill during the regular season, with the Sharks penalty kill percentage at 84.4 percent and the Golden Knight having a 81.4 percent in the regular season. Each team has had success on their penalty kill in the first round, as well, with the Sharks at 83.3 percent and the Golden Knights at 92.3 percent kill rate.
Goaltenders are often the strongest penalty killers, and both Marc-Andre Fleury and Martin Jones have played very well in the playoffs, with save percentages of .977 and .970 respectively and .952 and .907 on the penalty kill through the first round.
Golden Knights have an advantage on the penalty kill, but with both of these team’s ability on the penalty kill, the advantage might be more slim than the numbers show.
The Sharks currently are 30.0 percent on the power play, after having 20 chances to score on it against the Anaheim Ducks. However, four of the six power play goals were in a game that the Ducks took many penalties, resulting in eight chances for the Sharks. The Golden Knights only scored one power play goal against the Kings in an 2-1 overtime win, in a game where each team scored a power play goal, leading to their 8.3 percentage on the power play.
During the regular season, the Golden Knight posted a 21.4 percent on power play and the Sharks had a 20.6 percent. The Sharks’ power has struggled since Joe Thornton went down, but it looks like there has been a rhythm found again in recent games. Both teams were in the top half of the league, but in the playoffs the Golden Knights have struggled.
The advantage is more unknown here, after the Sharks had more chances against the Ducks’ penalty kill and after the Golden Knight faced the team with the best penalty kill in the regular season. It looks like the Sharks might have the edge when it comes to capitalizing on the man-advantage, but that comes down to how many penalties the Golden Knights take.
The Sharks’ top power play unit consists of: Tomas Hertl, Logan Couture, Kevin Labanc, Joe Pavelski, and Brent Burns. This unit has combined for 11 power play points so far.
The Sharks’ second power play unit consists of: Timo Meier, Evander Kane, Mikkel Boedker, Joonas Donskoi, and Marc-Edouard Vlasic. This unit has combined for six power play points so far.
The Knights’ top power play unit consists of: Reilly Smith, William Karlsson, Alex Tuch, Shea Theodore, and Jonathan Marchessault. This unit has combined for three power play points so far.
The Sharks’ second power play unit consists of: James Neal, Erik Haula, Ryan Carpenter, David Perron, and Nate Schmidt. This unit has not registered a point on the power play so far.
Though the players on Vegas’ second unit aren’t to be underestimated, they still pose much less of a threat than their top unit. San Jose has two high-powered power play units, and at a glance, it’s tough to argue that they don’t have better depth on the man-advantage.
Despite everything, the number of penalties is going to be a factor. Both teams have taken around the same amount of penalties in round one, and Vegas in the regular season took 266 and San Jose took 265 — very close numbers. Staying disciplined is a big part of the playoffs and neither of these teams are known for playing a particularly physical game.
The Sharks and Golden Knights are mostly even in the area of special teams. But if one team can figure out how to use one of the special teams to their advantage, the way the Sharks were able to in round one, that can make a big difference in the series.