Jeff Chiu/Associated Press
San Jose Sharks (2nd in Pacific, 46-27-9, 101 points)
Vegas Golden Knights (3rd in Pacific, 43-32-7, 93 points)
Game 1: Wednesday, April 10th – VGK @ SJS
Game 2: Friday, April 12th – VGK @ SJS
Game 3: Sunday, April 14th – SJS @ VGK
Game 4: Tuesday, April 16th – SJS @ VGK
Game 5: Thursday, April 18th – VGK @ SJS
Game 6: Saturday, April 20th – SJS @ VGK
Game 7: Monday, April 22nd – VGK @ SJS
Tied season series 2-2
November 24th: 6-0 W for VGK
Jan 10th: 3-2 W for SJS
March 18th: 7-3 W for VGK
March 30th: 4-3 OTW for SJS
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The Sharks and Golden Knights are both heading into this series on a bit of a cold streak. Vegas ended off their last 10 games of the season with a 3-5-2 record. San Jose finished no better going 3-6-1 in their last 10 games.
These two teams met last year in the second round of the playoffs when Vegas beat San Jose in six games. The Sharks (and “Jumbo” Joe Thornton) have never won a Stanley Cup and their fan’s hope their team could change that this year. The Sharks have made the playoffs 14 of the last 15 seasons and this year they might just have one of their most skilled teams of that 15 season stretch. They have a very good shot at beating the Vegas Golden Knights who made a Stanley Cup run in last year’s playoffs. In fact, both teams added key players to their lineups since their last meeting in the playoffs. Vegas has acquired forwards Max Pacioretty, Paul Stastny and Mark Stone while San Jose added defenseman Erik Karlsson and forward Gustav Nyquist.
It seems as if the Sharks struggled to beat the Golden Knights every time they faced off during the regular season. Both of their victories against Vegas this season were within a goal (3-2 on January 10th and 4-3 in OT on March 30th). Not all games between these two rival teams were close though, Everytime Vegas beat the Sharks this season they really took over the game and dominated (6-0 on November 24th and 7-3 on March 18th).
Vegas has a good shot at winning this series because they are a well balanced team up front with a lot of depth and they do not have to rely heavily on certain players to put the puck in the net. This season, Vegas had eight forwards with 40+ points and five of those seven forwards had 50+ points. Depth like this could help the Vegas Golden Knights make another deep run in the playoffs this year because when their top forwards are not producing, they will have other guys that can step it up and rack up some points for them which will especially help them in the first round against the San Jose Sharks.
San Jose also has a lot of depth in their lineup like Vegas. This season, the Sharks have three players with 70+ points, six players with 60+ points, eight players with 50+ points, ten players with 40+ points, and twelve players with 30+ points… pretty impressive if you ask me. San Jose has the upper hand in their defensive core after adding Erik Karlsson to their lineup for this season. Their top three defenseman – Brent Burns, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, and Erik Karlsson (who hopefully is healthy) – are all deadly on the back end. Those three defenseman could easily be a number one defender on any other team in the league and they are going to be a huge part in helping San Jose find success in this series.
Both teams in this series have lots of depth and that is why this matchup at the end of the day is going to come down to goaltending. Marc-Andre Fleury and Martin Jones have been pretty important pieces on their teams in recent years. Fleury (who basically led Vegas on their cup run last season) has made the playoffs eleven times and played over 100 playoff games in his career and if he can step things up and play like he did last year, the Sharks are in for a nightmare. Last year, in the playoffs Fleury had an impressive .927 save % and a 2.24 goals against average. This regular season he had a 2.51 GAA and .913, worse than his numbers from last year’s playoffs but still significantly better than about half of the starting goalies in the NHL. Martin Jones on the other hand had a bit of a shaky season with a .896 SV % and a 2.94 GAA. Like Fleury though, Jones had a stellar playoff run last year with a .928 SV % and a 2.26 GAA and if he could put up similar numbers this series, we could see San Jose getting past Vegas in the first round.
Because both San Jose and Vegas have extremely solid teams with lots of depth, we should expect that the team with the better goaltending in this series to most likely come out on top and advance to the second round.
Vegas will most likely be the more physical team in this series considering the fact that they were the second in hits per game this season (27.7 H/G), but with the amount of talent both teams have in this series, expect seven games and in my eyes the team with the better goaltending will advance to the second round.