The Vegas Golden Knights took the SAP Center ice Wednesday morning ahead of their Game 1 matchup against the San Jose Sharks as the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs commence.
As the team gets ready to hit the ice for the series-opening contest, the focus remains the same that it's been all season long: play Golden Knights hockey. Sometimes that's easier said than done. But for Vegas, the desire to play its own brand of the game mixed with the excitement of the playoffs has the players eager to hit the ice.
"We've been waiting for a while for things to get going," said defenseman Shea Theodore. "After a good morning skate, our group feels good and we're ready for a fun one tonight."
Theodore was one of the 11 players in 2018 who played in all 20 playoff games for the Golden Knights and he experienced every high and every low of that run. He said the team is ready to put the bumps it endured late in the regular season behind it and just look at what's next.
"I don't think we finished the regular season the way we would've liked, but we have guys here who know how to play in the playoffs," said Theodore. "I think our group is going to be ready."
During last year's trip to the Stanley Cup Final, the Golden Knights opened each series with a win at home save for the Western Conference Final in Winnipeg. Paul Stastny, who played for the Jets during last year's postseason, said that Vegas wants to set the tone early in Game 1 and shake out any nervousness that might develop at puck drop.
"Everyone waits for this time of year to come around and, once the puck drops, we're back into playoff hockey," Stastny said. "Both teams want to imprint their style of play on the other early on. For us, we want everyone to get a hit or feel the puck a little bit on those first couple of shifts. The nerves will be there, it's always like that. We just have to keep the game really simple."
Playing a simple game is something that teams often want to do but can stray from as the passion and intensity on the ice ramp up. Stastny said that the best way to combat that is to avoid making the pretty plays and attack the defense "wave-after-wave."
Defenseman Erik Karlsson is expected to make his playoff debut for the Sharks after being acquired by San Jose last summer. Former Ottawa teammate Mark Stone said the Golden Knights will be aware of Karlsson's ability on the ice but aren't going to treat him differently than any of San Jose's other defensemen.
"He's a gifted offensive player," Stone said. "He's no different than any other high-end defenseman in this league."