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Round 1

Sharks vs. Golden Knights playoff preview

Discipline among keys for San Jose against Vegas in first round

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika @cotsonika / NHL.com Columnist

San Jose Sharks vs. Vegas Golden Knights

Sharks: 46-27-9, 101 points, second in Central

Golden Knights: 43-32-7, 93 points, third in Central

Season series: SJS 2-2-0; VGK 2-1-1

 

[RELATED: Complete Sharks vs. Golden Knights series coverage]

 

The skinny

The Vegas Golden Knights have been in the NHL for two seasons, but they already have a rivalry brewing with the San Jose Sharks.

The Golden Knights defeated the Sharks in six games in the Western Conference Second Round last season, outscoring them 22-14, on their way to the Stanley Cup Final.

Each team has since bolstered its roster. Vegas added forwards Max Pacioretty, Paul Stastny and Mark Stone. San Jose added defenseman Erik Karlsson and forward Gustav Nyquist.

The keys for Vegas will include avoiding San Jose's power play and keeping Karlsson and defenseman Brent Burns from showing their Norris Trophy skills.

"Really got to do a good job of staying disciplined and staying out of the box," Golden Knights defenseman Nate Schmidt said. "And you've got to put pressure on their defense. If we let those guys skate all over the ice, we're going to be facing many more problems than if we didn't."

The keys for San Jose will include avoiding turnovers against Vegas' transition game. The games between these teams have tended to be lopsided Vegas wins or tight defeats. In the series last year, the Golden Knights won 7-0, lost 4-3 in double overtime, won 4-3 in OT, lost 4-0, won 5-3 and won 3-0. This season, they won 6-0, lost 3-2, won 7-3 and lost 4-3 in OT.

"When we play them hard and play them right, they're one-goal games," Sharks forward Joe Pavelski said. "When we get off our game, they've put it on us at times. That last time (in the playoffs), it felt like we handed them a little bit too much, and they're a team that if you do give them those opportunities, they'll burn you."

 

Game breakers

Sharks: Karlsson was acquired in a trade with the Ottawa Senators on Sept. 13 to be a difference-maker. The last time he appeared in the playoffs was 2017, when the Senators went to the Eastern Conference Final and he led them in scoring with 18 points (two goals, 16 assists) in 19 games.

Golden Knights: Center William Karlsson has 18 points (10 goals, eight assists) in 16 games against San Jose with Vegas, including eight points (three goals, five assists) in the second round last year.

Video: VGK@SJS: Karlsson rips home one-timer to open scoring

 

Goaltending

Sharks: Martin Jones' save percentage in the regular season was .896, second-to-last among goalies who played at least 46 games (Jonathan Quick, .888). In three games against Vegas, he had a 3.62 goals-against average and .893 save percentage. In the playoffs against Vegas, he had a 3.13 GAA, an .895 save percentage and one shutout. 

Golden Knights: Marc-Andre Fleury had a .913 save percentage in the regular season. In two games against San Jose, he had a 1.54 GAA, .950 save percentage and one shutout. In the playoffs against San Jose, he had a 2.14 GAA, .935 save percentage and two shutouts.

 

Numbers to know

Sharks: The Sharks were tied for third with the Calgary Flames in goals per game (3.52) and sixth on the power play (23.6 percent) in the regular season. They have nine players who had at least 50 points, four more than any other team.

Golden Knights: The Golden Knights were tied for 13th with the Montreal Canadiens in goals per game (3.00). But after acquiring Stone from the Senators on Feb. 25, they averaged 3.32 per game (sixth).

 

Injury report

Sharks: Karlsson returned for the regular-season finale Saturday after missing 27 of the previous 32 games with groin injuries. Forward Timo Meier sat out the finale with an undisclosed injury, but coach Peter DeBoer said the Sharks were being cautious and Meier would be ready for the playoffs. Defenseman Radim Simek is out for the series with a knee injury.

Golden Knights: Fleury started the last two regular-season games after missing nine with an undisclosed injury. Forward Erik Haula is skating on his own but hasn't played since injuring his knee Nov. 6.

Video: ARI@VGK: Fleury stops Richardson's breakaway bid

 

They said it

"I thought Fleury was exceptional last year, and I still think he's a big part of their team. I think you have to be able to get some pucks behind him. I think obviously the picture's a lot bigger than that, but I think that's probably the one thing that jumps out. … When he's in the lineup for them, they're a different team." -- Sharks coach Peter DeBoer

"In the Pacific, we're two pretty good teams, I think, and are going to be two good teams for a couple years in front of us. It's definitely going to be fun. They have a lot of great players. On paper, they probably have one of the best teams in the League with [the Tampa Bay Lightning]. So it's going to be a very good challenge." -- Golden Knights forward Jonathan Marchessault

 

Will win if …

Sharks: Jones gives them decent goaltending, they're clean through the neutral zone, and they diffuse the Golden Knights' forecheck and break out of their zone efficiently. Their strength is their offensive punch in Burns and Karlsson on the back end and the depth up front.

Golden Knights: Fleury continues to give them an advantage in goal, they force the Sharks into mistakes by attacking in transition and dominating on the forecheck, and they stay out of the penalty box. That not only avoids the potent Sharks power play but allows them to roll four lines. They're at their best when they come in waves.

 

Sharks projected lineup

Timo Meier -- Logan Couture -- Joe Pavelski

Evander Kane -- Tomas Hertl -- Gustav Nyquist

Marcus Sorensen -- Joe Thornton -- Kevin Labanc

Michael Haley -- Barclay Goodrow -- Melker Karlsson

Marc-Edouard Vlasic -- Brent Burns

Brenden Dillon -- Erik Karlsson

Joakim Ryan -- Justin Braun

Martin Jones

Aaron Dell

Scratched: Joonas Donskoi, Tim Heed, Lukas Radil

 

Golden Knights projected lineup

Jonathan Marchessault -- William Karlsson -- Reilly Smith

Max Pacioretty -- Paul Stastny -- Mark Stone

Ryan Carpenter -- Cody Eakin -- Alex Tuch

William Carrier -- Pierre-Edouard Bellemare -- Ryan Reaves

Nate Schmidt -- Brayden McNabb

Nick Holden -- Shea Theodore

Colin Miller -- Deryk Engelland

Marc-Andre Fleury

Malcolm Subban

Scratched: Jon Merrill, Tomas Nosek, Brandon Pirri, Valentin Zykov

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