The San Jose Sharks enter their first regular season match-up against the Vegas Golden Knights off a win over the Arizona Coyotes. Before that, the Sharks had been on a three-game losing streak.
The Sharks are last in the NHL in goals for. Their offense hasn’t been clicking outside of a few members, including Logan Couture (11 goals, six assists, 17 points), Joonas Donskoi (7-4—11), and Joe Thornton (3-8—11).
The biggest disappointment offensively for the Sharks has been Brent Burns, who led the team in scoring last year. This season, however, the bearded defenseman has no goals on 84 shots.
The Golden Knights, on the other hand, are coming off multiple-goal victories against the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks. The Knights are now in first place in the Pacific Division. That’s still a weird thing to say. The Golden Knights will test that lead against one more team from the golden state.
Here’s what to watch for as the Golden Knights enter post-Thanksgiving hockey.
First-time goal scorers
Joining Burns are several Golden Knights players without a goal. Brad Hunt, Brayden McNabb, Brendan Leipsic, Jon Merrill and Shea Theodore have all gone without finding the twine. while each of them has contributed points in other ways, it would still be nice to see them get on the scoreboard.
And also like Burns, each of the Knights’ goalless players have shots to their names. Hunt leads the pack with 20, while Merrill has just two. Theodore, with the fewest games of the bunch, leads in shots per game with 1.83.
Each of them will score at some point. If it comes against the Sharks, all the better.
Can the penalty kill stay hot?
Since the game on Nov. 14 against the Edmonton Oilers, the Knights’ penalty kill has killed 7-of-8 penalties. That includes wins on the road against the Vancouver Canucks and Ducks, and the road has been the hardest place to kill penalties for Vegas. The Knights are a bottom-five team in road PK percentage.
The penalty kill has achieved this due to limiting shots on opposing power plays to the outside, where it’s easier for Max Lagace to make a save. That’s how the Knights have successfully killed penalties so far this season, and it’s continued to work. Deryk Engelland, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, and Luca Sbisa are the three leaders in shorthanded ice time and have all played well.
Having a player like William Karlsson, who can score goals shorthanded, also helps. He’s got two on the season, tied for second in the league. Both have come in the last month.
If the Knights are able to kill off their penalties in this game, it would allow the Knights offense to focus on beating Martin Jones.