By W.G. Ramirez
Editor’s note: The Sharks made a goaltending change after the writing of this post.
For the second straight night the Vegas Golden Knights will meet the leaders of the Pacific Division they won last season.
After knocking off the Calgary Flames, who went into Friday atop the division, the Golden Knights will meet the San Jose Sharks, who are now in front of the Pacific by one point after beating the Vancouver Canucks last night.
Both the Golden Knights and Sharks won by way of shutout on Friday, and will meet for the first time this season.
This season the Sharks figured to be the frontrunners in the Pacific, after acquiring defenseman Erik Karlsson from the Ottawa Senators. Vegas finished 3-0-1 against the Sharks last regular season, and then beat San Jose 4 games to 2 in the playoffs.
As for the Knights On Ice totals, we improved to 9-1 with the Over/Unders involving the Golden Knights after delivering the Under in their 2-0 win over the Flames last night.
As bad as things have been for Vegas, and for as well as San Jose has looked to start the campaign, the oddsmakers see this one being tight, as the line is pick’em, with both laying -110.
The Sharks sit atop the Pacific Division with 28 points, one point in front of Calgary. The Golden Knights are in fourth place with 23 points, just three points behind Dallas and Winnipeg for the second wild-card spot.
”At the start of last year we caught some teams by a little bit of surprise, just the speed of the game we were playing,” Reilly Smith said early Saturday morning. “We’re trying to play the same system as last year, it just doesn’t look the same. We want to play a fast game, we don’t really want to play really tight. You gotta be scoring goals to be able to trade chances a little bit.”
Vegas will take its chances against its second straight first-place opponent tonight at T-Mobile. Puck drop is at 7:05 pm pacific.
Value in the Knights
Vegas has now won two straight, after dominating performances by goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, who will be back in net tonight. The chemistry with this team, at home, is what has helped it produce a 6-3-1 mark at T-Mobile Arena. And since the Golden Knights were off the ice and out of the arena by the time the Sharks and Vancouver started playing last night, they’ll have a bit of an advantage with the extra rest. Smith mentioned that just the extra few hours on a holiday weekend, and being able to just drive home and not worry about a morning skate can help give the team fresh legs for what figures to be a contentious game. Add in the momentum from last night’s well-played game, and the Golden Knights should come out swarming once again.
Value in the Sharks
San Jose arrives in the desert on a 6-3-1 run and with revenge on the brain. The Sharks will be motivated from last night’s 4-0 win over the Canucks, a game in which the Sharks power-play registered three goals. San Jose couldn’t have asked for a better momentum, as it finished a six-game homestand 4-1-1 and with two shutouts. And speaking of special teams, over the last 19 games the Sharks penalty kill has allowed two power-play goals (48-50, 96.0 percent) and have been perfect in the last eight games. If there were ever a time for the Sharks to visit a team that is becoming an arch-rival, it’s now.
On the heels of playing last night’s game Under, we’re leaning toward this matchup staying low, with the total sitting on 5.5-under, +105.
Let’s start with the Golden Knights, are 3-0 Under following Fleury’s three previous shutouts. In each of the games that followed a shutout by the 15-year veteran, Vegas games landed on 5, 4 and 5 goals, with the Golden Knights losing two of those games. This season, the Sharks are 1-1 in back-to-back scenarios, but in both scenarios they were already on the road. This marks the first time they’re coming from San Jose to play on the road. They’re also 1-1 in totals on the second of back-to-back nights. Tonight they’ll face Fleury, who leads the league this season with four shutouts. The Sharks will have Martin Jones in net, and he wasn’t the guy who shut out the Canucks last night. Jones will be fresh and looking to overcome recent struggles, as he’s allowed four of more goals in his last three starts and in four of five.
W.G. Ramirez is a freelance reporter in Las Vegas who covers the Vegas Golden Knights for The Associated Press. Follow him on Twitter at @WillieGRamirez.