Mike Tyson once said, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.“
Now Tyson’s no stranger to Las Vegas, and the Vegas Golden Knights are no strangers to coming out with fire. They did it in their home opener against the Arizona Coyotes, they did it tonight, scoring four times in the opening 12 minutes on both occasions.
Whatever plan the San Jose Sharks entered this 7-0 drubbing with, well, it probably needs to get thrown in the trash.
The Golden Knights came hard at the Sharks’ Martin Jones and scored their first three goals on three consecutive shots. The first came from Cody Eakin at 4:31 of the opening frame:
GOAL!!!!!! Eakin opens the scoring!!! pic.twitter.com/PmSzoWSBlG— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) April 27, 2018
Erik Haula would add another 26 seconds later, thanks to the legwork of Alex Tuch:
Gorgeous work by Alex Tuch. Fancy stickwork and a savvy drop pass to set Haula up. pic.twitter.com/kMcUiWHUfr— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) April 27, 2018
Jonathan Marchessault would score on a deftly placed snapshot just over a minute later, and Tuch would put together one of the finest individual efforts in the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs:
Now, how much of this was Tuch’s nifty puck-handling and how much of this was the Sharks playing NHL 18 and having their controller disconnect? A little Column A, a little Column B.
Sharks netminder Jones would remain in to begin the second period, but this savvy rush from Shea Theodore marked the end of his night, to be relieved by Aaron Dell:
SHEA THEODORE KEEPS THE PARTY GOING! 5-0!!! pic.twitter.com/VCxkQqiGrC— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) April 27, 2018
Vegas didn’t sit on their heels after getting a five-goal lead, either. If anything, they turned on the juice, however were unable to do much with a stout Dell in net:
Vegas would ease off the pressure a bit in the final frame, but playing over a third of the period with the man (or two-man) advantage enabled them to pick up another pair of goals, scored by Colin Miller and James Neal.
Great work on the defensive end, at both 5v5 and on the penalty kill, kept the Sharks from scoring in the third period despite their 75% Corsi For Percentage.
Speaking of shot metrics, stick taps are in order for Miller and Jon Merrill tonight, who were on ice for 14 Vegas shots and just 2 from San Jose.
While Vegas did thoroughly dominate as far as putting pucks in the net is concerned, they gave up a ton of high-danger shots, something they did not do against the Los Angeles Kings. Looking at this map from Natural Stat Trick, you can see the Sharks got off a number of shots from inside that dangerous “home plate” area:
According to Corsica, Vegas allowed 5.43 expected goals, including nearly four in the first period alone. Marc-Andre Fleury might regress to the mean at some point, but he appears invincible at this point, saving all 33 shots he faced. The Flower now has a .982 save percentage and a 0.54 goals against average in the ‘yoffs. The otherwise even battle between Fleury and Jones has been massively tipped in the Vegas netminder’s favor. Three shutouts in five games? Whew. He has not allowed a goal in over 160 minutes.
One has to wonder if Dell might see a start in Game 2, which may sound like a knee-jerk reaction, but the 28-year-old is no slouch, looking solid in relief of Jones and posting a .920 save percentage in 49 career NHL games. Sure, he gave up a couple goals, but both came with the Sharks short-handed, once in a 3v5 situation.
Another notable element of this game was the amount of penalties handed out—13 minors, a major and a misconduct in total. It’s strange to see the whistles come out in a series that is far less physical than one against a heavy Kings, but here we are. Joe Pavelski could be seen saying “that’s [expletive] soft” about one of the calls. Maybe, but it is refreshing to see the referees call things more or less by the book.
Now, I said things were less physical, and I should specify that I am referring to the play between the whistles. One round of extracurricular activities following a San Jose possession featured this disgusting display from Evander Kane:
Evander Kane crosschecks Bellemare in the face. pic.twitter.com/hPIDtKlIv7— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) April 27, 2018
There is no place in the game for a cross-check to the face, and it was reflected with a game misconduct. Wouldn’t be shocked to not see Kane out there in Game 2—shades of Drew Doughty.
Hard to imagine Vegas fans being anything other than ecstatic following this game, and our friends over SinBin.Vegas attested to the vibe after the second period:
Spent the intermission walking the concourse, every face I saw was like looking at a kid at Disney World. There was dancing, wooing, high fives, it's VGK euphoria. #CupIn1— SinBin.vegas (@SinBinVegas) April 27, 2018
A 7-0 victory is nothing short of amazing. To have all seven tallies come from different players only serves to highlight the impressive depth of this club. To score as many goals in one game as you did the previous series? This team keeps finding ways to impress.
The Vegas Golden Knights punched the Sharks squarely in the jaw. Whatever new plan results for San Jose will be seen on Saturday night, as they will try and even the series at one game apiece.