After the first game in the series saw the Vegas Golden Knights thoroughly dismantle the San Jose Sharks and send starting netminder Martin Jones to the bench just a few minutes into the second period, it is hard to say what the second game will be like. Will the Sharks come out with a brand new game plan, or will they stay the course, considering that they actually outpaced the Knights in expected goals?
We shall see. There will be plenty to learn about this Sharks team from Saturday night’s game, and here’s what you’re going to want to look for:
Dude, are we getting a Dell?
It sounds crazy. It feels crazy typing it, but could we see Aaron Dell in place of Martin Jones in Game 2? Sure. It’s possible, anyway. In fact, even though Jones carries an impressive reputation, some of it is unearned. In this comparison of Dell and Jones since the former’s debut with the Sharks, it isn’t close who the better netminder has been, and it’s not Jones. Still. Jones has been a solid playoff goalie over the past couple seasons, but giving up five goals in 23 minutes is not going to cut it. At worst, a move to Dell will prove lateral rather than massively detrimental. If Jones is to start, which is the likely course of action, he will have a mighty short leash.
The lack of Evander Kane
With respect to Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture, Kane might be the team’s greatest offensive weapon. This is a contentious statement, but when looking at even-strength goals, Kane is king. His 47 tallies at ES over the past two seasons easily outranks Pavelski and Couture who each had 36 (and played a few more games than Kane). After his nasty crosscheck to Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Kane will have to watch the second tilt from the press box. Whoever fills the void on that line with Pavelski and Joonas Donskoi has a tall order ahead of them, and no one can quite replicate what Kane brings.
Will the PK be OK?
So far in the playoffs, the Vegas penalty kill has been stellar. Keeping the puck out of the net on 17 of 18 short-handed occasions is incredible, and some of that has been due to the play of Bellemare. Pebbles, however, may not play in Game 2 following the crosscheck from Kane. With the referees calling quite a few penalties in Game 1 — a very strange sight in the playoffs — there is a decent chance that Vegas finds themselves with the man disadvantage a few times. Losing a top PK’er can’t be good.
And if there’s no PEB...
Then who gets his spot? Tomas Tatar brings by far the most talent, but he would be wasted in a fourth line role. Perhaps he could move up to the third line and Ryan Carpenter could get bumped down? That would represent the skill approach. Oscar Lindberg could work out in place of Bellemare, as he can win a few key faceoffs if need be, and might be good for a rare goal. Finally, there’s Ryan Reaves. If you’re looking for the physical element, then he’s your guy. If you’re looking for anything else, he’s not.
Can he possibly keep it up? For every 50 shots he’s faced in the playoffs, Marc-Andre Fleury has allowed one goal. Regression to the mean is coming, but will it happen tonight? Will it happen this series? Regardless, if the Vegas offense can put up at least three goals, it’s a near lock that the team will win.
How to Watch
Time: 5 p.m. PT
Radio: Fox Sports Radio 98.9 FM/1340 AM