The Vegas Golden Knights and their rival numero uno, the San Jose Sharks, will face off one more time in the 2019-20 season Sunday at the SAP Center in San Jose. The teams have already faced off three times this season, and the Golden Knights have taken away a 2-0-1 record.
The Golden Knights remain second in the Pacific division (19-13-6) with the same amount of points as the Arizona Coyotes, but with Arizona having a game in hand. The Sharks (16-19-2) have fallen quite a ways off their expected pace, firing head coach Pete DeBoer on Dec. 11.
The Golden Knights are 6-2-2 in their last 10 games while the Sharks are 2-7-1. This will be a game where both teams will look for a reversal of recent (or not so recent) fortunes.
Another talk about discipline
The last few games, the Golden Knights have lacked discipline. They took seven of 10 penalties in the game against Vancouver and five of the game’s six penalties against Minneosota. One has to go back to the Dec. 15 game against the Canucks to find a game where Vegas took fewer penalties, and even in that game, there were two sets of coincidental minors. The last time Vegas played the clear, outright more disciplined game was Dec. 12 against the Blues, when the Golden Knights didn’t take any penalties.
Against the Sharks, the Golden Knights will face a discipline test. There’s already been quite a few tussles between these two teams so far this season, and who can forget William Karlsson having to leave game one this season after a fight?
And discipline is more than just penalties as well. The Golden Knights had too many own-zone giveaways on Thursday against the Canucks, and that led to Vegas’s downfall in that game. If they can avoid that against San Jose, all the better.
Finding ways to the high-danger areas
In each of the first two games of this season series, both of which the Golden Knights took, they had 13 high-danger chances for (at even strength). In the third, they lost the high-danger battle at even strength, with just seven high-danger chances for versus eight against. The Golden Knights were clearly better in those first two games, and that’s perhaps why they outscored the Sharks, and took advantage of their, well, lacking goaltenders in those first two sessions.
And high-danger chances are not something that is a rarity for the Golden Knights. In fact, Vegas leads the league in chances from in tight so far this season, with 385 (although the second-place Hurricanes have played two fewer games). The Sharks also have the sixth-most against them so far this season (Vegas has the fourth-most against, which is a whole different point).
It shouldn’t be hard, therefore, for Vegas to find the better scoring chances, but they were unable to do so in the Nov. 21 game. If they’re able to drive to the net again and get those valuable higher-percentage shots on net, they’ll be more likely to take this game against San Jose.
Getting the special teams going
Also in both of those first two games, the Golden Knights got two goals from their special team units. On Oct. 2, those were two shorthanded goals. On Oct. 4, a shorthanded and a power play. Neither unit particularly showed up against the Sharks in their game in November, however.
It may not be possible to get two goals again - the Sharks have the top ranked penalty kill in the league this season - but if the Golden Knights can find a way to score that isn’t at even strength, they’ve shown to be able to beat San Jose more handily.
And it’s not like Vegas’s power kill has had trouble against the Sharks this season. They’ve scored three shorthanded goals and are tied for third with six on the season. It would be something if the Golden Knights could get one more, tying them for first in the league, against their primary rival.
Jonathan Marchessault — William Karlsson — Reilly Smith
Max Pacioretty — Chandler Stephenson — Mark Stone
Valentin Zykov — Paul Stastny — Alex Tuch
William Carrier — Tomas Nosek — Ryan Reaves
Brayden McNabb — Nate Schmidt
Nicolas Hague — Shea Theodore
Nick Holden — Deryk Engelland
Patrick Marleau — Logan Couture — Evander Kane
Kevin Labanc — Joe Thornton — Tomas Hertl
Marcus Sorensen — Barclay Goodrow — Timo Meier
Stefan Noesen — Joel Kellman — Melker Karlsson
Erik Karlsson — Marc-Edouard Vlasic
Brenden Dillon — Brent Burns
Jacob Middleton — Tim Heed
How to Watch
Time: 7 p.m.
TV: AT&T SportsNet, NHL.TV, ESPN+
Radio: Fox Sports 98.9 FM/1340 AM