The time has come. The Vegas Golden Knights’ quest for Lord Stanley’s Cup starts tonight, and the first obstacle in Vegas’ way is the San Jose Sharks. However, the Sharks have every intention of coming out on top this time after falling short in last year’s second-round series against the Knights, losing 4-2.
San Jose (46-27-9) earned home-ice advantage with an eight-point lead over Vegas (43-32-7) in the final standings, so the first two games will take place at the shark tank before the series shifts to T-Mobile Arena this weekend.
This series should have a little of everything, including some snarl after the recent exchange between Joe Thornton and Ryan Reaves. But most importantly, this series will feature a ton of skill on both sides.
Brent Burns led all San Jose skaters in assists (67) and points (83), while Joe Pavelski had a team-high 38 goals. He was one of four players on the team to hit the 30-goal plateau, and eight players earned at least 50 points.
For the Knights, Mark Stone led the way with 33 goals and 73 points, scoring five goals and 11 points in 18 games with Vegas. He was one of five Golden Knights to finish the season with 50-plus points and one of six players to hit 20 goals.
A major key to tonight’s game and this series will be discipline, as San Jose boasted the sixth-best power play in the NHL during the regular season, operating at 23.6 percent. Vegas’ 17th-ranked road penalty kill (79.8 percent) will have its hands full.
Marc-Andre Fleury and Martin Jones will man the crease for their respective teams in tonight’s matchup. Jones finished the year with 36 wins as well as a 2.94 goals-against average, an .896 save percentage and three shutouts; Fleury managed 35 wins, a 2.51 goals-against average, a .913 save percentage and eight shutouts.
It is expected that Tomas Nosek will skate on the third line with Cody Eakin and Alex Tuch tonight, meaning Brandon Pirri and Ryan Carpenter (as well as Valentin Zykov) will be healthy scratches. Also, Colin Miller could serve as a healthy scratch as well, which would mean Jon Merrill and Nick Holden would make up Vegas’ third pairing on the back end.
For the Sharks, notable scratches include Joonas Donskoi, Lukas Radil and Tim Heed.
Here are the projected lineups for both clubs:
Marchessault — Karlsson — Smith
Pacioretty — Stastny — Stone
Nosek — Eakin — Tuch
Carrier — Bellemare — Reaves
Schmidt — Engelland
McNabb — Theodore
Holden — Merrill
Meier (#28) — Couture (#39) — Pavelski (#8)
Kane (#9) — Hertl (#48) — Nyquist (#14)
Sorensen (#20) — Thornton (#19) — Labanc (#62)
Haley (#18) — Goodrow (#23) — M. Karlsson (#68)
Vlasic (#44) — Burns (#88)
Dillon (#4) — E. Karlsson (#65)
Ryan (#47) — Braun (#61)
ICYMI, here is a preview of the Sharks-Knights series, a preview of tonight’s game and a look at 10 things you should know about the Sharks before Game 1. Also, here’s an interesting pro/con-style preview from Fear the Fin, the SB Nation site for the San Jose Sharks.
You can find the schedule details for the rest of the series here.