Well, Game 1 certainly was not the start the Vegas Golden Knights were looking for in this series. To put it bluntly, they were flat-out dominated. The San Jose Sharks took it to them from beginning to end.
However, with Game 1 in the rear-view mirror, there is no sense in dwelling on that game, especially since Vegas played so poorly and this is a seven-game series. Instead, let’s shift our attention to Game 2, where the Golden Knights have a chance to not only even up this series, but also take control of home-ice advantage.
Winning Game 2 could go a long way towards determining the outcome of this series. They always say a team is not in trouble until they lose at home. While the Sharks would not be “in trouble” if they were to lose Game 2, Vegas sure would be. A road win in Game 2 would shift the momentum back in Vegas’ favor and award the Knights home-ice advantage in a brand-new, best-of-five series.
Needless to say, this is a big game for both teams, so let’s jump right in and break it down. Here are three things the Knights need to do in tonight’s game.
In what has become a disturbing trend recently, the Golden Knights were dominated during the first 20 minutes of action in Game 1. Dominated. Vegas only registered five shots during the opening period, and things did not really get better until the third period.
To put it in perspective, the Golden Knights only registered five shots in the first period and 10 shots through two periods of play, while the Sharks registered 22, which led to four goals and a 4-1 lead at the second intermission.
It’s easy to sit here and say “The Knights just have to score first.” The Sharks went 31-8-5 when scoring first in the regular season, good for a .705 win percentage, while the Knights were 16-21-3 after giving up the first goal, good for a .400 win percentage. There’s no denying that being the first to light the lamp in Game 2 would be a big help to Vegas’ cause.
But at the very least, Vegas needs to keep up with the pace of play rather than allowing the Sharks to dictate absolutely everything like they did in Game 1. The Knights need a complete 60-minute effort, and it has to be fully in effect right after the opening faceoff.
Stay out of the box
The Knights gave the Sharks a whopping five power-play opportunities in Game 1. Not exactly the kind of strategy you want to implement when playing a team with a lethal power play (San Jose had the sixth-ranked power play during the regular season, operating at 23.6 percent). This is especially true considering how crucial discipline was in last year’s second-round series against this team.
The Knights’ penalty kill had a strong game all things considered, forcing the Sharks to go 1-for-5 on the man advantage. However, only one of San Jose’s five goals on the night came at 5-on-5, so even 4-on-4 situations caused by coincidental minors can lead to trouble.
Vegas is a significantly better team during 5-on-5 play, and San Jose seems particularly destructive in all other situations, making discipline a must for Vegas in tonight’s game.
Limit the Sharks’ transition opportunities
Maybe it was nerves? Or maybe it was just downright poor play? Either way, the Golden Knights gave the Sharks way too many opportunities in transition during Game 1, which was largely thanks to the unbelievable amount of turnovers — 12, to be exact — Vegas committed.
Turnovers are bad enough on their own, but they’re especially costly against a speedy team like the Sharks. San Jose pounced on Vegas’ many turnovers, utilizing the open ice to skate through the neutral zone untouched with speed, leading to odd-man rushes. You’re just asking for trouble when you don’t protect the puck against such a skilled roster.
If Vegas is going to bounce back in Game 2, the Knights need to keep their turnovers to a minimum. Plus, the Golden Knights’ forecheck will need to make things tough for San Jose, especially on the Sharks’ defensemen, including Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson, both of whom were difference-makers in Game 1.
How to watch
Time: 7:30 p.m. PT
TV: NBCSN, AT&T SportsNet
Radio: Fox Sports 98.9 FM