The Golden Knights lost their last game to the Sharks on Thursday, with the Sharks forcing the series to 3-2. If Vegas wins tonight, they face the Colorado Avalanche in Round 2. If not, they head back to San Jose for Game 7. With the home ice advantage tonight, players are hoping to seize the opportunity in front of them.
“It’s the biggest part of our home-ice advantage is being able to play there,” defenseman Nate Schmidt told reporters. “You get that type of energy anywhere, you’re going to feel it.... Guys are excited, we’re excited. Good teams are able to close this out, especially at home.”
So, what will it take for the Golden Knights to end this at home tonight? Here’s what to look for in tonight’s game against the Sharks.
You already know what this is about... it’s about goaltending
Two goalies, neither of whom are finalists for the Vezina (one more of a snub than the other), stand between their opponents’ path to Round 2. Martin Jones came back with a vengeance in Game 5, allowing a pair of goals out of 32 shots. This was a massive improvement after a Game 4 that was so brutal, he was nowhere to be found after the game (yes, that’s true).
What’s in store for Game 6, then? It depends on which Jones we end up seeing. Are we getting the Martin Jones that was pulled out of Game 2 and Game 4? Or are we getting the one we saw Thursday?
It sort of depends on what we get from Fleury as well. Fleury has had an impressive series, earning a shutout in the fourth matchup. Still, his save percentage is .899 at even strength. Backup Sharks goalie Aaron Dell actually has a better save percentage at the moment (though obviously he’s played less minutes), with .944 at even strength.
Game 5 was rough for Fleury. He came alive in the third period with some key saves, but he also allowed goals he shouldn’t have. Regardless of what we get from Jones, another off night for Fleury could make the difference.
Got me feelin’ emotions
It’s been surprisingly quiet from a chirping standpoint over the last two days. We’re not saying we expected the Muffin Man to quiet down any time soon, but perhaps his chirping won’t be as frequent as it was earlier in the series. After all, the Sharks kept their emotions at bay in Game 5.
San Jose had a hard time staying composed in Games 2, 3 and 4. Each game had multiple skirmishes and large amounts of penalty minutes. One had a full-blown fight between Evander Kane and Ryan Reaves, and one resulted in multiple ejections. Oh, and this happened.
Ah, good times.
In Game 5, San Jose showed restraint and received just four total penalty minutes. It was a vast improvement from Game 4, in which they racked up 38. Thirty of those minutes came from the third period alone.
Clearly, emotional regulation does the Sharks good. If they can keep the Golden Knights from getting under their skin, they’re well on their way to a good game.
The real first line
There are times when a second line looks just as good, if not better than a first line. So far in the playoffs, Paul Stastny has 8 points, and Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty both have 10. This second line is a force to be reckoned with offensively.
The first line has been a little quieter, with Jonathan Marchessault, William Karlsson and Reilly Smith combining for 10 points in five games total. They aren’t totally hopeless, but what are they really doing for the team?
Turns out, the first lines’ defense is among the best. At even strength, Smith leads the whole Golden Knights roster in Corsi For during the playoffs with a 58.88 percentage. Karlsson and Marchessault both sit about 55 percent. They’re just as impressive in the high-danger areas with a Corsi For percentage of 60.71 or higher for all of them.
It just goes to show that the first line may be quieter on offense, but they are getting the job done when Fleury needs some assistance. We won’t say, “Who needs defense?” Clearly, we do. But this is promising.
How to watch
Time: 4 p.m. PT
TV: NBCSN, AT&T SportsNet
Radio: Fox Sports 98.9 FM