Sharks at Golden Knights Preview: Vegas looks for fourth-straight victory

Vegas looks to remain undefeated against San Jose in the 2021 NHL season.

The Vegas Golden Knights moved to four wins against the San Jose Sharks in their 2-1 victory on Monday. It was their third straight victory after sweeping a set against the St. Louis Blues and they brought their record in front of home fans to 3-0-0. Things look bright for the top team in the West division.

It was the first time the Golden Knights’ power play scored against the Sharks since their first game against San Jose back on Feb. 13. Vegas’s power play scored on March 12 against the Blues, but before that had gone five games without a goal.

Mark Stone picked up his sixth game-winning goal in the contest on Monday as well. Stone surpassed Leon Draisaitl for second in the NHL in that category after Auston Matthews. Stone also picked up a primary assist in the fourth game against San Jose. He’s scored a point in every game against the Sharks so far this season and has three goals and three assists in those four games.

Vegas has also begun playing better hockey against the Sharks of late, generating more offensive pressure, although their defense can improve. They had just 16 shots in the first game at 5-on-5 and 18 in the second. But in the fourth game they had 31 shots and 2.53 expected goals. However, they gave up 2.14 expected goals to the Sharks at 5-on-5 on Monday, the most they’ve allowed San Jose this season.

Against the Sharks this season, the Golden Knights have a 52.49 percent shot share and 52.37 percent expected goal share at 5-on-5. Vegas remains the better possession team against their archrival, resulting in a nine goal to five disparity at full strength.

The only players with multiple points against the Golden Knights on the Sharks side are Erik Karlsson (two primary assists, both on March 5), Brent Burns (a goal and primary assist) and Timo Meier (goal, coming March 15, and a secondary assist). The Sharks have put up just six goals against the Golden Knights, four of them coming in the same game on March 5.

In other words, this series has been as lopsided as the results make it appear so far this season. Vegas has the edge both on the special teams (four goals on the power play, one goal allowed) and at 5-on-5. In order to keep that edge, though, the Golden Knights will need to keep doing what’s made them successful. Here are three things to watch as the Golden Knights go for their fifth win against San Jose.

What to watch for

  • The fourth line — usually made up of Ryan Reaves, William Carrier and whichever center they’ve been assigned for the game — has been a black hole against the Sharks. While both Reaves and Carrier have scored a point against the Sharks — both assists, with Carrier’s being primary and Reaves’s secondary — that’s been about it. Neither has produced much more than that one point either, with both having just two assists this season. However, the most recent game may have proved that was more about Reaves, as he was put with Patrick Brown and Keegan Kolesar and the line had a 22.22 percent shot share and 13.47 expected goal share in 9:07. Carrier has been dealing with an undisclosed injury that has kept him out of the lineup, so hopefully they can find some combinations that work.
  • The antithesis of that Reaves line has been whichever line has Alex Tuch on it. Against the Sharks, Tuch has played on five different line combinations for at least a minute. Each one dominated expected goal share, with the lowest being a 56.29 percent mark in 7:49 with Nicolas Roy and Cody Glass. Tuch spent the game on March 15 with Tomas Nosek and Roy and put up a 69.23 percent shot share and 62.56 percent expected goal share. He’s driven play well against the Sharks this season and has three goals and an assist in four games.
  • With Chandler Stephenson missing the last game with an undisclosed injury, Pacioretty and Stone each put up a goal and primary assist. Their center Glass, however, had zero points and zero shots on goal. He made a takeaway and took three hits. If that line is going to be better while down Stephenson — they had a 33.33 percent shot share — those two wings, arguably Vegas’s best, need to elevate their young center’s abilities as they’ve done in the past. The line was together to start last season, so they know each other to some extent. Glass can be a good center, but he needs to play — and play well — with more talented linemates (like Stone and Pacioretty). That line could be together again for this game and hopefully that results in better possession metrics and more goals./

How to watch

Time: 7 p.m.

TV: AT&T SportsNet

Radio: Fox Sports 98.9 FM/1340 AM