What to watch for as the Golden Knights end their six-game road trip against the Sharks
Will Vegas thrive in San Jose or will they be left dead in the water?
The Vegas Golden Knights conclude their six-game road trip Thursday against the San Jose Sharks at the SAP Center. The Golden Knights have seven losses — regulation plus overtime — in their past 15 games. While an 8-5-2 spell works out to a 98-point pace, it represents one of Vegas’ weakest runs of the season, especially coming on the heels of an incredible eight-game winning streak.
In this contest against the division rival Sharks, the current 2nd-place team in the Pacific Division, the Knights will attempt to end their long road trip with eight of 12 possible points. Here’s what to look for:
West Coast, Best Coast
The Golden Knights enter this contest with a 12-1-1 record against Pacific teams. Whether or not this is the result of top notch scouting, pure luck or something else, the results have truly been remarkable. In fact, remove the pesky Edmonton Oilers and Vegas is undefeated out west. The last matchup with San Jose was a tight affair that saw both clubs remove their starting netminder. Will we see another high-flying game between these two Pacific titans?
Jumping the shark?
The day the calendar hit Winter, the Sharks came alive, stringing together a 9-3-3 run. Is it because head coach Peter DeBoer is an earthy, solstice kinda guy? Maybe, but this stretch saw solid goaltending, an uptick in Brent Burns‘ performance as well as excellent contributions from up and down the lineup, especially winger Kevin Labanc, who has ascended to second-line status thanks to 10 points in that stretch (and 21 in his past 26). However, that strong span came crashing to a halt when star center and slam-dunk Hall of Famer “Jumbo” Joe Thornton was felled by an MCL injury. The team has gone 2-3-1 since the injury and has been held to three goals or fewer each of their past five games. Can other top-notch forwards like Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski pick up the slack, or will the Sharks flounder without Thornton, their leader in assists in all but one year since his arrival in 2005-06?
It’s hard to believe I’m typing this, since the Golden Knights have a goalie tandem that boast .935 and .912 save percentages, but the Knights have posted three consecutive games with a sub-.900 save percentage for the first time this season outside of the Maxime Lagace era. Can some of that be blamed on spotty defense? Sure. But Malcolm Subban has not had a quality start since 2017 and Marc-Andre Fleury has looked shaky the last couple games. At minimum, it’s something worth keeping an eye on.
We’ve Only Just Begun
Ryan Carpenter has played just seven games with the Golden Knights, but has already made an impact, posting as many points (three) as fellow fourth-liner William Carrier. In this game, Carpenter makes his return to his former team, who placed the 27-year-old on waivers in mid-December. Can he continue to excel with the new-look “fourth-line” (quotes are Gallant’s, not mine) of him, Alex Tuch and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, a group that has so far put up a 71.4 CF% across parts of six games or will he prove San Jose right for cutting him loose?
How to Watch
Time: 7:30 p.m. PT
TV: AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain, NBC Southern California
Radio: Fox Sports 98.9 FM/1340 AM