Stanley Cup Playoffs 2018: What to watch for as the Golden Knights look to close the series against the Sharks
Vegas has two games to get one win. They’d rather not come back to Vegas for Game 7.
The Vegas Golden Knights came up with a crucial win at home in Game 5 against the San Jose Sharks. That win puts them within one victory of moving on to the Western Conference Finals.
It’s do-or-die time for San Jose.
Here’s what to watch for.
Desperation mode, revisited
The Golden Knights played two games against the Los Angeles Kings in desperation mode in the first round. They won both of those games, but they were outplayed and outshot. Now, they face a San Jose team on the brink of elimination. That same desperation mode that took over the Kings will take over the Sharks. But with the Sharks being a better team than the Kings, that desperation mode is going to be even more dangerous.
That means the Golden Knights can’t make mistakes. They have to keep the puck on their blades, clear the crease, and take away the high-danger areas.
The Sharks entering desperation mode also means discipline matters more than ever for Vegas. They can’t take three straight penalties in the third period like they did in Game 5. They need to play a clean game, and play with the same energy that they did on the penalty kill throughout their last game.
If the Golden Knights are able to draw more penalties than they take, things will look great for them. They need to have more time with an extra man no matter what the situation is, and they’ve always played better at 5-on-5 and 5-on-4 in this series.
Power play needs to keep running
Speaking of the man advantage, the second goal of the game for the Golden Knights in Game 5 came from the power play. In Game 4, the Knights had five power-play opportunities and couldn’t convert on any of them.
On the road, against a desperate team, in a playoff game, that can’t happen again. The power play needs to find a way to score at least once if they have multiple opportunities. Their ability to do so — or not — could determine the outcome of the game. If they’re able to build momentum off of the power play, that’s a big swing.
Lindberg, Sbisa, Carpenter
The lineup changes that Gallant made between Games 4 and 5 were the difference makers in the latter. Not only did the newly revamped depth provide the game-winning goal — courtesy of Alex Tuch via Cody Eakin, Oscar Lindberg’s linemates — they forced the Sharks’ depth back into their own zone. That was something that wasn’t happening in Game 4.
Luca Sbisa was also a crucial defensive presence, especially down the stretch. He finished the game with 17 minutes and three blocks. Sbisa and Miller didn’t get scored on for 55 minutes, and Sbisa made numerous defensive plays, forcing a 2-on-2 chance early to the outside and denying a scoring chance.
Finally, Ryan Carpenter got an assist on Erik Haula’s goal and was a distraction for the Sharks during the goal itself. His presence on the fourth line made it more dynamic, and his ability to get to rebounds makes him a high-danger threat.
What will the fourth line look like?
Speaking of the fourth line, William Carrier got hurt halfway through Game 5, and did not return to the game. According to Gerard Gallant, Carrier is “day-to-day.” There’s some concern whether or not he can play in Game 6.
What the concern should be is: should Carrier play Game 6? He’s not the best option for the fourth line, especially with Carpenter having a triumphant return in Game 5. Tomas Nosek is still practicing, and he should be playing in Game 6 regardless of Carrier’s (hopefully positive) health status.
Nosek is useful on the penalty kill, has created more rebounds in this series, and finished the regular season with more goals, assists, and points than Carrier. His chemistry with Pierre-Edouard Bellemare is better than Carrier’s, and he just makes more sense as the final forward on the starting lineup.
How to watch
Time: 4:30 p.m. PT
TV: NBC Sports Network
Radio: Fox Sports 98.9 FM/1340 AM