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Stanley Cup Playoffs 2018: What to watch for as the Golden Knights open the second round against the Sharks

The Vegas Golden Knights swept through the Los Angeles Kings in round one of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. At the same time, the San Jose Sharks swept through the Anaheim Ducks. To paraphrase a now problematic rapper, no more parties in Southern California.

Neither team was expected to sweep. The Golden Knights were playing their first playoff series against an established team. The Sharks don’t have the best history when going up 3-0 on a team from their state. Both teams broke from expectations and won cleanly.

What happens when two teams with a lot of momentum, many days off, and a bit of uncertainty about their schedule clash? That’s what has yet to be discovered. Here’s what could decide Game 1.

Goaltending battle

Two of the best goaltenders in the postseason are playing in this series. Marc-Andre Fleury was the primary reason Vegas swept L.A., and his 0.65 goals-against average and .977 save percentage lead the NHL this postseason. And he had two shutouts, which is why he’s known around these parts as Marc-Andre Donuts.

Martin Jones is right there with Fleury. Jones only got one shutout but posted a 1.00 GAA and .970 save percentage.

This is likely going to be a low-scoring, tight, defensive series between two teams with a lot of offense.

Fleury won that round. If he wins the goaltending battle again in Round 2, the Golden Knights are that much closer to round three.

Depth on depth

Both of these teams have lots of offensive depth. That’s important for both the forwards and the defensemen, who will be tasked with shutting down those offenses.

The Golden Knights got goals from seven players, including two game-winners from defensemen. They had points from 13 players. The Sharks had goals from nine players and points from 15.

In addition to the pressure already on the Golden Knights’ top four defensemen (Nate Schmidt, Brayden McNabb, Deryk Engelland, and Shea Theodore), there’s now additional pressure on Colin Miller and Jon Merrill.

While they won’t have to shut down players like Brent Burns, Evander Kane, Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski, the Golden Knights’ third pairing will have to deal with Marcus Sorenson (3-1—4) and Melker Karlsson (0-3—3).

Meanwhile, the Golden Knights’ bottom six will need to step up their games. While members of the third and fourth line (Tomas Nosek, David Perron, Cody Eakin, Ryan Carpenter [and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare was uncredited for his role in the first game winner]) had at least one point in the first round, they need to have more against the Sharks’ bottom pairing. The third line needs to be active in the offensive zone, and the fourth line needs to get the puck on net.

For the Couture

Speaking of Logan Couture, he’s perhaps the match up to watch in game one. Theodore and Engelland, who completely took the Jeff Carter line out of the series against the Kings, will likely get assigned the leading points scorer for the Sharks, with Schmidt and McNabb on the Pavelski line.

Vegas needs Theodore and Engelland to work their magic again. Couture is joined by Tomas Hertl, who scored 3-1—4. That’s a dangerous duo.

If the second pairing is able to win their matchup, then it puts less pressure on the first pairing (and the third) and it makes it easier for Vegas to contend. Through the first round, there was no reason to discredit Theodore and Engelland as a pairing. If that keeps up, they might see more time on ice in a more expanded role.

How to Watch

Time: 7 p.m. PT

TV: NBC Sports Network

Radio: Fox Sports Radio 98.9 FM/1340 AM