Sharks

Five things that stood out as Sharks go up 2-0 on Ducks

Five things that stood out as Sharks go up 2-0 on Ducks

In my series opening feature, I offered one piece of advice: Expect the unexpected.

It’s not to say the Sharks weren’t capable of jumping out to a two-game lead, on the road. But when you consider how their regular season ended (1-4-1), how Anaheim’s schedule closed out (seven-straight home wins), and how tight all their games with the Ducks were (three of four finished via shootouts), nothing entering this matchup was a guarantee for San Jose.

Statistics say teams with a 2-0 lead go on to win an NHL playoff series 82 percent of the time.

Furthermore, the Sharks have taken 2-0 series leads on the road three times before in franchise history (1995, 2013, 2016) and ended up winning every time.

San Jose has put themselves in an excellent position, in a round where the temperature might have just doubled from Game 1 to 2.

But make no mistake, there’s still long roads ahead for this group.

1: Anaheim threw the first punches on the scoreboard, and ice, but the Sharks response was even greater

As if their first goal :41 seconds into the game wasn’t enough of an eye-opener, the Ducks clearly executed on a more physical game-plan right off the opening draw. I won’t expand into the nature and/or legality of contact, but lets just say there were some “borderline” plays at best. Lindholm on Kane, Beauchemin on Labanc, Rakell on Braun, Perry on Karlsson. You get the idea. But the bottom line is how the Sharks ultimately responded: by lighting the lamp in repetition. They got the middle 3 goals in the game, and fended off Anaheim’s scoring and physical pushes. That response spoke louder than any of the Ducks’ actions.

2: Anaheim’s lack of discipline has been costly, but in two different ways

In Game 1 it was the frequency of penalties: seven minors to be precise. In Game 2, it was the timing of the penalties: one example would be Perry running Karlsson and getting 2 minutes for interference - with his team down a goal, and less than 4 minutes left in the 3rd period. Not an outstanding time to be shorthanded. Similar to when Brandon Montour went in the box at 13:37 of the first for hooking. The Sharks were already making a push, and with the extra attacker scored about 1 minute into their Power Play on Couture’s first of the playoffs. It makes you wonder, do the Ducks even have the ability to get away from their penalty problems if it becomes THE prime concern of the series?

3: The Sharks depth is on full display

San Jose has six goals in the first two games, from five different scorers. This was actually a weak point of the team’s Stanley Cup Final run two years ago: the reliance on a limited amount of players to get goals. Nowadays it’s more than just Burns, Pavelski, and Couture… Kane, Hertl, and Sorensen have all picked up markers, and you get the feeling a few more new names will emerge sooner than later.

4: The Ducks have been here before

Specifically last season. In Round 2, Edmonton rolled into Honda Center and took Games 1 and 2 from Anaheim. Sound familiar? The Ducks responded by winning 3, 4, and 5. And ultimately beating the Oilers in 7. While the Getzlaf-led Ducks are feeling sore and sour right now, don’t think for one second they aren’t reflecting on being in this predicament before. The Sharks have faced other playoff opponents over the years who were not as post-season-savvy as these Ducks are. Experience is two-sided in this matchup, and neither team will be folding until somebody has four wins.

5: All of this buys Joe Thornton time

I promise Jumbo won’t be part of all my written pieces. Although it is fun to see him in warmups. And as Logan Couture told us Saturday, Joe’s presence alone on the road trip is fun: “He’s positive, everyone looks up to him as a leader." I have no great knowledge of how that right knee is progressing. Nobody does except Joe and the doctors. And it’s not in their best tactical interest to share, so don’t hold your breath. But holding a 2-0 lead means one of two things: You're going to win this series, and play into the month of May with Round 2. Or, this first round will go the distance and chew up some more time to recover. I’m not sure what we’d eventually get from No. 19 in different timeframes - but I know this early success and the time it buys certainly can’t hurt.

Full schedule for Sharks-Golden Knights series released

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AP

Full schedule for Sharks-Golden Knights series released

We already knew the details for Game 1 of the season round series between the Sharks and Golden Knights. That will take place Thursday night at 7pm in Las Vegas.

On Wednesday night, with the Bruins beating the Maple Leafs in the final first-round series, the NHL released the full schedules for all the second-round series.

Vegas Golden Knights (P1) vs. San Jose Sharks (P3)

Thursday, April 26, 10pm: Sharks @ Golden Knights | NBCSN

Saturday, April 28, 8pm: Sharks @ Golden Knights | NBC

Monday, April 30, 10pm: Golden Knights @ Sharks | NBCSN

Wednesday, May 2, 10pm: Golden Knights @ Sharks | NBCSN

*Friday, May 4, 10pm: Sharks @ Golden Knights | NBCSN

*Sunday, May 6, TBD: Golden Knights @ Sharks | TBD

*Tuesday, May 8, TBD: Sharks @ Golden Knights | TBD

The winner of the Sharks-Golden Knights series will face the winner of the Predators-Jets series in the Western Conference Finals.

Five areas that will decide series between the Sharks and Golden Knights

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AP

Five areas that will decide series between the Sharks and Golden Knights

The first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs is all but over, meaning the Sharks and Vegas Golden Knights are finally on the verge of facing off in Game 1 of the second round.

Vegas won the regular season series, 3-1, in its inaugural campaign. The nine-point standings margin between the Golden Knights and Sharks is the largest among the second-round matchups, but the teams are far more alike than they might appear.

They both swept their way out of the first round, have red-hot goalies, and finished just 0.16 percent apart in five-on-five corsi-for percentage in the regular season (per Corsica Hockey). Two of four regular season meetings went to overtime, and three of four were decided by a goal.

In a meme, they’re two, wall-crawling web-slingers pointing at one another.

What will ultimately separate San Jose and Vegas in the first-ever playoff meeting between the two? We’ll answer that important question with five more.

Who has the even-strength edge?
In four regular season games, the five-on-five shot attempt, shot, scoring chance, and high-danger chance differentials were as follows: Vegas plus-two, San Jose plus-six, San Jose plus-five, and San Jose plus-two. The Golden Knights outscored the Sharks 9-6 at even strength in regulation, largely on the back of a .942 five-on-five save percentage compared to Martin Jones and Aaron Dell’s .909.

Both team’s starting goaltenders are coming off of historic first rounds, which makes controlling the run of play that much more critical. Whichever team gains an advantage, no matter how small, will move itself closer to advancing.

Will Marc-Andre Fleury falter?
Speaking of historically performing goaltenders: Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury is in the midst of his best season as a starter. He missed most of the first two months with a concussion, and ultimately started the fewest games as a No. 1 in his 14-year career.

That may have been a blessing in disguise, because Fleury’s arguably never been fresher at any point in his career. He now has a .935 save percentage (.937 five-on-five, per Corsica Hockey) in his last 19 playoff starts dating back to last season, so don’t necessarily expect Fleury to revert to his past, poor postseason form. If he does, though, the Sharks will have an opening.  

How healthy is Brent Burns?
After not participating in the morning skate ahead of Game 4 last week, and skating before but not during the next two practices, the reigning Norris Trophy-winner returned to practice on Monday. Head coach Peter DeBoer told reporters that Burns could have played in a potential game on Sunday, but this time of year is as notorious for injuries as it is for the tight lips about their circumstances.

Burns scored a goal in Game 1 and pumped a team-high nine pucks on net, but only got six shots off and assisted on a goal over the next three. He still led the team in five-on-five shot attempts, as well as attempts across all situations, of course, but a healthy Burns represents one of the true points of differentiation between San Jose and Vegas, so his status is worth examining.

When will the Golden Knights power play start finishing?
Since March 30, a game after the Golden Knights scored two power-play goals for the second consecutive contest, they have converted on just two of the last 26 power-play opportunities. One of those was on a five-on-three, as the league’s 11th-best power play has gone drier than the Nevada desert.

Vegas has actually attempted almost 10 more five-on-four shots per hour and generated an additional expected goal per hour in the last nine regular season and playoff games compared to the preceding 73, according to Corsica Hockey. During that time, the expansion club has scored on just over three percent of its five-on-four shots. The Sharks have to be careful not to awake a sleeping giant.

Can the Sharks win in Las Vegas?
Only 12 teams won a game at T-Mobile Arena this season. None repeated the feat, and the Sharks were not one of them. San Jose lost by a goal in both trips to the strip, most recently in March when William Karlsson pulled a ‘Hertl’ and gave the Golden Knights the Pacific Division title.

Both losses came under anomalous circumstances, the first a day after Thanksgiving and the second at the end of a four-games-in-six-days road trip, and the Sharks are thus still searching for their first-ever road win against Vegs. They won’t travel to Sin City under similar duress in the postseason, but will have to win (at least) a game on the road against the Golden Knights in order to advance to the Conference Final.