This series started as a best-of-seven.
The Sharks turned it into a best-of-five.
And now, it’s a best-of-three, where the Golden Knights retain home ice advantage.
It’s not to say we haven’t learned anything from the first four tilts. In fact, we’ve got a pretty good taste and feel for this matchup. It’s just that we haven’t gained anything as it relates to who ultimately advances - and who is eventually done.
Pete DeBoer’s comment that stuck with me leaving SAP Center on Wednesday night was: “We’re getting better with every game.”
I couldn’t agree more.
Results aside, the Sharks have rebounded nicely from an eight-day layoff and consequently that stinker in Game 1.
From my vantage point they looked as good in Game 4, as they did at any point of Round 1 in a sweep.
1: For the sake of this series, 4-0 is the same as 7-0
I realize the numerical difference between four and seven, but each are considered lopsided shutouts. And now each team has one of those decisive wins under their belt. Crazy as this sounded back then, let’s rewind and go back to Game 1. If you’re the Sharks and had to choose one game to endure a blowout, wouldn’t it be the series opener? Plenty of time to adjust, recalibrate, and compensate. Because think about what the Golden Knights are facing now, more than halfway through the series - a Sharks group that’s getting better and going to force Vegas to make significant adjustments, without much time left - if they can’t get it right.
2: Marcus Sorensen, the playoff performer
Part of that eight-day layoff between playoff games also took Marcus Sorensen off the radar, which was unfortunate because he was on a three-game goal streak to end the sweep of Anaheim. As the smallest player in height and weight on the team, it’s been special to watch him tally four goals in his eight games this postseason. DeBoer raved about Sorensen, and his fourth line after Game 4, saying: “We wouldn’t be here without them.” Especially impressive was the power move Marcus made to get San Jose on the board in Wednesday’s first period…. he was the “one-man-cycle”, not stopping until he beat Fleury on the forehand while falling to the ice.
3: The goalie attention
It’s not to take anything away from Marc-Andre Fleury. He’s already won three more Stanley Cups than most will even sniff in their careers. He also had an impeccable start to this postseason, pitching three shutouts in the first five consecutive wins. But as Tomas Hertl reminded us about Fleury: “He’s not Superman.” The Sharks are continuing to chip away at the opponent goaltender. Simultaneously, Martin Jones is very much the lesser-discussed netminder of this matchup, but is proving his playoff prowess pound-for-pound. This series (especially) with all the close games, is heavily reliant on those critical saves that only the great goalies are capable of. It’s like watching two great quarterbacks or starting pitchers duel over and over.
4: Vegas wasn’t sending a message at the end, they were frustrated
If William Carrier and company were trying to plant some seeds against the Sharks, or just draw some blood, why did they wait until the final minutes of regulation: In a game they were losing 4-0? What you saw at the very end on Wednesday night was frustration by Las Vegas. And that’s a great sign for San Jose. It took four games, and it might be resolved by Friday night - but for now - you unhinged the Golden Knights. Their only prior playoff adversity was a double-overtime loss in Game 2, so this one has to breed a little bit of doubt for the team headed back home to Southern Nevada.
5: The proximity factor will begin to play in
Once you past Game 4 in a Stanley Cup Playoff series, the travel starts to get busy. A lot of back and forth. Road, home, road, is how it will got for San Jose if this round requires all seven games. Fortunately, the short flights and same time-zone are huge benefits to both clubs. And for whomever advances, easy travel in the first two rounds will pay eventual dividends. Imagine if this were Round 2 for San Jose against St. Louis or Nashville. Thousands of extra travel miles and time changes would be in the works for every additional game of the series. Luckily those are not factors, considering most of our commutes to work are longer than the flight from SJC to LAX.