Why Sharks, Golden Knights are headed back to Vegas with series split
Where do the Sharks and Golden Knights stand after Game 4?
At the start of the second round, we examined five key questions that will determine the outcome of the series between San Jose and Vegas. We reexamine those questions every time the series shifts locations.
The series is headed back to Sin City after the Sharks’ series-tying shutout in Game 4, so let’s see where things stand.
Who has the even-strength edge?
Game 4 was the first in which San Jose won the five-on-five puck possession battle (51.28 percent corsi-for percentage, per Corsica Hockey) and the second with an expected-goals edge at full strength (56.68 percent expected goals-for percentage). Vegas has had a clear possession advantage through four games (53.23 percent corsi-for) but not much of one in the way of quality chances (50.59 percent expected goals-for).
The Golden Knights have finished those chances, scoring on 10 percent of their shots while the Sharks have only scored five times on 87 shots, three of which came in Game 4. Vegas has been the better five-on-five team, but the gap may be closing.
Will Marc-Andre Fleury falter?
Game 4 was Fleury’s first dud of the postseason, as he gave up four goals on 34 shots. But, they weren’t necessarily his fault, at least according to Sharks center Logan Couture.
“[Joonas Donskoi’s first-period goal] was maybe the only one he probably wants back,” Couture said. “I think the other ones he didn’t really have a chance on. So, I think he still played well.”
To that end, three of the four goals Fleury gave up on Wednesday were from high-danger chances, as were five of the seven he allowed in San Jose, according to Natural Stat Trick. He didn’t allow any in the first two games, though, so while it’s harsh to say the postseason’s best goalie has faltered, he did not stand on his head to the same degree in Games 3 and 4.
How healthy is Brent Burns?
Burns attempted just four shots across all situations in Game 4, his playoff-low. He’d only attempted four (or fewer) shots in a game 10 times during the regular season.
Still, he picked up another assist in Game 4 and was tied for the points lead among defensemen in the second round (five) entering Thursday. He and returning Joakim Ryan were solid together on Wednesday, too, and the presence of the young, mobile blueliner should be able to offset some of the concerns surrounding Burns.
When will the Golden Knights power play start finishing?
Vegas didn’t score on the man advantage, or at all, in Game 4, but has now converted on 21.7 percent of its power-play opportunities. The Golden Knights went gangbusters in Game 1, but still scored more goals on the man advantage over the next three games (two) than in the entirety of the first round.
In Game 4, the Sharks actually allowed more scoring chances on the penalty kill than in Game 3 when the Golden Knights scored two power-play goals, according to Natural Stat Trick, but Martin Jones stopped every puck shot his way. Vegas’ power play can no longer be thought of as a sleeping giant, and after giving up 23 power-play opportunities in four games, San Jose’s best resistance may just be to stay out of the box.
Can the Sharks win in Las Vegas?
The Sharks won for the first time ever at T-Mobile Arena in Game 2, but they’ll have to accomplish another first in order to advance. No team has beaten the Golden Knights in their own building multiple times this season.
Of course, San Jose is one of only five teams (including the regular season) to beat Vegas in its inaugural campaign. But if the Sharks are to move on to the Conference Final, they’ll need to be the first team to truly cure the Vegas Flu.