Golden Knights, Sharks set for playoff rematch
The Vegas Golden Knights, who made a storybook run to the Stanley Cup Finals during their inaugural season, open the first round of the 2019 playoffs at San Jose on Wednesday night.
The Sharks (46-27-9, 101 points) finished second in the Pacific Division to earn home ice in a rematch of a 2018 second-round playoff pairing won by the Golden Knights, 4-2. Vegas (43-32-7, 93) went 2-1-1 against San Jose in the regular season, including a 4-3 overtime loss on March 30 at San Jose's SAP Center in the last meeting.
By then, the teams knew they were locked into this postseason matchup and rested players while gliding to the finish line. San Jose went 3-2 in its last five games following a season-long seven game losing streak while Vegas won just once (1-5-2) in its last eight games.
"Not perfect obviously," Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant said. "We played some games pretty good and we played some games and some periods average like every team that has had their playoff position (set). Not concerned about it."
Both teams made key additions since last season.
San Jose added two-time Norris Trophy-winning defenseman Erik Karlsson in a trade with Ottawa before the season and added forward Gustav Nyquist later in the season in a trade with Detroit.
Vegas, meanwhile, has an entirely new second line -- some would say it's as good or better than its first line -- in free agent signee Paul Stastny and forwards Max Pacioretty (22 goals) and Mark Stone (33 goals, five in 18 games with the Golden Knights).
Pacioretty was obtained from Montreal before the season, while Stone was a key acquisition at the trade deadline that triggered a 10-1-1 run by Vegas.
"I think they're deeper offensively than they were last year, especially with that group," San Jose coach Peter DeBoer said. "They're a great offensive team and they do it a bunch of different ways."
Karlsson has played in just six games since Jan. 17 while battling a groin injury, but he played 22:01 in San Jose's final regular-season contest, a 5-2 victory over Colorado.
Much of the focus will be on goaltending. Vegas, with three-time Stanley Cup champion Marc-Andre Fleury, appears to have the edge over Martin Jones.
Fleury, who finished second in the NHL with eight shutouts despite missing nine games with a lower-body injury near the end of the season, has a .936 save percentage and 2.12 goals-against average in 21 career games against the Sharks, including the playoffs. He had two shutouts and an 2.17 GAA in last year's playoff series.
Jones has an .896 save percentage and 3.28 goals-against average in 13 career games against the Golden Knights, including a 3.13 GAA in last year's playoff series.
"They should have a stat that says, 'belief in your goaltender,' DeBoer said. "There's not been one mumble or whisper within our group about him or our confidence in him to get the job done. That's the one analytic stat I can give you guys that maybe you guys don't have access to."
--Field Level Media
Updated April 9, 2019