The Vegas Golden Knights and San Jose Sharks were the only two teams to sweep in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. On Thursday night, they met one another for the first game of their second-round series.
If you were waiting to see who would remain perfect in this series, you got a pretty good idea awfully quick. The Golden Knights absolutely throttled the Sharks 7-0 in Las Vegas.
The Anaheim Ducks managed to score only four goals in four games against the Sharks in the first round. Vegas scored five on San Jose in less than 25 minutes to open Game 1. The Knights also matched their own goal total from the opening round.
It was a truly dreadful start to the second round for the Sharks and their goaltender, Martin Jones, who was pulled after the fifth goal. Jones had an outstanding first round, finishing with a save percentage of .970. It certainly didn’t help that Jones got defense in front of him that looked like this.
The Golden Knights scored only seven goals in their own first-round series against the Los Angeles Kings. Was the offense slowing down, or was it a case of the Kings’ top-ranked defense (and excellent goaltending) flexing its muscles?
Well, this explosive output certainly seems to suggest that it was more likely the latter, because the Knights already have seven goals.
Maybe most important for Vegas — they got those seven goals from seven different players. The first three tallies — scored by Cody Eakin, Erik Haula and Jonathan Marchessault — came 91 seconds apart in the first period. They were all scored at five-on-five.
About five minutes later, Alex Tuch added a power-play goal to make it 4-0. Then, defenseman Shea Theodore chased Jones with a goal 3½ minutes into the second period. Aaron Dell replaced Jones in relief. Colin Miller and James Neal potted power-play goals against Dell in the third period.
Meanwhile, the Sharks offense was completely frustrated. The speedy Knights continued to put excellent pressure on the puck, and San Jose didn’t have much room (or time) to operate. They couldn’t execute on the chances they did have. Marc-Andre Fleury stopped all 33 shots that came his way.
It goes without saying that this kind of start isn’t a great sign for the Sharks, especially considering they were a streaky team down the stretch. But obviously it’s still early — a playoff series is often a marathon and not a sprint. Maybe you can even spin that a forceful punch to the mouth like Vegas delivered Thursday serves as a valuable wakeup call to a team like San Jose early in this series.
In any case, it’s getting increasingly difficult to look at the Golden Knights and think that they’re not the real deal, even in their inaugural season. And, yes, even in the postseason.