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Sharks Second Round Preview: Destiny

2020-06-21

It's the matchup that seemed destined to happen: Vegas Golden Knights General Manager Doug Waite versus Kyle Phillips, the man who replaced him as GM of the San Jose Sharks.

Of course, given the trajectories of the two teams after Waite's departure in 2017—the Golden Knights becoming instant Cup contenders and the Sharks entering a full-on rebuild—an eventual playoff meeting was hardly a foregone conclusion. 

But with the Sharks making a drastic turnaround early in 2019-20, and the Golden Knights continuing their winning ways, suddenly it looked like a postseason showdown could be in the cards. And now that both teams have survived the first round in nailbiting fashion, the stage is finally set for this friendly rivalry to transform into a full-on blood fued.

So how do the two teams stack up? At first glance there's very little to separate these divisional foes, with Vegas finishing a single point ahead of San Jose in the regular season standings. Of course, that narrow gap is a bit deceiving since the Golden Knights were the frontrunners in the Pacific for most of the year, while the Sharks closed their schedule with an eight-game winning streak—clearly an unsustainable run of form.

Regular season results aside, there's not much to distinguish the two teams stylistically either. On offense Vegas finished with 3.18 goals per game (8th in the league), with San Jose not far behind at 3.01 (14th in the league). On defense it's a toss-up as well, with Vegas surrendering 2.76 goals against (8th) and San Jose just a whisker ahead at 2.72 (6th).

Incredibly, there's even less separation on special teams, with the Sharks' powerplay finishing 22nd in the EHE (17.1%) to Vegas' 23rd (16.9%), while on the penalty kill San Jose finished 7th overall (83.3%), just one spot ahead of Vegas (83.1%).

Basically, the numbers don't offer much of a clue about which team is likely to come out on top. So maybe it's time to look at how things break down in the most important and predictable area of all: ON PAPER.

Overall it's probably fair to say the Knights' top-end talent outclasses that of the Sharks; it would be tough to argue that a group of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and Kris Letang isn't a cut above the trio of Kevin Hayes, Vladimir Tarasenko, and Matt Niskanen. Farther down the depth chart, however, the Sharks appear slightly stronger across the board, their bottom six filled with interchangeable depth players who would comfortably slot higher in the lineup for almost any team in the EHE.

In net meanwhile, the Sharks should have a leg up in the competition between Sergei Bobrovsky and Henrik Lundqvist. Despite an outstanding stretch with Vegas after being acquired at the trade deadline, King Henrik was inconsistent against LA in the first round, and still has much to prove with his new team. Bobrovsky, meanwhile, nearly broke his own EHE record for saves during the regular season, and was mostly good in seven games against Arizona. Suffice to say, whichever team gets the best goaltending is going to be in a great position to win this series.

Ultimately, the outcome of this Western Conference semifinal looks like a toss-up. On the one hand, the postseason is where star players can make all the difference; if the Golden Knights' big guns come out firing, the series could be over in a hurry. But on the other, if the Sharks can stretch things out to 6 or 7 games, their top-to-bottom depth may provide just enough of an edge to win the required four games.

Whatever the result, things are coming full circle for the Sharks organization with this matchup. Should they have pushed harder to keep Waite three years ago, caving into his demands to build the world's largest beer fridge underneath the SAP Center? Or did they make the right call by hiring the unknown Phillips, whose only condition was that his entire management staff be officially named the 'Superfriends'?

These questions will be answered soon enough, with puck drop for Game 1 less than 36 hours away.




Thomas Gidlow

Go Sharks Go!!!

Sharks Second Round Preview: Destiny

• 1 teams Like this  4 months
Doug Waite Why you son of a.....
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Shean Gardiner

Great article! It'll be a glorious battle

Sharks Second Round Preview: Destiny

• 1 teams Like this  4 months
Doug Waite

"The match the whole world, Jupiter, Saturn, Venus....or anywhere else has been waiting for"-Randy "Macho Man" Savage

Sharks Second Round Preview: Destiny

• 1 teams Like this  4 months