Sharks And Golden Knights Play Game 7 In San Jose
After the Vegas Golden Knights thumped the San Jose Sharks in Game 4 at the T-Mobile Arena it looked as though they had gotten the best of their opponent. That turned out to not be the case. San Jose bounced back to win Game 5 at home 5-2 and then won a war of attrition back in Nevada on Sunday night taking a 2-1 double overtime victory. That sets up Game 7 back at the ‘Shark Tank’ in San Jose.
Overall, this has been an evenly matched series despite the eight points that separated the teams during the regular season. Vegas was just 19-20-2 on the road this year but have held their own in games played at San Jose going 5-5 in their last 10 trips to Northern California. Overall, the Golden Knights hold a 12-8-0 record head to head and their run of home ice dominance of the Sharks was why the Game 6 victory was so crucial for San Jose.
Despite their historic run to the Stanley Cup Finals in their first season this will be the first Game 7 in franchise history for the Vegas Golden Knights. The Sharks have a reputation for being a team that tanks in the postseason (more due to the late 90’s vintage of the team) but overall are 6-4 playing in Game 7 and 3-1 at home. Statistically, the home team has an advantage in Game 7 but not as large of one as you might think. Teams playing Game 7 at home in the NHL are 96-71 (57.5%).
The game might be decided by the emotional/subjective dynamics of the matchup which isn’t easy to assess here. The Knights could feel some disappointment that they couldn’t put the Sharks away at the T-Mobile Arena after they’d been so dominant during Games 3 and 4. Of course, it’s hard for the team to feel bad after looking at the stats for Game 5–they took 59 shots against Sharks netminder Martin Jones and scored only one goal. Jones has had his ups and downs this season but there’s no doubt that he’s capable of this type of performance. Vegas’ defense did a solid job limiting the Sharks’ scoring opportunities holding them to just 29 shots on goal. On the other hand, it was a bit of a lapse by Shea Theodore that gave Thomas Hertl the opportunity to score the shorthanded game winner in OT2–the first double OT shorthanded goal in NHL history.
The Sharks now feel the pressure of trying to seal the deal on home ice. Statistics notwithstanding, the ‘conventional wisdom’ is that the series is now there’s to win. The reality of Game 6, however, was that with the exception of the final score every statistical metric suggests that Vegas was the better team–in some cases the much better team. Vegas won 57 faceoffs to 44 for San Jose. We talked about the 30 shot on goal disparity between the teams in the previous paragraph and the ‘hits’ count was even more lopsided in favor of the Knights 80-39.
Game 7 pressure is there for every player on the roster but it lands more heavily on the shoulders of the goaltenders more than anyone else. In this case, the matchup favors the team without a previous Game 7 appearance. Martin Jones won a Stanley Cup with the Los Angeles Kings in 2014 but that was Jonathan Quick’s team. Jones played only two games for a total of 56 minutes during the playoffs. 40 of Jones’ 42 playoff appearances have come as a member of the San Jose Sharks. The Sharks lost in the Stanley Cup Finals in Jones’ first season but have since not made it past the second round. He did win a Game 7 during the Sharks’ run to the finals.
The guy between the pipes for the Golden Knights–Marc-Andre Fleury was a very significant part of all three of the Pittsburgh Penguins’ Stanley Cup during his tenure. He was strong–mentally and physically–when he initially lost his starting job to Matt Murray and then took it back due to injury. He was particularly crucial to the Pens 2009 Stanley Cup and started all 24 playoff games. He won two Game 7’s that year alone including a Game 7 in the finals against the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena. Throw in a couple of dominant performances in the 2003 and 2004 World Junior Championships (he was named top goalie and MVP for the 2003 tournament despite Canada finishing second) and an Olympic Gold Medal and he’s got considerably more ‘big game’ experience than Jones. He’s appeared in 124 playoff games, most of which he started.
No disrespect to Jones who is a first rate goalie but in an otherwise even matchup Fleury’s big game experience is a huge asset. It’s doubtful that anything the Sharks can throw at him in Game 7 will match the intensity of facing the Detroit Red Wings in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals. At a pick’em price on the NHL betting odds board, we’ll take the scrappy Vegas Golden Knight and the more experienced goaltender.
BET VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS -105 OVER SAN JOSE SHARKS
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