Either the Sharks or Golden Knights will take the Stanley Cup.
That's what history suggests.
Both teams swept their prior rounds, which has only happened seven times before.
And in six of those seven instances… the winner of this dual-post-sweep series has gone on to hoist the Cup.
Okay, maybe that's a stretch.
But entering this Round 2 series, there are no shortage of hopes and storylines on both sides.
1: There could be some rough beginnings on both sides.
Hockey players aren't programmed to have seven days off between games. The Sharks and Golden Knights will be resuming game action after their longest respective layoffs since last summer. Does one team suffer from rust more than the other? Does everybody go back to feeling normal after 20 minutes? Timing, hands, lungs and legs are all bound to be affected by the inability to replicate game speed in respective practice sessions. That's just about the only thing we DO know.
2: There's an unbelievable goalie matchup in this series.
In Round 1, Martin Jones allowed only four goals with one shutout, while Marc-Andre Fleury allowed three goals and pitched two shutouts. How can anyone rightfully predict a high scoring series here in Round 2? Logan Couture called Jones, "…a great goaltender that no one talks about". On the other side is Marc-Andre, formerly of Penguins fame. He's got three Stanley Cup rings, but is largely not credited for the last two. After being exposed by Pittsburgh in the expansion draft, Fleury has the fresh start with a storybook team that any goaltender would dream of.
3: The adversity factor.
It's not how you take defeat, it's how you respond the next time. Losing a playoff game (especially in multiple overtimes) can be mentally deflating. And it is something that one side will experience on Thursday night for the first time. Short memories are imperative here in the second season. We know the Sharks (largely together for several years) have been through that kind of situation many times before. We also know the Golden Knights (as an expansion team) have individual experience, but have never really had to rebound as a group. Think about this, their longest losing skid even in the regular season was ONLY three games (twice).
4: If you're the Sharks, stay the course.
San Jose looked really good in their first four games. Not just getting winning results, but actually seeming to further galvanize as the series progressed. Far as matchups with Vegas and all the small tinkering a Head Coach could possibly do… there is no better way for Pete DeBoer to start his Round 1 lineup card, than exactly how he ended it in Round 1. His (amusing) quote in a press conference gives the best perspective: "We just won four straight against a great hockey team and I'd be an idiot to make lineup changes. We'll let you guys overthink that. Make as many lineup changes as you want… but unless we find it necessary, why would you mess with how we're playing right now?"
5: Maybe this is the start of something beautiful?
What if the Sharks remain a perennial powerhouse in the Pacific Division, and the Golden Knights are more than just an inaugural season surprise? Wouldn't it be outstanding if San Jose and Las Vegas could cultivate a long-standing future rivalry that truly began with this Round 2 series in 2018? No offense to Los Angeles or Anaheim, but we've been down those roads many times before. Finding a new team that you love to hate is almost a gift in itself.