The San Jose Sharks took one on the chin Monday night at SAP Center, suffering a 7-3 loss to their Pacific division rival, the Vegas Golden Knights.
The showdown was billed as a hard-hitting matchup and boy, it didn’t disappoint. Unfortunately, things did not swing in the home team’s favor.
Here are three takeaways from Monday’s game:
Struggles without Joe Pavelski: San Jose was without their captain for the first time this season, as was sidelined with an undisclosed injury. With their top goal-scorer out, the Sharks needed all their skaters to step up to the challenge and make up for his absence. While they scored three good-looking goals -- two of those markers coming from Logan Couture -- and made a really nice push late in the game, not enough of their grade-A chances found the back of the net.
The Sharks also got into a lot of penalty trouble. Vegas is the type of team that is really good at making their opponents pay for making little mistakes, and they were able to wear San Jose down by sending them to the penalty box six times in the first two periods alone.
Knights survive without Marc-Andre Fleury: San Jose had an opportunity to jump on Vegas with their star netminder out of the lineup. Fleury has unmistakably been the Knights’ best player all season, and a big reason why the Sharks got shut out in their first trip to T-Mobile Arena earlier this season. But backup goaltender Malcolm Subban stood his ground and was able to minimize the damage San Jose tried to create.
Subban also had a lot of help in front of him. Vegas was very good creating barriers around him and clogging up the lanes, making even the Sharks’ best efforts moot.
Was this an accurate playoff preview? Not exactly. Remember, both teams are missing key players because of injury. So Monday’s game probably wasn’t the best example of how these teams could matchup up if they end up playing each other in Round 1.
That being said, we got a pretty darn good look at how contentious a playoff series between these two teams would be. The Golden Knights have quickly become one of the Sharks’ biggest rivals, and all games between the two teams have gotten vicious. (Heck, Micheal Haley tried to pull Ryan Reaves off the bench to fight, for pete’s sake.) If these two teams meet up in the postseason -- a time when the refs typically let more hits slide -- it could end up being a blood bath.