Golden Knights sink Sharks, advance to West final

  08 May 2018

On Sunday night, the Vegas Golden Knights silenced the San Jose Sharks just like they continue to silence their critics. Add “advance to the Western Conference final in first season” to the Golden Knights’ scroll-length list of accomplishments.

It’s fitting that the Golden Knights eliminated the Sharks in Game 6 (score: 3-0) thanks to a lot of the things that went their way during the regular season:

Marc-Andre Fleury was absolutely magnificent. Fleury made all 28 saves to earn his fourth shutout of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs, carrying over his marvelous, career-best work from the regular season.

Now, sure, the Golden Knights enjoyed some luck. The Sharks repeatedly hitting posts felt like a meme at times in Game 6. The thing is, the Golden Knights deserve credit for being more than just lucky, yet the positive bounces can’t be totally dismissed. (For more on San Jose’s tough start, click here.)

That Vegas top line came up big. William Karlsson nearly connected on a shorthanded opportunity when the Sharks were receiving some power play opportunities during the first period, while Jonathan Marchessault‘s opening goal ended up standing as the game-winner. Karlsson, Marchessault, and Reilly Smith were dominant during plenty of stretches of this series.

While Marchessault’s goal was the game-winner, Nate Schmidt‘s strange goal seemed to break San Jose’s will. Despite carrying a 2-0 lead into the third period, the Golden Knights actually generated a 16-10 shots on goal advantage in the final frame, and the Sharks looked dead in the water for most of that time. Chalk it up to some combination of broken spirits, fresher legs, or frustration against a hot hand in net, but San Jose’s season ended with a whimper.

Amusingly enough, the Golden Knights will probably remain underdogs even as they advance to the third round. The Winnipeg Jets boast a frightening array of talent and a 3-2 lead in their series, while the Nashville Predators represented the West in the 2017 Stanley Cup Final and won the Presidents’ Trophy. It’s not really an insult to Vegas to pencil both of those potential opponents as the favorites.

And, really, at this point, the Golden Knights really must savor such a role. They’ve defied expectations over and over again during their inaugural season, and that now includes reaching the third round without even facing elimination yet.

It really makes you wonder if anyone can play “The Cooler” in this incredible story.

The Golden Knights are one of two teams who’ve punched their ticket to the third round, as the Tampa Bay Lightning bounced the Boston Bruins in Game 5 earlier on Sunday.