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VGK-SJS Preview: What Do Sharks Do More Than Any Other Team in NHL?

April 26, 2018, 7:45 PM ET [47 Comments]
Sheng Peng
Vegas Golden Knights Blogger •Vegas Golden Knights Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT

Here's Part 4 of my Golden Knights-Sharks preview. Check out my previous articles here:

Part 1, Special Teams: How Will Knights Handle Sharks' Aggressive PK?

Part 2, Special Teams: Why Is Fleury So Good on PK? Is Burns Shooting Less on PP?
Part 3, Goaltending: Dave Prior on Fleury VS Jones, His "Old School" Philosophy

This piece will focus on 5v5 play. Topics include:

• What Does San Jose Do More Than Any Other Team in NHL?
• How Good Is Marc-Edouard Vlasic?
• The Other No. 1 Line
• San Jose's Two-Man Forecheck?

I pick Vegas in 6, by the way.


What Does San Jose Do More Than Any Other Team in NHL?

Nate Schmidt said it was a "pick." Jon Merrill called it "subtle interference." Gerard Gallant offered, "It's guys skating in front of other guys."

View post on imgur.com

Watch No. 23 (Barclay Goodrow) make time and space for Brent Burns, as Burns pops out of the corner.

This "pick" would lead directly to a Burns goal on March 22nd.

So call it what you want. The point is, the Sharks do it a lot.

"They do those subtle picks more than any other team in the league," noted Schmidt.

Will the refs blow the whistle on San Jose? Both of these "picks" were whistled for interference on March 22nd:

View post on imgur.com

View post on imgur.com

My guess is, the Sharks get away with the latter thoughout the series; the former is a little too egregious.

Anyway, Schmidt, Merrill, Gallant, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, and Shea Theodore offer their thoughts on how to fight this element of San Jose's cycle:

They do it very well. Sometimes, they do it in the corner. Sometimes, they do it a little higher.

You have to fight through it. Or anticipate it coming through. Play off of it on the inside a little bit; we can jump around that guy.

They do those subtle picks more than any other team in the league. (Schmidt)

A lot of teams do that, cycle, run some subtle interference. The whole game is time and space, right?

We have to expect it not to be called, play as if it's not going to get called. (Merrill)

They cycle the puck as well as any team in the league.

It's not really a pick play. It's guys skating in front of other guys. Buy them an extra second or so.

You have to make sure your defense doesn't bite on it too hard. Make sure the puck carrier doesn't walk out on top.

It's a good play. A lot of teams do it. But they probably do it little bit more than other guys. (Gallant)

It isn't easy. When you have a guy you focus on, try to stay as low as possible, and suddenly, you have [another] guy coming in your lane. That creates space for their forward. It's going to create a little bit of a challenge, but we know about it. We're going have to be smart about it. (Bellemare)

If we can avoid it, jump out of the way.

The refs are going to be aware of some of those pick plays. (Theodore)


How Good Is Marc-Edouard Vlasic?

Both Marchessault and David Perron regard Marc-Edouard Vlasic as one of the toughest defensemen in the league to beat 1-on-1.

They're right; just follow Vlasic around on this shift:

"He's fast," said Marchessault. Not just his feet, but his stick and mind. These were a couple of my favorite plays from the aforementioned shift:

View post on imgur.com

Here, Marchessault looks set up for a mini 2-on-1 with Reilly Smith rolling toward the slot, only Vlasic between them. Look how quickly Vlasic closes on Marchessault, quick feet and long stick.

View post on imgur.com

Vlasic has control over pretty much every part of his body to make a stop. Marchessault makes a terrific stick lift here to steal, but watch Vlasic drag his skate to turn it over. Such a great play.

Speaking of a quick stick:

View post on imgur.com

Vlasic takes Karlsson into the corner, establishes body position on Smith, and just when Smith thinks he has a little daylight on a pass, Vlasic's stick shoots out to brush the puck away.

Marchessault, Perron, and James Neal talk Vlasic's ability and how to counter it.

Vlasic is an All-Star defenseman. He's probably the best defensively in the league.

He's fast. He has a great stick. He has quick feet.

I see him work, we actually got on the ice a few times over the summer, I got to know him. (Marchessault)

He worries so much about stick position, skate position, being in the right spots. Making sure he doesn't give offensive guys too much time. Him and Braun are a really good shutdown pair.

He's definitely in the top-5, top-10 shutdown guys in the league right now. He doesn't get as much recognition from Eastern media that he should. (Perron)

Be hard on him. We'll be physical on him. Like we were on Doughty. (Neal)

Vlasic's partner Justin Braun isn't exactly chum either. Marchessault and Reilly Smith expand on the San Jose pairing's shutdown ability:

They complete each other. They just don't take any chances. They back each other up. They pressure well in D-zone. They talk well on the ice. (Marchessault)

They don't make too many mistakes. They're smart players with the puck. (Smith)

Meanwhile, Braun talked about the balance on the Marchessault-Karlsson-Smith line:

The tough part about them is they all can shoot, they all can pass, they all skate really well.

[We'll have to] keep them to the outside, slow them down as much as you can in the neutral zone. (Braun)

All three of us are similar players. (Smith)

It's something we have pride in, not having one shooter, one passer. (Marchessault)


The Other No. 1 Line

The Marchessault-Karlsson-Smith line may be more celebrated, but the newly formed Evander Kane-Joe Pavelski-Joonas Donskoi trio has been among the hottest in the league since the Trade Deadline.

Of particular note is Kane, whose 5v5 High-Danger Corsi For/60 has exploded since joining the Sharks. It's a small sample size, but according to Natural Stat Trick, his 8.6 Individual HDCF/60 in San Jose basically doubles his career mark.

Kane has always attacked to the net, so what accounts for these recent numbers? I asked Kane:

I've always gone to the net. I think it's just the way we play. Our team creates a lot of point shots, a lot of shots from the blueline. You have to be in front of the net. (Kane)

Brayden McNabb and Nate Schmidt will likely be charged with countering San Jose's hottest line. They offered their takes on how to do it:

Kane's more of a speed/shooter. Pavelski does it all, he's kind of the glue to that line. Everything works around him; he's got a high hockey IQ. They do a really good job tipping picks, high tips, especially. (McNabb)

A lot of high tips, a lot of speed. Those guys like to take the puck to the net and create chaos.

We have to make sure we're up into them around the blueline. Make sure we squeeze them off, make sure they can't hit [the blueline or top of the circles] at full speed. (Schmidt)


San Jose's Two-Man Forecheck?

On occasion, the Sharks will spit out a more aggressive forecheck like so:

View post on imgur.com

Schmidt talks about how this type of forecheck might play into the Golden Knights' hands -- if it weren't for the offside, Vegas was headed to a good chance in the aforementioned clip:

On their forecheck, they do a really good job of kind of following the other D in. Makes it a little harder to make your play. You almost have to beat the forechecker yourself.

It actually plays into a lot of our strengths. It makes our team makes plays and move our feet. It's what we have to do to win this series anyway, so might as well start it off on the forecheck.

That's a big part of this series. Can our defensemen beat those [forecheckers]? If we can pass it by those first two guys, it'll give our forwards a little extra time going through the neutral zone. (Schmidt)


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