1. Can Marc-Andre Fleury keep this up? After posting a .981 even strength save percentage in the first round, Fleury was a measly .941 against the San Jose Sharks, boosting by a pair of shutouts in Games 1 and 6. The Los Angeles Kings and Sharks did a good job of getting pucks through to Fleury, but the Golden Knights’ shot suppression improved and they’ve allowed an average of 23.9 shots at 5-on-5.
2. Can their even strength scoring improve if Fleury falters? When you have Fleury playing like he has, you can rely on those tight, low-scoring games to get you by in the postseason. But the Winnipeg Jets bring a ferocious offense into the conference finals. Tied for the most goals per game in the playoffs (3.58), it will take another strong defensive play for Vegas to slow the Jets’ offense. The Golden Knights have only averaged 2.9 goals per game through 10 games with 19 of their 29 goals coming at even strength. It’s easy to fall behind against Winnipeg, and they can’t rely on Fleury posting obscene numbers every night.
3. Will Vegas be able to prevent the Jets getting to the net? Two images tell the story. The first is how unsuccessful the Sharks were at getting in close on Fleury:
Now we have what the Jets did against the Predators:
San Jose managed just four even strength goals around the net while Winnipeg basically bought real estate in front of Pekka Rinna. There are enough big bodies on the Jets roster that they’ll be able to create and find space in and around Fleury’s net. That could cause Vegas plenty of trouble.
1. How effective will Mark Scheifele be against William Karlsson? “Wild Bill” had a year that could have ended with a seat at the Selke Trophy party, but he was not named one of the finalists. His 43 regular season goals earned him some love, but his two-way game was certainly overlooked. He’ll likely have the big challenge of slowing Scheifele, who leads all players with 11 goals.
2. Will the penalty kill step up? Fortunately for the Jets’ shorthanded unit, Vegas’ power play has only been okay through two rounds, clicking at 17.5 percent. But Winnipeg’s penalty kill hasn’t been much to write home about with a 74.2 percent success rate. The Golden Knights are already showing a need to produce on power play scoring with 7 of their 29 goals coming with the extra man. Averaging only 2.9 goals per game, if Vegas can’t get their power play going, that will cause them plenty of issues in this series.
3. Can depth carry them through? Scheifele, Blake Wheeler and Paul Stastny led the Jets offensively in the second round, but contributions also came through from Brandon Tanev (three goals), Kyle Connor (six points) and Nikolaj Ehlers (four assists), among others. Ten different forwards recorded a point and seven scored a goal against the Predators. Vegas may not have enough to stop the waves coming over the boards that Paul Maurice has at his disposal. Also keep in mind that Patrik Laine has one goal in his last 10 games. He’s due for a breakthrough.