The Golden Knights’ first line always plays well against the San Jose Sharks.
Just don’t ask the unit to explain why.
“It just happens to be that way,” forward Jonathan Marchessault said.
“It just seems to be working,” center William Karlsson added.
Whether something deeper is taking place or not, the results speak for themselves. Marchessault, Karlsson and forward Reilly Smith are a key reason why the Knights defeated the Sharks in six games in the second round of the playoffs last season.
They likely will be again if history repeats itself.
“There’s been some heated games lately,” Karlsson said. “It’s going to be a good time. They’re a very good team. It’s going to be tough for sure, but it’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Karlsson’s most spectacular goal as a Knight came against the Sharks when he put his stick between-his-legs for a game-winning and Pacific Division-clinching score on March 31, 2018.
That’s just a snapshot of the damage the line has inflicted on San Jose. Marchessault has 12 points in eight regular-season games against the Sharks, Karlsson has 10 and Smith has 10 in five games.
Don’t expect the group to rest on its laurels, though.
“Every game it just starts all over,” Marchessault said. “It doesn’t matter what you did in the past. It’s a new challenge in front of you. I think as a team, we embrace those challenges.”
That attitude helped the line raise its game during its playoff series with the Sharks last season. Marchessault (9), Karlsson (8) and Smith (8) each scored more points than games played in the second round to help the Knights advance to the Western Conference Final.
The line took advantage of aggressive play by Sharks defensemen and punished San Jose with its speed.
“Their D love to jump up in the play and create offense,” Smith said. “It’s kind of a double-edged sword for them sometimes because they can give up some odd-man rushes.”
Marchessault, Karlsson and Smith haven’t always been able to use their speed this season as some opponents have adjusted after getting burned last year.
It took the group time to adjust, but toward the end of the season the three players simplified their approach and started chipping more pucks into the offensive zone.
The change helped them finish the regular season on a roll.
Smith had 18 points in the final 19 games; Karlsson and Marchessault each had 17. The line is playing with a lot of confidence, so much so that Karlsson said he might bring his between-the-legs move back for the playoffs.
“If I have to,” he said.
First in production
Golden Knights’ top line statistics against the Sharks
*William Karlsson: 14 games, 10 goals, eight assists, 18 points
*Jonathan Marchessault: 14 games, eight goals, 13 assists, 21 points
*Reilly Smith: 11 games, two goals, 16 assists, 18 points