It took one trip to Las Vegas early in the season for the San Jose Sharks to realize that the fast start to the season for the expansion Golden Knights was no fluke.So it should come as little surprise to the Sharks that they have to get past Vegas in the second round of the playoffs starting Thursday night to reach the Western Conference final for the fourth time in the past nine seasons.I remember playing them in November and walking in and going Adidas Mikkel Boedker Jersey , `This isnt a mirage. These guys are for real, Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said. Their game was real, the way they came at you, the tenacity they played with, the depth they have. That opinion for me hasnt changed in any of the games we played them, and it went back as far as November when we played them early. Great test for us.The Golden Knights brought relentless speed to a Pacific Division that had been known in recent years for heavy teams that thrived on wearing down opponents with physical play.The group of castoffs raced past the rest of the division for 109 points in the regular season and then swept a Los Angeles Kings team that always seemed to be a step behind in the first round of the playoffs.We played them a couple of times early and you figured out this team is for real and will be tough for years to come, Sharks defenseman Justin Braun said. They have great speed and the coach has them going hard. Were going to have to match that every shift.The Sharks have embraced the leagues transition to a faster game in recent years, making it a priority following a loss in the Stanley Cup Final to Pittsburgh two years ago.The transformation really took hold this season after top-line center Joe Thornton went out with a knee injury in January and the Sharks acquired Evander Kane and Eric Fehr the following month, adding both speed and depth to the forward group that should test the unproven Golden Knights.I would assume itll be a bit more fast-paced a bit, maybe a little more open hockey Adidas James Van Riemsdyk Jersey , Vegas goalie Marc-Andre Fleury said. I think LA was a team that played well defensively, but they dont create as much offensively. With these guys were going to have to do a little more up and down.Here are some other things to watch in this series:GOALIE SHOWDOWNThe series features a matchup of two of the NHLs hottest goalies. Fleury allowed just three goals in a first-round sweep, leading the league with a .977 save percentage and 0.65 goals against average. San Joses Martin Jones was nearly as stingy, allowing four goals against Anaheim for a .970 save percentage and 1.0 GAA. Jones career .931 save percentage is third best ever among goalies with at least 20 playoff games.SPECIAL TEAMSOne of the few things Vegas didnt do well in the first round was capitalize on power plays, scoring on just 1 of 12 chances after converting on 21.4 percent in the regular season. The Sharks were among the best penalty killers all season, ranking second at 84.8 percent. San Joses power play has been a bit of a roller coaster this season, struggling early and late but thriving for a stretch in the middle of the year. The Sharks were 6 for 20 in the opening round.It does become more important as the playoffs go on that you win the special teams battle, DeBoer said. Both teams take a lot of pride in those areas so it should be a good test.BIG BURNSThe Sharks rely heavily on defenseman Brent Burns big shot to generate offense. He had nine shots and a goal in Game 1 of the last round before the Ducks seemed to put extra emphasis on shutting him down. Vegas figures to do the same.When hes on the ice, you got to pay special attention to him, coach Gerard Gallant said. The wingers cant fall asleep up high and let him go down the backdoor and give him a lot of shots to the net. Thats what they do Adidas Christian Folin Jersey , they focus on getting pucks to the net.LONG BREAKBoth teams figure to be well-rested for this series after sweeping the first round. San Jose will have seven full days since beating Anaheim, while Vegas has had eight days off since finishing off Los Angeles. This marks just the second time in the past 22 years that teams will meet in the playoffs after sweeping the previous round.JUMBO JOEThe Sharks will once again start the series without star center Thornton, who has been out since Jan. 23 with a knee injury. DeBoer ruled Thornton out for at least Game 1 and there is no timeline for when he will be ready to return.AP freelancer W.G. Ramirez in Las Vegas contributed to this report. SEATTLE (AP) The group looking to bring professional hockey to Seattle has taken the next step in the pursuit of an NHL franchise.The Oak View Group and its prospective NHL ownership group, led by billionaire David Bonderman and filmmaker Jerry Bruckheimer, submitted its expansion application with the National Hockey League on Tuesday.We are excited for the next steps in the process and our continued partnership with the City of Seattle, Oak View CEO Tim Leiweke said in a statement.The expansion application has been expected for weeks and is the next step in Seattles ongoing hope of bringing an NHL franchise to the largest market in the United States without a professional winter sports franchise. The filing also included a $10 million deposit. Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan also tweeted her excitement about Oak Views filing with the NHL.If Seattle is successful in its expansion bid, the new franchise would bring the league to an even 32 teams with 16 in each conference. A new team would also yield a hefty expansion fee in the neighborhood of $650 million.The expansion application is a procedural step that was necessary to validate Oak Views intent on making Seattle the next NHL market. Seattles application will be reviewed and ultimately the leagues executive committee will make a recommendation to the full NHL Board of Governors. The timeline for that is unknown.The expansion franchise process is running concurrent with a $660 million remodel of KeyArena being privately financed by OVG. The group has an aggressive timeline for construction that could have the renovated building open in time for the 2020-21 NHL season.The first test in how willing Seattle is to embrace the NHL will arrive in the coming weeks and months when the prospective ownership group begins a season-ticket drive, the same way the league tested Las Vegas. Any NHL team in Seattle would find a completely different landscape than a decade ago when the Sonics and NBA moved to Oklahoma City and the city lost its winter sports outlet.Seattles skyline is filled with as many construction cranes as snowcapped peaks in the surrounding mountains. Amazon has taken over an entire section of the city, joined nearby by satellite offices of Google and Facebook. The amount of wealth now in the Seattle market is part of the reason Oak View CEO Tim Leiweke has regularly called Seattle a brilliant marketplace and one of the most enticing expansion opportunities in pro sports history.Seattle has become a city of transplants due to the booming local economy. A hockey franchise would provide those newcomers a team to rally around, much like what happened when the Sounders of the MLS arrived in 2009.But finding a foothold in Seattle will be an examination of how starved fans are for another team. Basketball is embedded in the DNA of the region thanks to 41 years of the SuperSonics until 2008 and a lengthy history of producing NBA talent.While the ownership group for the potential NHL franchise appears set Adidas Erik Karlsson Jersey , there remains some concern about having the new arena ready by the 2020 season. OVG and the city reached agreement on a memorandum of understanding for the arena in December. Councilmembers praised the agreement for including benefits for the city, including $20 million in cash and in-kind contributions to nonprofit organizations and another $40 million to help improve transportation in the area around Seattle Center.The MOU was the first step in a process that will include an environmental review. The city still needs to finalize several key documents with the developer, including the lease and other agreements.Under the MOU, Oak View Group would be responsible for regular facility upgrades for the life of the 39-year lease agreement. Should those upgrade requirements be met, there are two eight-year lease extensions that will be activated, and carry the entire life of the lease agreement to 55 years.AP Hockey Writer John Wawrow contributed to this report.