Pucknology Game Day Report
Tonight marks an event 25 years in the making as the Sharks will skate out to play game one of the Stanley Cup Final at the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh. This series promises to be fantastic as the Sharks and Penguins are pretty evenly matched. I feel like whenever someone mentions an advantage the one team has over the other I can usually think of a quick rebuttal for either team. If I was a neutral fan I’d have a really hard time predicting an outcome but I feel like this is a series the Sharks could win in six games.
The Penguins will likely have to make do this series without Trevor Daley who has been fantastic for the Penguins after not fitting in on the Chicago Blackhawks. This makes their defense a little more exploitable as the pairing of Ian Cole and Justin Schultz should inspire fear in no one and while it’s not a clear advantage for the Sharks because their third pair of Brenden Dillon and Roman Polak are also suspect it will be interesting to see how both teams try and exploit these pairs. It will also be interesting to see how many minutes the top pairs are forced to play and who they will match up against as both teams will come at you in waves.
For the Sharks Matt Nieto appears to be healthy and ready to go which should make things interesting as the Sharks will have to make a decision on if he should draw into the lineup and for whom. Many people would rather the Sharks just leave the lineup be, after all if it isn’t broke why fix it? My thoughts is a player with Nieto’s speed would actually be an asset and if you are going to pull someone out of the lineup you would likely be choosing between Dainius Zubrus and Tommy Wingels. In this case, I think Zubrus is a great asset to the team for his experience as well as the fact that this could be his last chance to lift the Stanley Cup as a player. Wingels, on the other hand, has been a great physical force but has also averaged the lowest time on ice among all Shark forwards makes him the obvious candidate to me.
Keys to a Sharks Victory
- The Penguins style of play should be exploitable for the Sharks forecheck. The Penguins like to get two forwards in deep with stretch passes that if the Sharks can intercept should allow for some real nice odd man rush opportunities for the Sharks. If you can cause Pittsburgh to lose faith in the system that got them to the cup final I think they would become very beatable.
- Goaltender Matt Murray has had a hell of a run but the Penguins did look to Marc-Andre Fleury to try and take back over the net. If the Sharks can get to Murray early and often you may force the Penguins into going back to their embattled starter and that definitely works to the Sharks advantage.
- The Sharks have done ok while playing from behind where the Penguins have often played with fire with a lead this is something that the Lightning exploited if the Sharks don’t let their foot off the gas regardless of the score they really should not be out of any game.
- Sharks are going to have to control the offensive depth of the Penguins this might mean moving Marleau back to the third line should Nieto in fact return.
- While I think the Sharks can win both games in Pittsburgh they need to return home with no less than a split.
Matchup by the Numbers
|San Jose Sharks||Pittsburgh Penguins||Advantage|
|12-6||Playoff Record||12-6||Series tied 0-0|
|(17/63) 27.0%||Power Play||(15/64) 23.4%||Sharks|
|(41/51) 80.0%||Penalty Kill||(46/55) 83.6%||Penguins|
Sharks Projected Lineup
Hertl – Thornton – Pavelski
Donskoi – Couture – Marleau
Karlsson – Tierney – Ward
Zubrus – Spaling- Wingels
Vlasic – Braun
Martin – Burns
Dillon – Polak