The San Jose Sharks have played poorly over the past two games. They have been out-scored, out-possessed, and out-worked by a Pittsburgh Penguins team that seems unstoppable. They now find themselves down 2-0 in the Stanley Cup Finals series.
Obviously, this is not good.
It’s been hard to find positives in San Jose’s game—even the shutdown pair of Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Justin Braun hasn’t looked too great. But, there are some good things happening; you just have to dig for them.
Goaltender Martin Jones has been the Sharks’ most important player this series by a long shot. Despite having two losses, he’s posted a 2.00 goals-against average in regulation and a .930 save percentage.
Jones has allowed just five goals in this series, with four of them being of the ‘high-danger’ variety. On top of that, the Sharks’ netminder has made 66 saves, including 20 high-danger stops, so far. That’s 21 and 9 more than the Penguins’ Matt Murray, respectively.
The 25-year-old goaltender has stood on his head this series and has only let the most dangerous chances get behind him. If it wasn’t for his incredible play, this Stanley Cup Final would be a blowout.
Tomas Hertl leads the Sharks in even-strength corsi differential with a plus-15 rating and has the team’s only power play goal. He has also registered four high-danger scoring chances in his two games this series. Only Patrick Hornqvist has more from either side.
Hertl is no doubt considered the ‘weakest’ player out of him, Joe Thornton, and Joe Pavelski, but he is having the strongest round of the three.
That’s not to say the Joes aren’t having a good series; they are both at least a plus-11 in corsi and have combined for 11 scoring chances. However, with zero points between the two, the results aren’t there. If San Jose wants to get back into the series, all three need to be firing on all cylinders.
He hasn’t scored yet this round, but Brent Burns has been quite good. He earned two assists in Game 1 and has had four scoring chances against the Penguins. No. 88 also leads the team in plus/minus—though he’s doing it with an EVEN rating.
Burns was a liability defensively last season, but he has since morphed into a legitimate top-four blueliner. He’s been sound in his own zone and hasn’t made too many mistakes.
Burns has been on the ice for just one goal against this series—the Nick Bonino goal late in Game 1, after he had broken his stick.
We can only hope some goals will come out of the offensive-defenseman, but at least he is contributing some assists and playing well in the defensive zone.
Sharks Need More
San Jose can’t win a series with just these three skaters going. They need the big guys to step up, like Vlasic and Logan Couture, if they want a chance at hoisting Lord Stanley’s Cup in Game 6 or Game 7.
This Sharks team has been pummeled, but the series isn’t over yet. There are still up to five games left, and San Jose needs to win four of them. If they play like they did against the Los Angeles Kings or St. Louis Blues, they may have a chance.