With team teal needing four more victories to clinch the Cup, here are four keys for the Sharks as they get set to take on the Penguins.
There is plenty of star power to go around in this series with Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture and Brent Burns leading the way for San Jose. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh counters with the likes of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel and Kris Letang.
This has all the makings of a classic Cup Final between these two teams, but here are four keys for the Sharks to emerge victorious over the Penguins:
All season long San Jose has boasted about the depth of their team being the best it’s ever been. The Sharks will need to continue to rely on everyone throughout their lineup to contribute for team teal to be successful.
Case in point, in their Game 6 victory over the Blues, three of the four Sharks lines found the back of the net as that balance is what makes San Jose difficult to deal with.
Patrick Marleau was absolutely flying in that win and Joel Ward has continued to come up with big goal after big goal. The emergence of Chris Tierney has been great to see as he’s anchored the third-line for team teal.
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2. Special Teams
For San Jose, they’ve always relied upon one of the most lethal power-play units in the NHL. That has continued in these playoffs as the Sharks lead the postseason with 17 man-advantage goals and are second with a 27 percent success rate.
Meanwhile, Pittsburgh is not far behind as they rank sixth in these playoffs with a 23.4 percent conversion, but have plenty of firepower at their disposal.
The Sharks will need to be on their game on the penalty kill as they can’t allow the Penguins to gain confidence and momentum. Team teal has struggled at times early on in series in handling the power-play attack of the opposition so it will be interesting to monitor how they fare in this series.
3. Control The Neutral Zone
When San Jose found themselves in trouble throughout this playoff run, it’s been their inability to get out of their zone and cleanly through the middle of the ice.
The Sharks have to be cognizant of the neutral zone as the Penguins are a team that thrives off their speed and transition. Team teal must get back to pucks quickly and get the puck moving to their forwards to establish San Jose’s forechecking attack.
Turnovers will be a killer for this Sharks team in this series so managing the puck will be critical to slowing down the stars for Pittsburgh.
4. Wear Down Their Defense
With the injury to Trevor Daley, Pittsburgh is really struggling on their blue line behind Kris Letang. San Jose will look to take advantage of the lack of depth on the blue line for this Penguins team as team teal wants to establish time in the offensive zone and make this group work.
Knowing Letang will log big minutes, the Sharks want to make it tough on him by taking the body whenever possible, making him defend rather than jumping into the offensive attack.
Team teal has a clear advantage in this department and should be looking to roll over their four lines to punish the Pittsburgh defense.