San Jose didn’t come ready to play in Game One, but showed they can compete with Pittsburgh when they manage the puck.
Calm down, calm down everyone.
Yes, the San Jose Sharks dropped Game One of the Stanley Cup Final to the Pittsburgh Penguins in heartbreaking fashion on Monday night after Nick Bonino’s goal with 2:33 left broke a 2-2 dead lock to give Pittsburgh the early edge in this series.
Here’s a look back at three observations from San Jose’s first-ever foray into the Stanley Cup finals:
1. Sidney Crosby Is Really Good
For those team teal fans that haven’t gotten an opportunity to watch Crosby play, they were given a glimpse of what makes Crosby so great.
Crosby was the best player on the ice, sans maybe Martin Jones, as he was dangerous all night for the Penguins.
He did a tremendous job of protecting the puck in the offensive zone, and his line gave the Sharks defense fits on numerous occasions, including the second goal when he was able to outrace Justin Braun and find Conor Sheary all alone on the far wing.
Crosby’s line finished with 12 shots on goal, including four from Crosby himself who also registered an assist in 20 minutes and 40 seconds of ice time.
San Jose must find a way to slow down Crosby in Game 2; otherwise, it could be another long night of defending from the visitors.
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2. Tough Night For Sharks Defense
Speaking of team teal’s blue line, it was a struggle in Game 1 for the group of six on the back end. While the forwards weren’t very good in the first period, the Sharks defense couldn’t break out of their own zone with any effectiveness in the opening 20 minutes.
That allowed Pittsburgh to establish their transition game in the early going and put the Sharks on their heels. A poor pinch from Braun led to the opening goal off the rush, while he was victimized on the second goal as well after losing the foot race with Crosby before ultimately blowing a tire.
San Jose’s top defensive pair would get better as the game wore on, but Braun and Marc-Edouard Vlasic finished as a minus-four in this one which spells bad news for team teal.
To epitomize the night for the Sharks blue line, their best defenseman, Paul Martin, made one critical mistake that cost San Jose big time. Brent Burns unfortunately lost his stick while trying to defend Kris Letang leaving him virtually helpless on the game-deciding tally.
With Letang having that time, he fired a perfect pass right to Bonino as Martin was caught looking at the puck and not being aware of Bonino in front. Just like that, a great night’s work went out the window in one critical moment.
It shows the fine line between winning and losing at this time of the season as Martin was having a very solid game until that one unfortunate break down.
3. No Need To Panic
If you read any of the commentary after the first 20 minutes, you would’ve thought the Sharks were finished and might as well hand the Cup to the Penguins then.
However, San Jose righted the ship after the first and were able to play with Pittsburgh over the final 40 minutes. They established their game in the second and were able to tie things up behind goals from Tomas Hertl and Patrick Marleau.
Both those tallies came from an advantage the Sharks have in this series of working the puck from low-to-high, getting shots to the net and battling for pucks in front. When San Jose did that, they were awfully effective in generating quality chances against Matt Murray.
The positives were obviously Jones, who was spectacular between the pipes, along with team teal’s ability to fight back into this contest. They were one shot away from stealing Game 1 when they were outclassed for long stretches of the night.
The Sharks know they must be better at slowing down the Penguins rush and establishing their own game from the onset. They’re not going to panic after one game and will look to bounce back in Game 2 as they have all postseason long.