San Jose has been outplayed through the first two games, but they have shown the ability to cause problems for Pittsburgh at times.
What they also know is there is a recipe for success team teal can tap into to get themselves right back on track.
It all starts with getting the puck cleanly out of their own end and transitioning up the ice. The Penguins have done a great job of really pressuring the Sharks defense into some costly turnovers.
One way to combat that speed is to support the initial guy going after the puck and reverse it once, or even twice, if need be. That spreads out the Pittsburgh forecheckers and allows San Jose an outlet to relieve the pressure and begin their attack.
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Once out of their own zone, team teal has to do a better job of getting the puck in behind the Penguins blue liners. Pittsburgh has done a nice job of standing up the Sharks, and also knocking down pucks in mid-air as San Jose tries to get the puck in deep.
The next part of the equation is where the Sharks have found some success which is out-muscling the Penguins below the goal line. For as great as Pittsburgh has looked in the first two games, San Jose has caused problems when they’ve been able to grind things out against their defensemen.
Team teal has some big bodies which can protect the puck and establish a cycle down low. Joe Thornton’s line has established sustained zone time when they’ve been able to do this.
All three goals scored by the Sharks in this series have come from this same recipe. Tomas Hertl’s power-play tally came from taking the puck straight to the net. Patrick Marleau’s wraparound featured great retrieval work by Logan Couture before getting it to Brent Burns at the point.
Finally, Justin Braun’s tying goal on Wednesday night again came from protecting the puck behind the net from Couture and Joel Ward before finding Braun at the right circle.
So as you can see, this is an area San Jose can exploit, but it’s obviously easier said than done. Pittsburgh has prevented the Sharks from establishing their game by applying pressure in all areas of the ice.
Also, they’ve done a great job of blocking shots in front of Matt Murray, averaging nearly 20 a game thus far.
San Jose knows they have to better as the series shifts to the Bay Area tomorrow night. The good news for the Sharks is they’ve been great on home ice, going 7-2 in this postseason.
However, simply relying on the Shark Tank to produce different results won’t get it done against this Penguins team that is dialed in. The Sharks have to up their desperation level and simplify their game.
San Jose knows what works and how they can attack this Pittsburgh team. Whether they can do it and turn the tide in these Finals is still yet to be seen. We’ll get a chance to find out tomorrow night.