San Jose continues to find themselves behind the eight-ball as their defensive miscues are ending up in the back of their net.
The San Jose Sharks were able to reach the 2016 Stanley Cup Final off the strength of a lethal offensive attack along with a sturdy defense that helped to limit the chances the opposition received.
However, through the first four games of the Cup Finals, San Jose has been hurt by defensive issues which the Pittsburgh Penguins have taken full advantage of.
That’s why it should come as no surprise that team teal finds themselves in a 3-1 series hole as the Penguins look to close out San Jose on Thursday night at Consol Energy Center.
From the opening puck drop, Pittsburgh has been on the front foot as they’ve put the Sharks on their heels with their speed and relentless pursuit of the puck.
In many ways, they’ve given San Jose a taste of their own medicine as team teal used a similar recipe to roll through the Western Conference.
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It began in the first period of Game One where Justin Braun was victimized on the first two goals. First, an untimely pinch allowed a 3-on-2 attack before Melker Karlsson was unable to clear the puck in front of the net.
Then, after Braun lost an edge, Conor Sheary was left all alone on the far wing as San Jose has done a poor job of picking up Penguins joining the attack.
With the game locked up at two late in the third, Paul Martin lost track of Nick Bonino and just like that the Sharks were down 1-0 in the series.
In Game Two, it was much of the same as Pittsburgh was able to apply pressure and force San Jose into turnovers in their own zone. That pressure was evident on the opening goal from Phil Kessel as Roman Polak and Brenden Dillon misplayed the puck, ultimately leading to an easy tap-in for Kessel to give the Penguins the lead.
It was a prime example of some of the frustrating mistakes the Sharks have made with the puck throughout this series which has come back to bite them.
Even Martin Jones, San Jose’s best player in these Finals, has been prone to a critical giveaway. His misplay of the puck early in Game Three allowed Pittsburgh to control the puck before Ben Lovejoy scored the opener.
The same miscues popped up in Game Four as San Jose had another crucial breakdown that allowed Pittsburgh to play with the lead yet again.
This time, with both teams executing a line change, Kessel entered the zone surrounded by four Sharks defenders but nobody accounted for Ian Cole on the backside as everyone had their eye on the puck.
When Kessel’s wrist shot was directed to the far boards, it went right to Cole to one-time past Jones as neither Patrick Marleau or Polak could get to Cole in time.
Another killer goal conceded by San Jose that could have easily been prevented as Pittsburgh was able to settle in and play their game the rest of the way.
Full credit goes to the Penguins for forcing the Sharks into some of these pivotal breakdowns, but San Jose hasn’t capitalized whenever Pittsburgh has gifted them a chance.
For the most part, this has been a low-scoring series which has placed even more focus and attention on the miscues of the Sharks.
If they want to claw their way back into this Stanley Cup Final, they must eliminate the costly mistakes which have allowed the Penguins to seize control of this series.