San Jose Sharks X-Factors For Game Six

Jun 9, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Matt Murray (30) and left wing Chris Kunitz (14) defend the net as San Jose Sharks defenseman Brent Burns (88) prepares to shoot the puck in the first period game five of the 2016 Stanley Cup Final at Consol Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Don Wright-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 9, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Matt Murray (30) and left wing Chris Kunitz (14) defend the net as San Jose Sharks defenseman Brent Burns (88) prepares to shoot the puck in the first period game five of the 2016 Stanley Cup Final at Consol Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Don Wright-USA TODAY Sports /
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San Jose returns home looking to stave of elimination yet again as they will need another big performance from their top guys.

The San Jose Sharks extended this series with a gutsy effort on Thursday night as they crashed the party for the entire city of Pittsburgh, emerging with a 4-2 victory that seemed improbable at time.

Now, the Sharks return home to the friendly confines of SAP Center looking to add even more pressure on the Penguins shoulders. A win from team teal tonight would send this series to a deciding Game 7 back in Pittsburgh on Wednesday night.

In order to do so, San Jose will need another huge effort from Martin Jones who was simply fantastic in thwarting the Penguins in Game 5. Jones ended the contest with 44 saves, many of the high quality variety.

Besides Jones, here are three other X-factors for the Sharks in Game 6:

Brent Burns

Burns is always a wild card for this San Jose team as he has the ability to take over the game at a moment’s notice. While he was held largely in check through the first four games, Burns came out like a man possessed in Game 5.

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He got the Sharks off and running just 64 seconds into the contest off a beautiful turnaround shot from behind the net. Then, he was nasty in the defensive zone, taking every opportunity to clear out the crease despite numerous Pittsburgh chances.

Team teal will need that same Burns to show up in Game 6, continually firing pucks at the net and being a terror to play against.

When Burns sets the tone like he did the other night, it usually means good things to come for the Sharks.

Marc-Edouard Vlasic/Justin Braun

San Jose’s shutdown duo will see a steady diet of Sidney Crosby and his linemates as that’s the desired matchup for head coach Peter DeBoer. After a slow start to the series, Vlasic and Braun have done a better job of slowing down the most dynamic player on the planet.

At the end of Game 5, Crosby’s frustrations boiled over a bit as him and Vlasic went after each other in the waning seconds.

Vlasic and Braun will be counted upon for heavy minutes against Pittsburgh’s best and they must get the job done for San Jose to have a chance in this one.

Braun has been under the radar for the Sharks all year, but he’s showed up big time as this series has progressed. Not known for his offensive prowess, Braun has chipped in two goals and an assist thus far after entering the Cup Finals with only four points in the previous 18 games.

Joe Thornton

It’s been a hit-and-miss series for Thornton and his running mate Joe Pavelski as Pittsburgh has done a great job of limiting their time and space.

Thornton has just three assists thus far with a minus-two rating, but he’s looked more comfortable with the Penguins game plan as this series has worn on. Their speed and quickness is causing him some problems, but Thornton is capable of creating a scoring chance in an instant.

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With their backs against the wall, the Sharks need their best players to be at their best and as always, it begins and ends with Thornton.

Expect a big effort from Jumbo Joe as he’s waited 18 years for his Cup opportunity, and he has the look of a player who doesn’t want to let this slip through his hands.