In our preview of the Stanley Cup Finals, we talked about the visitor being an effective choice and through five games, they have come with two victories and that is reason for this extended series.
Thought for sure San Jose would take one of the first two games in Pittsburgh and they did not and would never have guessed they would come up huge in Game 5, to hold off Penguins celebration of winning another Stanley Cup.
However, the Sharks executed the game plan they wanted in the first period for about the only time in the series and did enough with defense and unbelievable goalie Martin Jones to push this to Game 6.
A peak at the latest NHL odds at Intertops has San Jose a sinking home favorite to -115, with a total of 5. Can Pittsburgh polish off the Sharks or do we have a Game 7 in the Steel City?
On the cusp of winning fourth Cup, the Penguins looked pensive to start Game 5 and quickly fell behind 2-0. Pittsburgh quickly regained their composure to tie the score, but goalie Matt Murray was beat to the glove hand in the first period and might have been pulled in the regular season.
From that point forward the Pens controlled the balance of the game and ended up outshooting San Jose 46-22. Realistically, everyone for the most part played well for coach Mike Sullivan’s squad, they just could not solve unflappable Sharks netminder.
The Pittsburgh players, at least outwardly, stated they knew it was missed opportunity and they have to be sharper from the first drop of the puck and are confident they can close out this series on the road.
This season, Pittsburgh is 14-5 after permitting four or more goals and 16-5 if last defeat was by two or more goals.
San Jose Has To Control Tempo Longer to Force Game 7
The Sharks were thoroughly prepared for Thursday’s battle and were the aggressor right from the start. San Jose knew what it needed to do to defeat Pittsburgh and they finally accomplished it.
Coach Peter DeBoer realized quickly the Penguins speed was going to create havoc. To slow them down, that meant working behind Murray in net, winning the battles on the boards and passing the puck more side to side to make the Pens play defense instead of looking to start up ice rushes.
For the first 10 minutes of Game 5, San Jose did everything right. Over the next five minutes, though outshot, they played on even terms and took 3-2 lead.
From there, the Sharks had their issues, but never cracked and in the final eight minutes of the contest, their fore-checking was strong and they did not allow Pitt to overwhelm.
For this matchup, Jones has to continue to be sensational, but the forwards have to lift their level of play to how defenseman Brent Burns is playing, which is tremendous. The offense has to be opportunistic and the defense stellar and the Sharks are 18-6 when they allow two goals this season.
What to Expect and Winner
On personal NHL picks, not so hot this series at 2-3. In looking at these Finals, if not for Jones and the goal cage made of metal, Pittsburgh would already being celebrating Stanley Cup triumph.
Pittsburgh really does not have to change much, other than trying to get deeper scoring chances and moving the puck more side to side like in Game 4, when they won 3-1. Look for Murray to be less nervous playing on the road to improve his focus and the speed and overall better talent delayed the inevitable, a Pittsburgh victory and championship.
Free Pick – Pittsburgh Wins