The Tank, CA
As we look forward to Game Six on Sunday, I want to point out a few things that the East Coast hockey proletariat seems to be missing about the Sharks and Penguins. They blather on about the complete domination of the Pens on the shot clock, how Matt Murray is Conn Smythe worthy, Sidney Crosby is the poster child for the NHL and the San Jose Sharks need to “show a sense of urgency.”
Last time I looked, shots on goal and outshooting your opponent does NOT guarantee victory. Yes, its better to have the puck and play in the O zone, I get it. However, I don’t think enough credit is given to Marc Eduard Vlasic and Justin Braun for their stellar defensive play against Sid, Malkin and the rest of the high powered Pitt offense. Paul Martin and Brent Burns are also to be lauded for their shutdown D play.
Matt Murray has played 13 games in his NHL career. He has played more playoff games than regular season games and is sporting a 14-6 record with a .923 save %. Pretty good, but when your team has the puck 65-70% of the time, maybe not quite so much credit can be given to him. Martin Jones is outplaying him, but that’s another column.
Sidney Crosby has played great for stretches but seems to disappear for long periods of time. Why? Defense and goaltending, give it up for San Jose’s commitment to defense. I will say that Crosby’s passing is directly responsible for the Pens 3-2 lead in the series. However, I concede that San Jose has looked out of sorts on offense because of their style of play (cycling the puck down low) and the Pens trapping setup in the neutral zone. The trap allows for any Sharks mistake Roman Polak, to be turned into a golden scoring opportunity.
San Jose has shown a resiliency and an ability to recovery from some egregious turnovers and keep the games close. I don’t think enough credit has been given to the Sharks for keeping the games so close when it appears they are being badly outplayed. At the end of the day, I believe these teams are very even. In Game 2, the Sharks hit five posts or crossbars before the sixth post shot went in. No, I’m not ignoring the fact that the Pens have had similar poor puck luck, hitting four posts in the second with no goal to show, including Kessel’s two posts and out shot.
Game Six on home ice is all San Jose can ask for at this point. Poised to take the series back to Pittsburgh, the Sharks CANNOT allow the Cup to be hoisted on their ice. Is Tomas Hertl gonna be able to go for Game Six? Will Jones continue his sublime play against a very gifted offensive team? Will Mike Sullivan continue to play the maddening trap game that has cause such frustration for the Sharks? Does Logan Couture have another Conn Smythe worthy game in him?
Game on!! Put on the Foil boyz and play like your lives depend on it!