Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Beware The Sharks

It was a glorious Monday evening as Nick Bonino's fantastic off-season continued with his game-winning goal to give Pittsburgh a 1-0 series lead. Everyone is talking about the success that the Penguins had in Game One, but I saw some things that should worry the Penguins and their fans. This is a Sharks team that has been resilient all season long, and they seem to learn from the mistakes they make. The Penguins got an early lead, but it was the Sharks who began asserting themselves over the remaining forty minutes of the game.

The San Jose Sharks showed that they have just as much speed and skill as the Penguins do. There was no point in Game One where you could see an obvious mismatch in the speed that the coaches were putting on the ice, and this is a good sign for San Jose who use that speedy transition game to make teams pay.

Where the Sharks will need to be better is watching for the Penguins' defencemen jumping into the play. The game-winning goal by Bonino was a direct result of having Kris Letang forechecking below the goal line, and there were often times when Justin Schultz would pinch into the zone almost playing a rover-type role. If San Jose can exploit this, they'll see a lot of odd-man rushes going the opposite way.

While head coach Pete DeBoer doesn't have the luxury of last change, he did an excellent job in getting the match-ups he wanted against the Penguins' forwards. Patrick Marleau will receive no supplemental discipline for his hit on Bryan Rust, so his line-up will remain intact. I expect Joe Thornton to have a better game against Evgeni Malkin's line, and that could be the difference in Game Two. It looked as though Thornton was frustrated at times in the game, and I'm sure Pete DeBoer has assured him that not only will he see a different line at home but that he needs to elevate his game once more.

There were mistakes in Game One on both sides, but the Penguins capitalized on a quick start and some mistakes made in the defensive zone by a couple of reliable rearguards in Brent Burns and Marc-Eduoard Vlasic. They'll watch the video and make notes on where they need to be better, but don't expect the same errors to be made twice. The Penguins will need to work hard in the offensive zone if they hope to take a second-straight game for the Sharks, and both Burns and Vlasic will do their parts in preventing that from happening.

Game Two on Wednesday will most certainly look different, and I wouldn't at all be surprised if the series shifts to San Jose tied at 1-1. The Penguins need to use that home-ice advantage as much as they can because I have a feeling this series will take on a Western Conference feel once the two teams start playing in California.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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