Recently we took a look at the Pittsburgh Penguins and outlined three reasons why they will win the Stanley Cup. Considering we have no idea which team will hoist the best trophy in sports, here are three reasons why the San Jose Sharks will take home the Cup.
1. Lethal offense
The Sharks have had no issues putting the puck in the net during this year’s playoffs, averaging an impressive 3.50 goals per game. Logan Couture (24 points), Joe Pavelski (22 points) and Brent Burns (20 points) sit at the top three spots in playoff scoring. Burns’ offensive production from the backend during this year’s playoffs ranks among some hockey greats. Going in tothe Stanley Cup Final, Burns has the 7th most points per game for a defensemen (with at least 18 games played) with 1.11.
The trio of point leaders all present intriguing cases to win the Conn Smythe and have been an integral component to the Sharks’ playoff run. The three point leaders aren’t the only ones pushing the Sharks forward. The contributions of Joe Thornton’s point-per-game playoff performance and the efforts from Tomas Hertl, Patrick Marleau and Joel Ward shape the Sharks’ identity.
The team’s lethal scoring could give Penguins rookie goaltender Matt Murray a tough time in the Final.
2. Thornton and Marleau’s last shot?
The Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau era in San Jose has had its ups and its fair share of downs. The Sharks have been a consistent playoff team over the last little while, but this year marks the first time they could advance to the Stanley Cup Final in the franchise’s 25-year history. In that span, the team has missed the playoffs only six times.
After not reaching the playoffs last year and with Thornton stripped of his captaincy, there was lots of turmoil surrounding the Sharks. There were talks of the team looking to go through a rebuild and take a step backwards. It seemed unlikely that Thornton and Marleau, the longtime faces of the franchise, would get a crack at hoisting the Cup anytime soon, if ever. There will be a sense of urgency from the two veterans and the rest of the team to get over the hump and finally put the playoff demons to rest.
Thornton and Marleau are aware this could be their last shot and that could translate into additional energy and fire on the ice.
3. All about that depth
The Sharks have a strong core of forwards and defensemen along with steady goaltending. Their depth and all-around strength is going to be a big advantage to them.
The Sharks are going to be up against some of the league’s best in Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Along with that, they’ll have to face the HBK line (Phil Kessel, Nick Bonino and Carl Hagelin) along with Patric Hornqvist, Bryan Rust and Chris Kunitz. The Penguins have players that can score and luckily for the Sharks, they have the defenders to match up against those talents.
Brent Burns’ play this season worked his way into the Norris Trophy conversation for some, but he isn’t the only elite defenseman on the Sharks. Marc-Edouard Vlasic is one of the most underrated elements to the Sharks’ success and one of the most overlooked elite defensemen in the NHL. Vlasic isn’t the flashiest of players, but he’s the prototype stay-at-home defender who can handle the tough assignments and has become one of the best defensive defensemen in the league. His masterful defending of Vladimir Tarasenko was incredible. Burns and Vlasic can both handle big minutes and their respective partners in Paul Martin and Justin Braun have helped them form a solid top-4 defensive unit.
Between the pipes the Sharks have been getting steady goaltending from Martin Jones. Jones has gone 12-6-2 in this year’s playoffs with a 2.12 GAA and a .919 save percentage. Jones has been consistent all throughout the playoffs and has been the cherry on top to the Sharks well-rounded and well-balanced team. He has made the big save when called upon and that has helped push the Sharks to their first trip to the Final.