Pittsburgh Penguins Ben Lovejoy (12) shoots and scores an assist in the second period as the Pittsburgh Penguins take on the San Jose Sharks in game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final at the SAP Center in San Jose, Calif., on Saturday, June 4, 2016. (sfbay.ca/)
If the Penguins score in overtime Saturday, the series is basically over. But San Jose scored, so the Stanley Cup is up for grabs. The only way to regroup? Refreshing Penguins notes. Engraved for the sake of permanence.
The Penguins’ game is based on speed and attacking. But it was nonetheless ill-advised for Sidney Crosby and Kris Letang to initiate an offensive thrust at the end of what would have been a backbreaking four-minute penalty-kill as the midway point of the third period beckoned with the Penguins ahead, 2-1. If the Penguins get out of that situation, San Jose in a deep emotional hole. But the puck got turned over, and a Sharks three-on-two resulted in Joel Ward’s game-tying goal.
Matt Murray absolutely has to stop Ward’s shot. The puck went through him. If Marc-Andre Fleury concedes that goal in that situation, the hoi polloi crucify him.
Joonas Donskoi’s OT goal was a bit leaky, too. Murray was deep in his net and crouched too low. But that’s how Murray plays. Donskoi’s goal was like one netted by Washington’s Justin Williams in Game 6 of the second round. Evgeni Malkin lost Donskoi coming around the net, and Justin Schultz couldn’t close him down.
Crosby and Malkin have combined for zero goals in the final, as have San Jose’s Logan Couture, Joe Pavelski and Joe Thornton. It’s become fashionable for big-money stars to not score by way of “playing the game the right way.” But anybody can do that. Cash should equate to production. Malkin’s $9.5 million salary certainly should equate to him burying his chance on the doorstep in OT.
Thornton will shoot, but only as a last resort. The Penguins should defend Thornton accordingly.
Crosby and Malkin each played under 21 minutes in a game that lasted over 72 minutes. That’s nonsensical. It’s the Stanley Cup Final. Crosby and Malkin should play a lot more. What could Penguins Coach Mike Sullivan possibly be thinking?
San Jose coach Pete DeBoer can put three centers on one line – Couture, Pavelski and Thornton – and the result is possession and chances. Yet when Crosby and Malkin skate together, it almost never works, or even threatens.
The bad ice at San Jose negated much of the Penguins’ precision, and the resulting slowness allowed the Sharks to play bigger. It will be more of the same in Game 4. The Penguins have to simplify and get more pucks to the net. That’s how they got both of their goals on Saturday.
The Penguins out-hit the Sharks 47-17 in Game 3. But the Penguins don’t pay much heed to that stat, and shouldn’t. That’s not their team’s identity. Network analysts broke down Letang being knocked to the ice by Pavelski like it was the Zapruder film. But it had no impact whatsoever on the game.
Defenseman Ben Lovejoy had a goal and assist Saturday. If the Penguins win, he’s a Pittsburgh legend. But the Penguins didn’t.
Except when he’s scoring, Conor Sheary doesn’t do much. His size cripples him in puck battles. It’s hard to imagine him as a full-time top six moving forward.
The Sharks have looked tired and outclassed for speed during much of the final. That wasn’t the case in Game 3. But playing OT won’t help Pavelski, Thornton, Brent Burns and Patrick Marleau, all over 30 and playing their 103rd game of the season.
You couldn’t ask for a more exciting final: Two games decided in overtime, the other with 2:33 left in regulation. The Penguins and Sharks are an even match.
Mark Madden hosts a radio show 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WXDX-FM (105.9).