Well, if you follow me on Twitter (and why wouldn’t you? I’m great at it), you already know that I said I have a real hard time seeing the Sharks lose 4 times to any team in the Playoffs, so you can surmise what my prediction is going to be. The Sharks have looked dominant in the majority of their games AND have had dominant outcomes in their games. The Pens, on the other hand, have dominated the play in some of their games, but they really haven’t blown anyone out. Their possession game is strong, but you don’t win games based on time of possession. You have to score goals, and the Sharks are dominating the play and scoring. It’s going to be hard to beat them.
For me, this series is going to come down to the middle tier of talent because the top of each team’s line-ups can basically cancel each other out, as can the bottom of the line-ups.
Both team’s goalies are young, pretty much unproven, but both playing well. I’ll give a slight edge to San Jose’s Jones, but Martin has stolen some games for Pittsburgh so far.
Brent Burns is a beast and continues to score at an unprecedented rate for a defenseman, but Kris Letang impacts the game in a lot of ways Brent Burns doesn’t. Brent Burns is like, to use an awful analogy, Shaq. He’s best when he’s a bull in the china shop and doing things on his own. Letang is a facilitating point guard and is best when he’s a) on the ice ALL-THE-TIME (seriously, does this guy get off?) and b) keeping plays alive. He doesn’t finish the play as often as Burns, but he keeps so many plays alive it’s flabbergasting. Crosby and Malkin have gotten so use to just flicking the puck in an area and letting Letang retrieve and keep the play going, that they game Letang missed due to suspension, the Pens power play looked like a house league team was running it. Letang is the driver that cruises in the bus; Burns plows through. Both playing unreal right now.
Pittsburgh has Phil Kessel lighting the lamp almost every game, but holy lord how hot is Joe Pavelski? I’ll admit, I have underrated Pavelski substantially and I take back all of it. I still don’t know how high he’d be in a fantasy-draft pick-a-player-to-start-your-Franchise-with type thing, but holy crap the guy just scores goals, man.
Elsewhere, Evgeni Malkin is a better player than Patrick Marleau but for my money, Game 7 against Tampa Bay aside, Malkin hasn’t been playing very well. They both have 4 goals and, surprisingly, Malkin only plays about a minute more than Marleau a game. I guess, even as I write this, it seems like Malkin could be the wild card in the whole series because if he actually turns into Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh could get rolling.
The big ones are Sidney Crosby and Joe Thornton. I know, I know. Pavelski is San Jose’s best player. So why am I comparing Crosby and Thornton? Well, Crosby is still the best player in the world and when he is the best player on the ice, the Penguins rarely lose. I can argue the same thing about Joe Thornton (not the best player in the world; the best player on the ice thing). Yes, Pavelski is consistently the Sharks best player, but I’ve seen him dominate the game, and the Sharks still lose. Thornton, who is iconic, is still an unbelievable player, and when he is the Sharks best player—the way he controls the pace of the game and get his teammates going—the Sharks seem to roll. Now, who would I put my money on being the best player on the ice each night in this series? Probably Sid, but we’ve seen Sid go ghost in the playoffs before and Thornton is probably sieving at the mouth to get his Cup. I think we could see some vintage Jumbo Joe in this series.
So, if I think all of those match-ups kind of cross-cancel, where do I see the series breaking open? Well, Logan Couture has 24 points in these play-offs. Did you know that? Is anyone talking about Logan Couture? If you go down the list of each team’s players, in order of importance/story lines, where does Couture fit? It probably goes Joe Thornton & Patrick Marleau (just for the BS they’ve had to put up with over the years, Brent Burns (for the year he’s having), Joe Pavelski (I mean, seriously how underrated is this guy? I was so wrong), and then Logan Couture? 5th in line?
You know who is there for the Pens?
If we go Crosby (obviously), Malkin (obviously), Letang, and Kessel, who is 5th for the Pens? Patrick Hornqvist? He’s got 7 goals. Nick Bonino? 12 assists, takes important face-offs, gets about 26 shifts a game…
Neither of those guys are Logan Couture.
And that’s where I see the series breaking over. The big dogs are going to go at each other and my guess is that some nights the San Jose boys will draw blood; other nights Sid and the boys will take a pound of flesh. But if Logan Couture keeps quietly going about his business, the Pens, at some point, are going to run out of fire power.
Sharks in 6