Pittsburgh Penguins: 5 Sharks to Watch Out For


It’s almost time for the Stanley Cup Final to begin, and the Pittsburgh Penguins will be facing a surprising opponent they haven’t seen much this season. Who are some players on San Jose to look out for?

The Pittsburgh Penguins and San Jose Sharks met only twice this season, each winning a game. Now these two teams are getting ready to clash again in the Stanley Cup Final, the first game of which is this coming Monday.

Because we haven’t seen much of the Sharks, it’s going to be difficult to predict how the series will play out in reality. Though we can expect that the teams’ fast play and offensively-minded defense will mirror each other, there are some individual players who the Penguins will need to keep an eye out for.

Some of these, of course, are perennial contenders, who usually just stay out of the NHL’s limelight by default of being on the forgotten California team. Others are new faces who have made a strong impact in the playoffs. Regardless of experience or collapses in years past, the Pens will need to shut down players in every position on the Sharks. Here are five in particular they’ll need to focus on.

Joe Pavelski

First things first: Joe Pavelski. He’s the Sharks’ captain and has led by example up to this point. Pavelski is first in playoff goals, powerplay goals, and game-winning goals in this postseason, and second in points with 22. That’s no small feat.

Pavelski is also a heavy hitter, but it’s easy to see that his scoring prowess is what the Penguins will have to watch out for the most. He scored two goals on two shots in game five of their series against the St. Louis Blues, and undoubtedly the Sharks have learned where Matt Murray‘s weak spot is by now.

The Penguins will need to keep Pavelski as far away from there as possible and continue blocking shots. They’ve been great at that so far, and any help they can give Murray at this point in the playoffs will surely be a boon.

Logan Couture

Meanwhile, Logan Couture has got a handle on the playoff scoring categories that Pavelski didn’t. Couture is first in assists and points in the postseason, so there’s some dangerous firepower between the two of them.

Couture can make some slick moves with the puck and is a great at controlling it. We’ve seen some fancy stickhandling up to this point in the Pens’ opponents, as well as on our own bench. If the Penguins can really get in there and break up passes and throw off Couture when he tries to get a little too fancy, like they did against many Tampa Bay players, they’ll be golden.

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Brent Burns

You knew this was coming. Chewbacca himself, Brent Burns.

Burns is like the Kris Letang of the Sharks. He’s their number one defenseman, is sneaky with the puck and is never afraid to make a play up the ice, and has some pretty sick hair.

On top of that, Burns is 6’5″ and can definitely throw the body around. His defense partner is former Penguin Paul Martin, who is always willing to play more of a stay-at-home game so his counterpart can go a little crazy. (And therefore, as much as I love/miss Paulie in Pittsburgh, I’m not including him on the list. The Penguins know how to shut him down, and he’s usually less of a factor than Burns.)

Burns takes a lot of shots, and boy are they fast. Murray got a taste of facing wicked point shots in the series against the Washington Capitals, but Burns and Alex Ovechkin are two different monsters. Again, blocking shots and shutting down plays will be key here.

Joel Ward

Speaking of the Capitals, their former forward Joel Ward has been doing great for the Sharks, especially during the postseason. Ward hasn’t really put up big numbers, but he had the series-winning goal in the Western Conference Final, and that’s a huge boost.

Ward’s known for being a pretty good team guy and can sometimes fly under the radar. However, he scored four goals on four shots in the final two games of the WCF. That’s not the kind of guy the Penguins can afford to forget about.

Joonas Donskoi

That’s probably not a name you were expecting to see, but rookie Joonas Donskoi has been a pleasant surprise for the Sharks all season. To be honest, I don’t know much about his style of play, but it seems like that whenever I would get an update about a Sharks game throughout the season his name would be involved somehow.

He may not be as high-profile as the veteran name I was considering including, Joe Thornton, nor as renowned for his rookie season as Tomas Hertl was, but that’s what makes him dangerous.

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In the end, the Sharks have a lot of great players on their team – hence why they made it to the Stanley Cup Final. On the other hand, so do the Penguins. Each team has a solid pair of goalies and a deep forward corps.

Collectively this season, the Penguins had 6 goals to the Sharks’ 4 when they went head to head. That’s not a huge margin, especially because they split the games, but it’s enough for a win. If the Pens can keep shooting at the volume they have been, we can come out with a few more decisive wins and will be hoisting the Cup soon enough.