Sharks facing reality: Blackhawks are a better team

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Yesterday I wrote an article stating that the San Jose Sharks were
missing a key ingredient that is needed as you find yourself deeper in
the playoffs: heart. Some agreed, while some questioned why the
Blackhawks weren’t getting the credit for just being a better team.

The
fact is, at this point, the Hawks are a better team. Yet for a team as
talented and as skilled as the Sharks are, what they’ll need to overcome
the play of the Hawks and a 2-0 series deficit is something they
haven’t exactly shown they possess.

Is it enough to just say “the
Hawks are a better team, therefore the Sharks losing to them is
acceptable”? I don’t think so, and this team and the fans cannot be
content with just sitting idly by while the Sharks succumb night after
night.

Tim Kawakami, beat writer for the San Jose Mercury News and
someone who has followed this team all season long, says
that this is the case
. The Blackhawks are just a better team, hands
down, and that’s something that everyone needs to deal with.

The Sharks aren’t totally out of this, of course. Turnarounds can
happen swiftly in the playoffs, no doubt.

But the reality is that the Sharks’ best players (Joe Thornton,
Patrick Marleau, Joe Pavelski, Boyle) aren’t as good at this moment as
Chicago’s best players (Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith).

While the Sharks players are saying all the right things, for the
most part, it’s Dan Boyle who really seems to get it. By all accounts he
was the most fired up of any of the players on the team and had some
very realistic comments for the media:

“What do you want me to say? What do you think we’re going to do,
give up?” a fiery Dan Boyle said after the Sharks’ 4-2 loss at HP
Pavilion on Tuesday. “The effort’s there, but it’s not good enough.”

The Sharks will need to dig down and find something inside that is
able to propel them past a better team. We’ve seen it happen multiple
times already in the playoffs, so you can’t tell me it’s not possible.

In the past, the Sharks were always the better team that “choked”.
This is a different situation, but the team is still lacking that
fundamental internal drive needed for playoffs success.

Video: Phil Kessel displays incredible hand-eye coordination on goal

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This has been a tough postseason for Phil Kessel haters.

The supposed “choker” is on a team that’s in the Eastern Conference Final, but Kessel obviously isn’t just in for the ride with the Pittsburgh Penguins. He scored his 18th point in 17 postseason games by scoring the 1-0 goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 6.

(Watch that goal in the video above.)

It was a dramatic first period, with a Jonathan Drouin goal getting disallowed and Andrei Vasilevskiy making some huge saves on tough chances.

Can Pittsburgh protect this slim lead with 1-0 down one period? We’ll see, but either way, what a great postseason for Kessel.

Judge for yourself: Was Drouin’s would-be 1-0 goal offside?

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To start the seemingly pivotal stretch, Andrei Vasilevskiy made an outstanding save on Evgeni Malkin on what sure looked like a scary chance.

The play swiftly shifted from the Tampa Bay Lightning’s end to the Pittsburgh Penguins’ side of the ice, and it seemed like Jonathan Drouin scored a big 1-0 goal in Game 6.

As it turns out, the goal was disallowed thanks to an offside goal review.

Here are a few viewpoints on that moment in GIF form … you can get a fuller view via the video above.

The general feeling among those who don’t have a horse in the race is that it was the right call. (Lightning fans were, uh, not happy.)

Lightning coach believes Drouin ‘is going to be dominant in this league’

TAMPA, FL - APRIL 30:  Jonathan Drouin #27 of the Tampa Bay Lightning celebrates his goal against the New York Islanders  during the first period in Game Two of the Eastern Conference Second Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Amalie Arena on April 30, 2016 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Scott Iskowitz/Getty Images)
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At some point, it will probably be kind of boring to hear members of the Tampa Bay Lightning organization praise Jonathan Drouin.

At least if Drouin re-signs with the Bolts after quite the affirming postseason and his ascension amid injuries.

These days? It’s still sort of entertaining.

In the latest case, Jon Cooper was asked to compare the development paths for Nikita Kucherov vs. Drouin. After empathizing with the pressure Drouin carries as a high-end pick (vs. Kucherov’s ability to come in under the radar), Cooper had some very positive things to say about No. 27.

” … So many people think, well, you’re just going to step in the league at 18 and be dominant,” Cooper said. “I truly believe Jonathan is going to be dominant in this league, but it’s hard to do at 18. He had to work through it, and that’s it.”

Drouin, now at 21, has 12 points in 15 playoff games.

In other Lightning news, it sounds like the team will roll with 11 forwards and seven defensemen, an alignment that has been working well lately and also came through at times during the 2015 postseason.

The Penguins, meanwhile, replace Beau Bennett with Conor Sheary.

WATCH LIVE: Pittsburgh Penguins at Tampa Bay Lightning – Game 6

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 22:  Tyler Johnson #9 of the Tampa Bay Lightning collides with Phil Kessel #81 of the Pittsburgh Penguins during the third period in Game Five of the Eastern Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Consol Energy Center on May 22, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Matt Kincaid/Getty Images)
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Tonight could be the final game of the Eastern Conference Final between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning. You can catch Game 6 via the NBC Sports Group’s television and digital platforms.

Pittsburgh at Tampa Bay (8:00 p.m. ET)

The television broadcast of Game 6 is on NBCSN. To stream the game using the NBC Sports Live Extra app, click here. The Bolts lead the series 3-2.

Here’s some relevant reading material to get you ready for tonight’s game:

Malkin guaranteed a Penguins win in Game 6

Lightning coach doesn’t seem flustered by Malkin’s guarantee

Kucherov continues to be clutch for the Bolts this postseason

Marc-Andre Fleury: ‘I should have been better’ in Game 5