Cam Tucker

Malkin: The Sharks are a ‘good team, but they were a little bit lucky’

14 Comments

Martin Jones.

His play in a must-win Game 5 for the San Jose Sharks was a big reason, the main reason, why the Sharks have been able to extend this Stanley Cup Final to a sixth game. In three of the five games in this series, Jones has faced 40-plus shots, including 46 in that fifth game, in which he made 44 saves.

Outside of the opening five minutes or so, the Penguins were dominant. They have been most of the series. Jones, though.

The Penguins just couldn’t get that tying goal. As disappointing as that may have been, they seem to have taken the positives. Evgeni Malkin said what many may have already been thinking.

“Yeah, 4-2 we lost, but I think we played a little bit better than San Jose,” said Malkin, as per NHL.com. “They’re a good team, but they were a little bit lucky.”

“We really liked a lot of our game. We carried the play for long stretches. Our power play was good. A lot of the aspects of our game we really liked,” added head coach Mike Sullivan.

The Penguins can now clinch their second Stanley Cup in eight years with a win on the road Sunday.

Road team advantage?

There was plenty of anticipation in the city of Pittsburgh to see their team win it all at home. Heck, the city re-named a street after rookie goalie Matt Murray for at least day of Game 5.

“Well, we’d like to win the next game, regardless of where it’s being played. I think being on the road, it’s just the team,” said Sullivan.

“There are less distractions for sure.”

 

Can the Sharks create ‘a little frustration’ for the Penguins if they force a Game 7?

PITTSBURGH, PA - JUNE 09: Joonas Donskoi #27 of the San Jose Sharks and Nick Bonino #13 of the Pittsburgh Penguins battle for position during the third period in Game Five of the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Final at Consol Energy Center on June 9, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Getty Images
1 Comment

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) No one needs to remind the San Jose Sharks about the difficulties of closing out a playoff series, how each missed opportunity can give confidence to the opponent and plant seeds of doubt in the leading team.

Two years after becoming the fourth NHL team ever to lose a best-of-seven series after winning the first three games, San Jose is trying to pull off a historic comeback of its own in the Stanley Cup Final.

The Sharks looks to stave off elimination for a second straight contest and force a decisive seventh game in the final when they host the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 7 on Sunday night.

“The longer it goes, you just feel that pressure, `You got to get it done, you got to get it done,”‘ defenseman Justin Braun said. “And when it doesn’t happen it creates a little frustration and you’re like, `We could have been done with this days ago and we’re still going.’ I think that gets in your head a little bit.”

That’s what happened to San Jose in the first round in 2014 against Los Angeles and what the Sharks hope the Penguins are feeling after failing to win the Cup on home ice in Game 5.

Despite being outplayed for much of the series, including the Game 5 win when Pittsburgh outshot San Jose 46-21, the Sharks know the pressure on the Penguins will only increase of they can win at home to force the winner-take-all seventh game in Pittsburgh on Wednesday night.

“I’ve been a part of teams, especially over there, that have lost being up 3-1,” said Sharks defenseman Paul Martin, who spent the previous five years with Pittsburgh. “I think it’s more of a mental thing realizing your opportunity to finish it off is getting smaller and each loss gives that other team that much more belief and momentum that they can get it done and pull it off.”

Related: Paul Martin knows Penguins can lose a big series lead (He’s been there)

No team has lost the Stanley Cup Final after going up 3-1 since Toronto rallied to beat Detroit in 1942 after losing the first three games of the series.

But the Penguins have had problems closing out their playoff series in recent years. Since winning their third Stanley Cup back in 2009, they have blown series leads three time in the previous six postseasons.

They lost to Montreal in 2010 after going 3-2 in the series and then squandered 3-1 edges in losses to Tampa Bay in 2011 and the New York Rangers in 2014.

Now they lost in their first chance to close out the Sharks.

“I thought our guys did a really good job of handling it the right way,” coach Mike Sullivan said. “It was unfortunate that we didn’t get the result we were looking for. But we’re playing a very good opponent and we know that. We know this is the most difficult win to get. Our players are well aware of the expectations and the heightened intensity that we need to have in order to get this next win.”

The Penguins have little they would want to change from their Game 5 loss, other than the start. After allowing two goals in the first three minutes, Pittsburgh dominated much of the rest of the contest.

The Penguins scored twice in a 22-second span to tie the game just a few minutes after their early deficit and controlled the play over the final 58 minutes.

Only a stellar performance by San Jose goalie Martin Jones and a somewhat soft goal that Matt Murray allowed to Melker Karlsson later in the first gave the Sharks the win.

“While we were pretty good, it wasn’t enough,” forward Matt Cullen said. “You can look at good fortune or bad breaks or whatever. It doesn’t matter ultimately. The bottom line is we get a second shot at this and we don’t want to miss it.”

Murray has done especially well this postseason after any subpar performances. The rookie netminder has not lost back-to-back games all postseason. He followed up a shaky performance in Game 3 by topping 23 of 24 shots on the road in a 3-1 win in Game 4.

Murray is 5-0 with a .935 save percentage in the starts following his first five playoff losses.

“Usually it takes players a few years to acquire that type of mental toughness where your confidence doesn’t get shaken or your performance doesn’t get influenced by some of the adversity that you go through throughout the course of a game or from game to game,” Sullivan said. “Matt has shown an ability to just stay focused and just stay in the moment and be ready to compete and make that next save.”

How can the Sharks spark a struggling power play? Drawing more penalties would be a start

2 Comments

The San Jose Sharks own a power play operating at 24.6 per cent in the playoffs.

But in five games of this Stanley Cup Final, which have all been close at least on the score board, they’ve scored only once with the advantage.

The Pittsburgh Penguins have, for the most part, dictated the play at five-on-five in this series, yet the largest margin of victory in any game has been two goals. As the Sharks look to force a Game 7, at some point they will need a contribution from their power play, which hasn’t been successful since Game 1.

For the Sharks, it hasn’t been the lack of success on the power play that’s been the big problem. It’s the lack of opportunities.

Just 10 opportunities in five games. The Sharks feel the onus now falls on them to earn more chances on the power play, as officials have, in the hockey parlance, let the two teams play.

“It goes in waves. I think we haven’t had as many opportunities as we have some other series. You don’t get in that rhythm when you go long stretches without one and then get one,” said Sharks head coach Pete DeBoer.

“We got to keep moving our feet, keep trying to draw penalties. I think there’s penalties out there. They’re letting the teams play. So we’ve got to attack more holes, you know, find a way to draw some more penalties to get in our rhythm. I think when we’re getting power plays, we usually work our way into it. When we’re getting one or two a game, it’s tough.”

While the Sharks are looking to draw more penalties, the Penguins are in a similar situation. They’ve had only 11 power play opportunities in the final, scoring with the advantage in each of the last two games.

Meeting between Datsyuk, Red Wings GM Holland postponed a week

DETROIT, MI - MARCH 13:   Pavel Datsyuk #13 of the Detroit Red Wings skates against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Joe Louis Arena on March 13, 2016 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) *** Local Caption ***
Getty Images
3 Comments

The expected meeting between Pavel Datsyuk and Detroit Red Wings general manager Ken Holland has been moved back a week in the wake of Gordie Howe’s passing, according to a report Saturday.

A legend in Detroit and throughout the hockey world, Howe passed away Friday at the age of 88. Howe’s visitation is scheduled for Tuesday and his funeral for Wednesday (Read about those details here).

From the Detroit Free Press:

Dan Milstein, the agent for Datsyuk, told the Free Press Saturday that Datsyuk is returning to the Detroit area on Tuesday. Originally the two were to meet with Wings general manager Ken Holland on Wednesday, but that “will be pushed back to next week so Pavel, Ken and I can pay respect to Gordie and attend his funeral scheduled for Wednesday,” Milstein said in a text message.

Milstein has publicly stated Datsyuk, the skilled 37-year-old forward, would like to return to Russia. Last month, he acknowledged there had been an offer from SKA Saint Petersburg in the KHL, but nothing had been officially signed as of that time.

He still has one more year left on his contract with the Red Wings. The deal comes with a cap hit of $7.5 million, which, based on the “35-plus contract rule”, will still count towards Detroit’s salary cap if they’re unable to move it.

With the draft and free agency approaching, it’s been recently reported that the Red Wings are actively looking to move that contract.

Couture has battled back from ‘catastrophic’ and ‘pretty scary’ injuries to lead Sharks

3 Comments

Logan Couture has been forced to demonstrate his resilience on a number of occasions this season.

Trying to help the San Jose Sharks get back on even terms with the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Stanley Cup Final is just the latest example.

Needing a win in Game 5 to extend the series back to San Jose, Couture delivered a clutch performance with a goal and three points. He wouldn’t be denied, as the Sharks now look to force a decisive seventh game for hockey’s ultimate prize.

“I just … don’t want the season to end. I wish I did it every game, but it’s a tough league to score in, to produce in,” he told reporters. “It’s nice when you’re able to help the team win some games. … We still have a challenge ahead of us.”

A challenge is what this entire season has been for Couture. A narrative come playoff time is about those players that overcome points of adversity in games, a series, the season or at times in their careers, or maybe even beyond that, on and off the ice.

Couture has personified that player driven to overcome the most difficult of times in attempt to win.

He missed 23 games after suffering a broken fibula during practice in October, an injury head coach Pete DeBoer described to reporters as “catastrophic.” No sooner did Couture return, then he was out of the lineup again after it was discovered he had a small arterial bleed in his right thigh.

“I think when he went down, we were 4-0. We had a great start to the season,” said DeBoer.

“We felt guys were slotted in the right spot. It was a catastrophic injury, it really was. There was talk at some points there he might miss up to six months. I think it was a blessing in disguise looking back at it now because it forced me to get to know the organization top to bottom. We tried a lot of young guys in different spots. (Tomas Hertl) played some center. We brought guys in. (Chris Tierney) had a chance to play.”

Couture admitted that second injury — to the same leg as the first injury, although he said the two weren’t related — was “pretty scary.”

“We flew back home and my leg just kept swelling bigger and bigger,” he said.

“So they had to stop the bleeding somehow. They were able to do that fortunately before it got worse. My leg was just continuously filling with blood and it could have gotten to the point where you don’t know what’s going to happen, if you’re going to lose your leg or die. So they caught it pretty quickly, which was good.”

Despite the injuries, Couture has come back and been one of the key reasons — both with production and leadership as an alternate captain, which DeBoer said Couture earned — to the Sharks’ regular season success and subsequent playoff run.

His 29 points leads all players in this post-season.

“It’s nice, but it’s a personal thing,” said Couture. “We’ve got bigger things that we’re looking at.”