4 Reasons the Stanley Cup Finals Are Already Over
Remind me all you want that it's only 2-0. Refresh my memory about the 2011 Bruins as much as you can. Show the box scores that indicate the first two games have been decided by late goals in each. Make me remember that the series is switching venues.
But reasonable as I am, as open to the contrary I may be, I am stubborn and steadfast in my position...the Stanley Cup engraver better learn the correct spelling of Patric Hornquvist, because this finale is already over.
Owning a 2-0 lead over the San Jose Sharks, the Pittsburgh Penguins seem well on their way to the 4th Stanley Cup title, and first since 2009. They took home Game 1 on Monday night with a 3-2 victory that was clinched with a Nick Bonino tiebreaking goal with 3 minutes to go in regulation. San Jose forced an extra period during Game 2 on Wednesday, tying the game late in the 3rd on Justin Braun's first goal of the postseason, but the effort was for naught as Conor Sheary put in the game winner just 2:35 in to the extra session.
With the series now moving to the Shark Tank in San Jose...well, actually SAP Center as Mark Cuban will be nowhere to be found...it may appear that this is the perfect opportunity for the Sharks, seeking their first Cup, to get back into the series. However, here's why any attempts at comeback are as futile as Jaws: The Revenge
Mad Matt (Murray)
Either this is one of the most perfectly timed hot streaks of all time, or the 22-year-old rookie, who had 13 games to his name entering the postseason, is for real. Initially subbing for Pittsburgh mainstay Marc-Andre Fleury, Murray was thrown to the fire immediately, going up against Eastern Conference playoff staples the Rangers, Capitals and Lightning immediately, but survived each challenge with increasing prowess. Murray was briefly subbed during Game 5 of the conference finals against Tampa Bay, when Fleury returned from his injury, but after a loss that put the Pens on the brink of extinction, Murray was inserted back in for Game 6. By I'm sure no coincidence, Pittsburgh hasn't lost a game since. Murray doesn't have much to worry about because...
Shots, Shots, Shots, Shots, Shots (Nobody!)
We've technically played seven periods thus far in the Stanley Cup Finals. Only once have they put up more than 10 shots in a period, a feat the Penguins have already accomplished four times. San Jose's best period in the series thus far came in the middle frame of Game 1, where they made up a 2-0 deficit. By no coincidence, the Sharks outshot Pittsburgh 13-8 in the frame. Taking those 20 minutes out of the equation, Pittsburgh has outshot San Jose by 63-35 margin. That's taking a toll on goalie Martin Jones, who has performed admirably in the series, and the playoffs as a whole in his first trip as a full time starter, but when you only tally 11 shots through 2 periods...like SJ did in Game 2...that's a real problem when you want to win hockey games. But surely that'll change in the comforts of home, right? Well....
The Sharks have one of the most exciting entrances in all of sports, coming in through a red-eyed shark mouth, but SAP Center hasn't provided the home-ice advantage you'd expect. Entering the 2016 playoffs, no qualifying team had less wins at home than San Jose at 18. The Sharks have somewhat right the ship at home, well, as well as a conference champion can, by going 6-2 this postseason at home, but the Pens' 5-3 mark on the road is something to be reckoned with. Winners of 28 games on the road this regular season, San Jose had the opportunity to steal one from Consol Energy Center. They inability to steal one from the Steel City, home of an increasingly hot Penguins team, will come back to haunt them.
The Crosby Show
When Crosby won his first Cup in 2009, hockey pundits truly believed we were about to witness something special from the Penguins, who seemed well stacked for the new decade. Instead, Sid the Kid has battled injuries, inconsistency and pure bad luck, watching talented teams fizzle out before this long awaited return trip to the Finals. Eager to not let another opportunity slip by him...especially with players like Alex Ovechkin challenging his spot for being the face of hockey...Crosby has taken it to new levels this postseason, tallying 17 points in 20 games so far, and becoming more of a team leader than ever. On Sheary's game winning goal, it was Crosby that set up the winning play, and Crosby who notched one of the game winning assists. Perhaps more importantly, however, is the fact that Crosby has worked his way into the Sharks' heads. After Game 2, which saw Sid win 17 of his 24 faceoffs, Sharks center Logan Couture accused Crosby of cheating. Evidenced by the above points, Logan....you're gonna need a bigger boat.
Game 3 of the series goes down tonight at 8 PM EST on NBC.
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffMags5490.
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