Series tied 0-0
Although the nickname implies otherwise, superstar Sidney Crosby is no longer a kid as he leads the Pittsburgh Penguins into the Stanley Cup Finals for the third time in his 11-year tenure. While Crosby has a championship on his resume, the San Jose Sharks are in the Cup Finals for the first time beginning with Game 1 of the best-of-7 series Monday in Pittsburgh.
Crosby and fellow center Evgeni Malkin form one of the most lethal 1-2 combinations in the world, but the Penguins have relied on a deep and balanced roster to reach the Finals for the first time since winning the Cup in 2008-09. “We know how tough an opponent this is,” Sharks coach Peter DeBoer told reporters. “They’ve got two of the best players in the world. They’re a deep team. It’s a great challenge for us.” San Jose poses a daunting challenge as well, after scoring at least five goals in six of its 18 postseason games behind an imposing power play and a high-scoring No. 1 line led by captain Joe Pavelski. Both teams rely on speed — “It’s going to be fast hockey,” Crosby acknowledged — and feature head coaches and starting netminders who weren’t with their respective clubs last season.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, TVAS
Sharks – Martin Jones (W/L: 12-6, GAA: 2.12, SAVE %: .918)
Penguins – Matt Murray (W/L: 11-4, GAA: 2.22, SAVE %: .927)
ABOUT THE SHARKS (58-33-9, 51-38 O/U): San Jose brought in DeBoer and made wholesale changes to the roster after failing to make the playoffs for the first time in 11 seasons and the results have been impressive — all but one of the team’s victories in the last two rounds of the postseason have been by a margin of at least three goals. Pavelski has been immense with a playoff-best 13 goals while playing alongside veteran Joe Thornton (15 assists) and Tomas Hertl, as has a power-play unit that has converted on 17-of-63 chances. Defenseman Brent Burns is third in the postseason with 20 points, trailing only Pavelski and Logan Couture, who leads all players with 24 points and 16 assists. Offseason acquisition Martin Jones has registered three shutouts in the last seven games.
ABOUT THE PENGUINS (60-30-10, 45-37 O/U): While Crosby and Malkin each have 15 points, the team’s leader is Phil Kessel, who has scored nine goals among his 18 points and is another reason why DeBoer calls the Penguins the “fastest team in the league.” Linemate Nick Bonino, who has a team-high 12 assists, missed practice Sunday after he was hurt in Game 7 versus Tampa Bay, but coach Mike Sullivan insisted he “will be fine” for the series opener. Malkin’s production has risen since he was paired with rookie speedster Bryan Rust, who scored both goals to eliminate the Lightning. Sullivan, promoted after Mike Johnston was fired in December, started Marc-Andre Fleury in Game 5 versus Tampa Bay before turning back to rookie netminder Matt Murray, who is 11-4-0 in the playoffs.
* Sharks are 10-1 in their last 11 road games vs. a team with a home winning % of greater than .600.
* Penguins are 5-1 in their last 6 vs. Western Conference.
* Over is 5-1-1 in Sharks last 7 vs. Metropolitan.
* Over is 6-1 in Penguins last 7 vs. Western Conference.
* Under is 5-1-1 in the last 7 meetings in Pittsburgh.
COVERS CONSENSUS: At the time of publication of this preview, the Pittsburgh Penguins are grabbing 61 percent of the public picks and Over 5.5 is leading the way in totals wagering at 54 percent. View full consensus data here.
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