Coming home should be very sweet if they can win just one more game this season, and clinch the elusive cup. The Pittsburgh Penguins will be hyped up when they arrive at the Consol Energy Center Thursday night to host the San Jose Sharks in the 2016 Stanley Cup Finals.
The Pens have basically dominated three of the four games of the Final against San Jose, earning a convincing a 3-1 lead in the series. That puts them one win away from their ultimate prize when the puck is dropped at the start of Game 5.
Why have the Penguins been so effective? Well they basically have outworked and outskated the Western Conference champions game in and game out, so in Game 5 they should be able to get the best of the Sharks and skate circles around them, comfortable on home ice, with the Stanley Cup in the building.
Pittsburgh as a city and their fans have had a few teams taste success over the years and win championships with the Steelers, Pirates and the Penguins. But not one Pittsburgh team has won a championship within city limits since the World Series in 1960, with one of the most famous home runs hit in baseball history.
Since then, the Pens have won three Stanley Cups, but all were on the road. The Pirates got two more World Series titles, but both were won away from home. The Steelers have won an NFL-record six Super Bowls, and imagine that none of them were played in the Steel City.
That’s why Pens head coach Mike Sullivan won’t even start thinking about how much it would mean for his city to win a title on home ice because he doesn’t want to jinx it. Instead he will think about what the Penguins have to do in order to keep getting the best of the Sharks and just play exactly the type of winning hockey that got them to the Finals. Every guy on the team has stepped up atone point or another: “It’s been key,” said winger Bryan Rust, “because there’s been nights where it was pretty much pick a name out of a hat and that guy’s gonna step up and he’s going to have a big game.”
They know better than anyone else that they are on the verge of winning their fourth Stanley Cup, the first since 2009. And that excitement must be contagious. “Absolutely, we’re excited. We worked hard for this,” center Sidney Crosby said Monday after the 3-1 victory that gave the Penguins a split of the two games in San Jose. “It’s going to take our best, but to be able to go home and use the energy from our crowd is great. We know what’s at stake.”
So game 5 will probably start off with another excellent skating effort and speed. Right now, the Sharks are not skating the way they did in their first three series against the Los Angeles Kings, Nashville Predators and the St. Louis Blues when they dominated them with their agility and quickness. Against the Pens, the Sharks just look tired and worn out, and if they can’t muster up more effort, then they simply are not going to win versus the Penguins. Not tomorrow night nor anytime soon.
The Vegas oddsmakers are looking straight at the Penguins to close out the 2015-16 NHL season on Thursday night. As of today, the Penguins are minus-148 favorites, while the Sharks are plus-134 underdogs to win the game and keep the series going.
Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer is trying to keep his team’s spirits up as San Jose readies itself for Game 5. Ge he did that by pointing at his team’s road record and trying to get a mood change going in the locker room.
“I think our support group has to take a little bit of pressure off them,” Sharks coach Pete DeBoer said, referring to Thornton and Pavelski. “We got a goal from Melker Karlsson (Monday) night. We got to find a way to get some (production) from some other people, too.”
They will need to smell the blood and launch themselves out of the water at full speed if they want to catch and make of meal of these Penguins, because they are steely and fast slippery little guys.
But the road to the cup is never a cake walk or that easy. We see a fin sticking out of the water.
Our Pick: Sharks over Pens, 4-3