The last round of the NHL’s pursuit of the holy grail begins on Monday night and the HabsWorld experts predict which team will lift Lord Stanley’s Cup after the last buzzer has ended.
Pittsburgh Penguins vs San Jose Sharks
Brian La Rose predicts: Penguins in 6
Alexander Létourneau predicts: Penguins in 5
Craig Scharien predicts: Sharks in 7
Gordon Black predicts: Sharks in 6
Norm Szcyrek predicts: Sharks in 6
(Brian) San Jose had the more impressive Conference Final and are the trendy pick to win but I don’t see it happening. Yes, the Sharks have the better defence corps (by a country mile) but they’ve also had one line do a big chunk of their damage up front. That hasn’t been the case with Pittsburgh. Both Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin have yet to really take off and you have to think at least one of them will find another gear this round. If that happens with the rest of the balanced attack continuing, they should be able to solve Martin Jones much more often than other opponents have. San Jose has had a really nice run and I think it would be cool if they could pull this one off but I have to lean towards the experienced Penguins to win it all.
(Alex) I’ve been adamant that the Sharks were doomed to choke in these playoffs since the very beginning and out of pure stubborness, I say this is the round it all comes crashing down. In all honesty, I would tilt the head-to-head matchup in San Jose’s favor. Their top guns are firing, their defence is better while I’d have to think goaltending is a push with the edge going to Jones given he had a front seat to LA’s cup win in 2014. If San Jose can chase Murray, it’s a done deal and the cup heads South. I expect leadership and experience to be the difference here though. Pittsburgh has five core players who won the cup in 2009 playing. Those players were Crosby, Malkin, Letang, Fleury and Kunitz. Four of those players lost the final in 2008, which were Crosby, Malkin, Fleury and Letang. That’s about as core as it gets. I see San Jose getting rattled over the course of the series way more than Pittsburgh and I struggle to see San Jose ever really breaking Pittsburgh’s spirits. Let’s go with the Penguins winning the first two, split in San Jose and win it on home ice. Anyway you cut it, Kessel or Reimer is getting a ring.
(Craig) If the first three rounds have taught us anything, it may be that we are in for a treat with this match-up. Both of these teams play an exciting brand of hockey and feature star players that will add plenty of personality to the series. The forward groups match up well, with both squads featuring several lines that can punish the opposition. However the Sharks powerplay gives them the advantage- so the Penguins will need to stay out of the box. In goal the likely starters Murray and Jones have both been good (and excellent at times) throughout the playoffs, but they both lack experience and having Marc-Andre Fleury on the bench gives the Penguins a great backup plan. It’s on the back-end that will give San Jose the edge. Kris Letang has been great all playoffs, but beyond him the Pens lack in defensive depth. The Sharks not only have the awesome Brent Burns, but also Olympian Marc-Edouard Vlasic and he’s been making life miserable for some of the game’s best offensive stars all playoffs.
(Gordon) Looks to be a pretty good final ; a bonafide chance that the East could take it for the first time in years. Yet, on balance of just about everything I think the Sharks just have too much of an edge (especially on D and in terms of physical play). Both goalies came from relative obscurity this time last year, both groups boast a deep set of skilled forwards spread across multiple lines, and while both teams have played quite a few games this spring – they haven’t looked like they are slowing down. In the end – I just like what San Jose has been doing a little more and still don’t really believe that Pittsburgh has earned their spot and are due some bounces the other way. Wouldn’t surprise me if this was a sweep, but the big guns for Pittsburgh have been getting it done and Murray seems like he may find the zone again and steal at least a game or two.
(Norm) This may be one of the best Cup final matchups in the last 10 years. Both San Jose and Pittsburgh have very good offence. The edge may go slightly to Pittsburgh since they’ve had a great 3rd scoring line. Their defence are both a decent mix between veterans and youth, with both sides having a true #1 blueliner. The edge may go to San Jose with a little more predictable veterans. Goaltending is also a close category with both teams being lead by young netminders. The edge would go to San Jose, given Martin Jones and his 3 shutouts. The intangibles to me will be veteran sharks like Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau, who know is may be their last chance to become a champion.