Was Pittsburgh’s fatal flaw exposed by San Jose in Game 5?

Ryan Kennedy
San Jose's Logan Couture tracks Olli Maatta of the Penguins (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

PITTSBURGH – The Penguins had a chance to slay San Jose on home ice, but the Sharks had some tricks of their own and now the series is headed back to California. Even though Pittsburgh dominated the possession game, San Jose used opportunistic scoring to down the Pens 4-2. Perhaps most disturbing for Pittsburgh is how exposed the team’s inexperienced defense corps looked at times, particularly in the first three minutes when the Sharks staked themselves to a 2-0 lead.

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Canadiens legend Lafleur calls Burns’, Thornton’s beards ‘a disgrace for hockey’

Jared Clinton
Joe Thornton (left) and Brent Burns  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

Beards have become as synonymous with playoff hockey as lengthy overtimes and the Stanley Cup, but Montreal Canadiens legend Guy Lafleur thinks San Jose Sharks stars Brent Burns and Joe Thornton are going a bit too far with their facial hair.

While at the Bell Centre for the Guy Lafleur Awards of Excellence, ‘The Flower’ broached a number of topics from the Canadiens having a coach who can’t speak French to the heart-and-soul type player Brendan Gallagher has become in Montreal. And when talking about long playoff beards, like the grizzly look Burns and Thornton have taken on, Lafleur didn’t hold back.

“To me, to see the Sharks with the long beards, I think it’s a disgrace for hockey,” Lafleur said, via the Montreal Gazette. “I hate it. It’s not a good image for the NHL. I don’t mind a guy wearing a beard, but to his belly…enough is enough. The team’s managers should put their foot down.”

Lafleur added, laughing, that the reason the Sharks weren’t playing well was because they couldn’t see the puck through their beards. Read more

Sharks’ DeBoer denies Hertl done for season, says winger still day-to-day

Jared Clinton
Tomas Hertl (Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

Peter DeBoer’s San Jose Sharks will be facing elimination — and the prospect of watching the Stanley Cup slip away — Thursday evening, and if reports are to be believed, it will make for the third game in a row that Tomas Hertl is out of the lineup. DeBoer isn’t about to rule Hertl out, however.

According to reports out of the Czech Republic, Hertl’s home country, the winger won’t be able to get back into action this season due to a knee injury, which would be the same ailment that kept him out of Games 3 and 4 of the series. Asked about Hertl’s status, though, DeBoer wouldn’t budge from his previous stance that the 22-year-old is day-to-day and could return at any moment.

“(There has been) improvement every day that I’ve seen him…I term him as day-to-day,” DeBoer said. “This time of year, guys find an inner strength and play with injuries. I mean, that’s just what these guys do at this level. I’m not ruling him out for any games.” Read more

Sharks need to replicate NHL’s greatest comeback ever to capture Stanley Cup

The Sharks may be watching their Cup hopes slip away. (Getty Images)

Editor’s Note: On Monday, the Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the San Jose Sharks 3-1 to take a 3-1 series lead in the Stanley Cup final. The Sharks are now in a near-insurmountable hole, according to the NHL’s public relation department:

 

The one team that overcame the 3-1 deficit? The 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs. The Maple Leafs actually came all the way back from down 3-0, the only pro sports team ever to complete the comeback in a championship series.

From the 2013 THN book The Biggest of Everything in Hockey, this is the story of the biggest comeback in hockey history — one the Sharks are hoping to repeat.

It never happened before, nor has it happened since. And it very likely will never happen again.

Coached by Clarence ‘Hap’ Day, the 1941-42 Toronto Maple Leafs remain the only team to overcome a 3-0 deficit in the Stanley Cup final. They accomplished that feat because Day went totally against the coaching grain, and then some.

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Pittsburgh’s defense has killed our pre-final assumptions

Brian Dumoulin (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Take away Kris Letang, and what do you see from the Pittsburgh blueline on paper? Olli Maatta, the oft-injured youngster. Justin Schultz, who barely survived the Edmonton Ruin Machine after choosing the Oilers over the Ducks. Ben Lovejoy, a player GM Jim Rutherford openly admitted he shouldn’t have traded Simon Despres for last year.

And yet, this crew (plus Brian Dumoulin and Ian Cole) has helped the Penguins to within a game of the Stanley Cup, despite losing Trevor Daley to injury before the final even began. How are they doing it?

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‘It’s hard hockey': It’s hard to watch, too, when stars are snuffed out

Ladies and gentlemen, your 2016 Stanley Cup final  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

SAN JOSE – There is no way around it, but it’s kind of a shame that the NHL’s showcase event of the season is played by guys who are more tired and banged up than they’ve been at any point in the season. It’s too bad that they play on ice that should be reserved for the local Wednesday night curling league.

And it’s become an increasingly troublesome that the league’s best players are being muzzled at a time when their talents should be on full display. The biggest stars in the league have become difference makers in the Stanley Cup final. There is absolutely no doubt about that. But the differences they’re making are dubious ones. And as a result, the Stanley Cup final is something that is to be endured.

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Phil Kessel starring as the best player in a supporting role for Penguins

Phil Kessel  (Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images)

SAN JOSE – This is something that simply needs to be said. The Pittsburgh Penguins are on the verge of winning their fourth Stanley Cup in franchise history because of Phil Kessel. Now sit back and let that sink in for a minute. And if you’re a fan of the Boston Bruins or Toronto Maple Leafs, please stay a safe distance from sharp objects.

Since the Penguins last won the Cup in 2009, they were beaten out in the playoffs six of seven years by a team that finished lower than they did in the standings. What they failed to grasp is that superstars get shut down in the playoffs, so you need very good support players to succeed. And in Kessel, they might have one of the most talented support players in the history of the game.

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