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Stanley Cup Final

Captains ready to lead way in Stanley Cup Final

Sharks' Pavelski, Penguins' Crosby could be premier matchup of series

by Dan Rosen and Shawn P. Roarke / NHL.com

PITTSBURGH -- Joe Pavelski and Sidney Crosby are about to go head to head in a battle for the big prize at the end of a long and arduous grind.

The respective captains of the San Jose Sharks and Pittsburgh Penguins want to be in that moment, with the spotlight on them, teammates and the world staring at them, skating over to NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman to accept the Stanley Cup.

Crosby has done it once, in 2009, when at 21 years old he helped lead the Penguins to their third Stanley Cup championship. Having been in San Jose for his entire career, Pavelski has obviously never done it because the Sharks have never gotten this far in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

These captains are only looking ahead now, but a look back shows how vital they have been to the Sharks and Penguins getting to this moment, to Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final at Consol Energy Center on Monday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVA Sports).

Here is a head-to-head breakdown of the captains and what they've done so far in the playoffs:

 

JOE PAVELSKI

Goals: 13
Assists: 9
Points: 22
Ice time per game: 20:08
Shots: 61
SAT: 52.86 percent

Nobody has scored more goals in the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs than Pavelski, who has 13 in 18 games.

He has four more goals than right wing Phil Kessel, the leading goal-scorer for the Penguins.

But Pavelski hasn't just scored goals, he has scored the biggest for the Sharks in their march to their first Final.

He scored two goals in Game 1 of the Western Conference First Round, setting the tone for a five-game defeat of the rival Los Angeles Kings. Pavelski had five goals in that series.

Pavelski scored the game-winning goal in Game 7 of the second round against the Nashville Predators, one of four goals he scored in that series.

Video: NSH@SJS, Gm7: Pavelski beats Rinne on the power play

He scored four more against the St. Louis Blues in the Western Conference Final, and two in the pivotal Game 5, which were the game-tying and game-winning goals. He opened the scoring in Game 6.

But he does more for the Sharks than score goals; Pavelski has nine assists and has scored in seven straight games entering the Final.  

Pavelski is a key component to the Sharks power play, which has been a difference maker throughout the postseason. San Jose has clicked at 27.0 percent and Pavelski is a primary triggerman on the man-advantage. He has five power-play goals and nine power-play points.

He also makes his teammates better with a world-class ability to tip and deflect shots. He is among the best puck deflectors in the game and his redirection of a wide shot by defenseman Brent Burns in Game 5 of the conference final is one of the top highlights of the postseason.

Pavelski does the dirty work every championship team needs. He wins the majority of his faceoffs (50.8 percent) and only three players in the Final have more hits than Pavelski's 44. None of those three players have more than 11 points, half of Pavelski's total.

 

SIDNEY CROSBY

Goals: 6
Assists: 9
Points: 15
Ice time per game: 20:28
Shots: 54
SAT: 52.88 percent

His production (15 points in 18 games) isn't overwhelming, Crosby has been dominant in the playoffs and his presence is a big reason why Pittsburgh's third line featuring Nick Bonino, Carl Hagelin and Phil Kessel (the "HBK Line") has been so good.

Crosby has faced the most difficult matchups and hasn't wilted.

He faced a power-on-power matchup against Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals. The Penguins won the series in six games with Backstrom, in particular, struggling for most of the series, perhaps a result of Crosby's pressure on him.

Crosby went head to head in the Eastern Conference Final against checking forwards Valtteri Filppula and Ryan Callahan of the Tampa Bay Lightning, as well as top defenseman Victor Hedman and Anton Stralman. He scored three game-winning goals and had five points.

Video: Crosby slices through Tampa Bay's defense for GWG

Meanwhile, the "HBK line" has had easier matchups and thrived to the tune of 45 points through three rounds.

Crosby has routinely had dominant shifts in the offensive zone.

He was a plus-26 in total shot attempts against the Lightning. He had two points against the Capitals, but he was on the plus side of shot attempts (plus-9). He had eight points on three goals and five assists in the Penguins' five-game series win against the New York Rangers.

Crosby's intangibles have been a positive factor.

Whereas he used to be guilty of getting frustrated by the constant attention, Crosby has set the tone for the disciplined and resilient Penguins by skating away from post-whistle scrums.

His leadership in the dressing room has been a factor, such as when he was the first Penguins player to speak up before overtime in Game 6 against the Capitals.

Pittsburgh blew a 3-0 lead to get to overtime, but Crosby delivered a speech reminding his teammates that their opportunity was still great. The Penguins won on Bonino's goal 6:32 into overtime; Crosby's speech was referenced in the postgame celebration.

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