The San Jose Sharks' first appearance in the Stanley Cup Final is against the Pittsburgh Penguins, who have emerged victorious in three of their four appearances.
This series will be an interesting battle between two balanced, deep and high-scoring teams. Game 1 is at Consol Energy Center on Monday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVA Sports)
Here are 5 interesting stats about this series.
1. ROOKIE IMPACT
Penguins rookies have made a tremendous impact. Forwards Bryan Rust, Conor Sheary and Tom Kuhnhackl have combined for nine goals and 20 points, second to the St. Louis Blues; forward Robby Fabbri, and defensemen Colton Parayko and Joel Edmundson combined for 23 points.
There's a single stat for each of Pittsburgh's four notable rookies that highlights their contributions.
- Matt Murray has a record of 11-4, which ties him for sixth all-time for most wins by a rookie goalie in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
- Bryan Rust is plus-10, tied with Sharks defenseman Paul Martin for third in this year's playoffs.
- Pittsburgh has outshot its opponents 233-194 with Sheary on the ice for an SAT of 39 that ranks second among rookies and No. 14 overall.
- Defensive specialist Kuhnhackl has started 133 shifts in the defensive zone, compared to 28 in the offensive zone, for a zone-start percentage of 17.4 percent, the fourth lowest in the NHL.
In contrast, San Jose has five players 35 and older: Martin (35), Joel Ward (35), Patrick Marleau (36), Joe Thornton (36), and Dainius Zubrus (37).
2. THIRD-PERIOD SCORING
The Sharks could have a huge advantage going into the third period. They are outscoring their opponents 29-14, 11 more goals than the Tampa Bay Lightning, who are second in this year's playoffs.
San Jose's plus-15 goal differential is a big reason why the Sharks are 8-0 in the playoffs when entering the third period with a lead.
The Penguins have outscored their opponents 17-15 in the third period; they have a 9-1 record when beginning the period in the lead.
3. PULLING THE TRIGGER
Offensively, the Penguins have taken more shots, but the Sharks have made the most of their opportunities.
In terms of shots per game, Pittsburgh ranks third in the NHL with 35.1 and San Jose ranks No. 11 with 28.0. However, the Sharks lead the NHL with 3.50 goals per game; their 12.5 team shooting percentage is No. 1.
At an individual level, Sharks captain Joe Pavelski leads the NHL with 13 goals on 61 shots, a shooting percentage of 21.3 percent.
4. FACEOFF FUTILITY
The Sharks have won 46.8 percent of their faceoffs, the lowest winning percentage among the 16 playoff teams.
Statistically, faceoff success is not one of the most important categories, but a single draw can often decide a game between two evenly matched teams. As it stands, Pittsburgh has the advantage, despite an average percentage of 50.0 percent.
5. VLASIC IS FANTASTIC
A lot of attention is being paid to Sharks defenseman Brent Burns, who leads the NHL's defensemen with six goals and 20 points in 18 playoff games, but Marc-Edouard Vlasic has been equally valuable.
Vlasic, who is plus-13, tied with Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov for the lead in the postseason, is San Jose's defensive specialist. He has lined up for 120 faceoffs in the defensive zone, compared with 70 in the offensive zone, leads the Sharks with an average of 19:47 even-strength ice time, is second to Martin (2:05) with 2:00 of shorthanded ice time per game, and has contributed 11 points (one goal, 10 assists) offensively, tied with Kevin Shattenkirk of St. Louis for fourth among all defensemen.