Sam Kasan gives his three impressions from the press box of the Shark Tank in Pittsburgh’s 3-2 overtime loss against the San Jose Sharks in Game 3.
The Pens and Sharks are playing competitive ice hockey in California. In June. The teams didn’t expect to have perfect conditions on the ice, but it gave the Pens a lot of problems at times. Several Pens players lost their footing, and Chris Kunitz even went down while trying to put a shot on net. The puck was bouncing and the Pens seemed to have trouble controlling it. The Sharks generated a chance after the puck hopped on Olli Maatta in the defensive zone. At one point, Kris Letang took a shot that he hit twice on the follow through because the puck was bouncing. The Pens want to play a speed game with quick puck movement and anticipation. But that’s extremely difficult when you can’t control the puck. As a result, the Pens weren’t able to be as aggressive and assertive as we’ve seen them in the past. That’s no excuse. The Sharks are dealing with the same conditions. But the Sharks’ style of play isn’t as dependent on ice conditions. The Pens need to learn to adapt, and adapt quickly.
2. Near Kill
When center Nick Bonino was called for a four-minute double minor high-sticking penalty early in the third period, you knew it would be a turning point in the game regardless of the outcome. The Pens killed 3:59 seconds worth of that penalty. However, as the door was opening to let Bonino back onto the ice, Joel Ward’s slapper sneaked through goalie Matt Murray. The Pens’ PK unit put forth a gutsy effort, battling, skating, giving it everything they had. To come that close and not close it out is gut-wrenching. They nearly pulled it off with one of their best PKers in the box and using captain Sidney Crosby.
For the first time in the series the Sharks asserted their will in the physicality department. San Jose is the bigger team that plays in a conference built on brawn. In the first two games of the Final they weren’t able to catch the swift skating Pens. But they were able to finally build some offensive zone possession time by throwing their body around. They outhit the Pens, 47-17, in the game. The Sharks’ competitive advantage over the Pens is their strength and physicality, and for the first time in the series they used it to their advantage.