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The Inside Scoop: Game 3 vs. Sharks

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins

The Pens and Sharks face off in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final in San Jose at the SAP Center (or the Shark Tank). Due to the time change of being on the west coast, the puck will drop at 5 p.m. local time.

Due to the abnormally early start to the game, the Pens did not hold a morning skate. Although forwards Conor Sheary and Bryan Rust, defensemen Olli Maatta and Ian Cole and head coach Mike Sullivan did address the media from the rink.

Here are some highlights from that availability…

*Rust on his first impression of Sullivan: “When I first met him I thought he might be too intense.”

*Cole on his first impression of Sullivan: “The authority he has. When he starts talking, you listen. That was something that really hit us.”

*Sullivan: “The biggest challenge is getting the players to buy-in to the style of play. We had that from Day 1.”

*Sullivan on Matt Murray: “My observation from coaching Matt is that you can’t tell if it’s the first period or triple overtime. He’s the same. He just goes out and tries to stop the puck.”

1. First 10 Minutes
The Sharks have one strategy when playing against any team that enters the Shark Tank at any point during the season – whether the regular season or playoffs. They try to beat you in the first 10 minutes of the game. The crowd is always loud and boisterous. The Sharks begin at full throttle and go on the attack, trying to land a knockout blow early. Now that it’s the playoffs, take all of that up a couple of notches. Throw in the fact that the Stanley Cup is on the line and the Sharks are playing, for all intents and purposes, in a must-win scenario, and you can expect to see San Jose play its best hockey of the entire year when the rubber hits the ice.

2. Neutral Zone
The Pens’ edge in play has come in large part due to their effectiveness in the neutral zone. Pittsburgh has clogged up the neutral zone, funneling San Jose’s speed to one side of the ice and then pressuring. That’s negated the Sharks’ speed and forced them to dump the puck. The Pens’ defensive corps has been able to retrieve those pucks and make quick-ups out of the zone. As a result, San Jose has had little offensive zone time or cycle. Keep an eye on how the Sharks try to attack the neutral zone and what adjustments the Pens make to keep them boxed in.

3. Discipline
Before the series began, one key factor was expected to be San Jose’s dangerous power play against the Pens’ efficient penalty kill. And while that matchup may still have a profound impact on the series, so far it hasn’t. Mostly, because the Pens have been able to avoid being shorthanded by staying out of the penalty box. The Sharks have had only three power plays in the first 2 games. There is still a lot of series to be played but Pittsburgh’s discipline has made the San Jose power play a non-factor thus far in the Final.

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