PITTSBURGH -- The San Jose Sharks believe their history in the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs has prepared them for their future in the Stanley Cup Final.
Series wins against the Los Angeles Kings, the Nashville Predators and the St. Louis Blues have not only delivered the Sharks to their first Final, but have prepared them for the opponent they will face: the Eastern Conference champion Pittsburgh Penguins.
"We started in L.A. and it was a big heavy team, then we made a transition to Nashville, a more skating team and then back to St. Louis, another heavy team," Sharks defenseman Roman Polak said. "Now, we just have to make a transition again to a skating team."
Not just any skating team, though.
"Probably the fastest team in the League," San Jose coach Peter DeBoer said.
Countering the speed the Penguins bring to the game has been a priority for the Sharks since Pittsburgh defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final on Thursday.
The Sharks will begin to find out if their preparations and their makeup are up to the task when the puck drops on Game 1 of the best-of-7 series at Consol Energy Center on Monday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVA Sports). The lessons learned this spring during an 18-game march to the Final were at the forefront of this process for the Sharks.
"You look at St. Louis' forwards, Nashville's forwards, we've seen some speed in the West," said DeBoer, who also referenced a young Edmonton Oilers team the Sharks faced during the regular season. "Obviously this will be a different level than we have seen, but we won't change how we play based on that."
Sharks defenseman Paul Martin might know the Penguins better than anyone; he played for Pittsburgh the past five seasons before joining the Sharks as a free agent last summer.
He says the Penguins present a variety of challenges aside from their speed.
"They have with [Sidney Crosby] and [Evgeni Malkin], two of the better players in the League when they are on the top of their game and adding [Phil] Kessel, now they have that third line," Martin said. "Their depth will be a challenge and their speed they have at creating offense, especially from the back end with a guy like [defenseman Kris] Letang coming up.
"They are able to flip pucks out, use their speed, pull up for second opportunities. I think that will be one of our bigger challenges -- taking away their time and space and not giving them too much room."
The Sharks have been breaking down the Penguins in earnest since Friday and believe they are ready to face the particular hardships delivered by Pittsburgh, matchup problems that bedeviled the New York Rangers, the Washington Capitals and Lightning this spring.
"We'll do our homework and research on them and try to limit that speed," San Jose center Chris Tierney said.
But the Sharks understand they may be uniquely equipped to neutralize the speed of these Penguins. San Jose is arguably as deep as its opponent and may be as good at the possession game as the Penguins.
"If we control the puck, then it is hard [for them] to create speed," DeBoer said.
by Shawn P. Roarke @sroarke_nhl / NHL.com Director of Editorial