The San Jose Sharks and the Pittsburgh Penguins will face-off in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final tonight at 8 p.m. on NBC.
Here are five keys to Game 1:
1) Weather the Storm
The San Jose Sharks will need to play a good first period of road hockey. The Penguins should come out ready to play in front of the home crowd and it should be loud in the Consol Energy Center. The Sharks are coming off a series in which they only had to play six games, whereas; the Penguins had to play all seven in the Eastern Conference Final. San Jose needs to be good defensively and establish some offensive zone time early to take the crowd out of the game. The best way for the Sharks to take the home crowd and team out of the game early would be to get the first goal.
2) Brent Burns
Burns can have an impact on either side of the puck. He can move the puck out of the zone, join the rush, make a pass and put the puck in the back of the net. With Burns on the ice, it’s like having four forwards on the ice every time he takes a shift since he used to play forward before being converted to defense. The offensive ability isn’t the only reason that Burns is a finalist for the Norris Trophy this year, he also plays good defense. Burns and the Sharks defense shut down Vladimir Tarasenko last series, who is one of the better scorers in the St. Louis Blues lineup.
The Sharks and the Penguins are both going into the Final with inexperienced goaltenders. Martin Jones is in his third season in the NHL, but this is his first time being a starter for the whole season. He won the Stanley Cup with the Los Angeles Kings in 2013-14, but he only played two games the whole postseason. This is the first time that Jones has been the starting goaltender for a team that has gone to the Final. Matt Murray is only 21 years old, playing in his first NHL Playoffs and Stanley Cup Final. He has already handled the pressure of the playoffs including a Game 7 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
4) Get Off to a Fast Start
This will be the first time since 2009, when the Penguins won the Stanley Cup, that a NHL Final game will be played in Pittsburgh. The Pens will need to feed off the energy of the home crowd and get off to a good start. They’ll want to establish the forecheck game early and get some pucks on Martin Jones. The Penguins will want to have sustained offensive zone pressure like they did against the Lightning in the Eastern Conference Final, and make sure they get some screens set up in front of Jones, so he can’t see the puck.
5) Get the Stars Involved Early
Pittsburgh will want to get its superstars involved early in this series. The Sharks can keep stars off the board like they did to Tarasenko in the series against the Blues. If the Penguins want a chance to win the game then Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin will have to be involved early and often in this game. The Sharks are probably the most dangerous team that the Penguins have faced in the postseason because they play a two-way game with speed.