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2016 Stanley Cup Final Game 4 Preview: Turning the tide

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The Sharks look to send the Stanley Cup Final back to Pittsburgh tied 2-2.

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Following Joonas Donskoi's overtime winner on Saturday, the Sharks have found new life in the Stanley Cup Final. Now, a win tonight over the Pittsburgh Penguins in the same position both teams entered this series: all tied up.

The Sharks played arguably their best game against Pittsburgh on Saturday. The Sharks' posted their best puck possession numbers at even strength this series, and controlled play for longer stretches than the previous two games. But, San Jose was not without problems.

Once again, Pittsburgh held a massive edge in shots on goal (42-26), as the Sharks were unable to hit the net. Much of that inability stemmed from the Penguins' ability to block shots, as they prevented 38 San Jose shot attempts from reaching the net.

Despite those struggles, the Sharks still have a chance to even up this series tonight. Their ability to withstand the Penguins and continued improved play are good signs headed into this pivotal Game 4. If they can improve in some key areas, namely getting more shots through and controlling a majority of the shot attempts, this becomes a three game series. If they can't, the task of winning the franchise's first Stanley Cup becomes much more daunting.

Tale Of The Tape

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San Jose Sharks
48-26-8 Regular Season Record 46-30-6
2nd in Metropolitan Regular Season Finish 3rd in Pacific
53.1 Regular Season Even Strength, Score-Adj. Fenwick 53.3
100.7 Regular Season PDO 100.4
18.4 Regular Season PP% 22.5
84.4 Regular Season PK% 80.5

5PM PDT | SAP Center | San Jose, CA
TV: NBCSN| Radio: SJSharks.com98.5 KFOX
Know Your Enemy: PensBurgh

Last Meeting

Joel Ward tied the game in the third period, and Joonas Donskoi roofed the winner in overtime, as the Sharks won their home Stanley Cup Final debut.

Storylines
  • Tomas Hertl remains "day-to-day" according to Pete DeBoer.  It goes without saying the Sharks could use his return to the lineup as soon as possible.
  • Moving Logan Couture up to the top line helped the Sharks in game 2, but considering Nick Spaling and Dainius Zubrus posted even-strength Corsi-for percentages of 12% and 9.09%, respectively? That's simply not a sustainable strategy, and it's even less sustainable to trot out the pair against the Penguins' big guns. Spaling, San Jose's Ann Veal (him?), played nearly six minutes at even strength against Crosby. He also took a face-off against Crosby with under 1:20 left in a tied Game 3. It didn't amount to a goal, but that's inexcusable, especially if you have last change.
  • Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Justin Braun have gotten plenty of publicity for their defensive work on Sidney Crosby, but DeBoer may want to explore deploying Brent Burns and Paul Martin against #87 more. Coming into game 3, Burns and Martin had posted a 51.61% and 50% Corsi-for percentage at even strength against the Kid, respectively. They played just a combined six minutes against him on Saturday, but the Sharks controlled over 80% of the shot attempts with the pair on the ice against Crosby. Braun and Vlasic were similarly dominant in limited time against the HBK line. Perhaps swapping the match-ups could increase the Sharks' puck possession.
  • The Sharks will need to get more pucks on net in part because Pens' goaltender Matt Murray has bounced back well from losses all postseason. In his next start following losses, he's 4-0 with a .930 SV%.