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Saturday, June 4, 2016

The Penguins Enter the Shark Tank by @Medina_Marie17

Saturday night our Pittsburgh Penguins continue on their journey to raise the Stanley Cup. After taking Games 1 and 2 here at home, the boys in black (and gold) have travelled to San Jose and will dive headfirst into “The Shark Tank”. Home ice means a lot but when you are down in a championship series, but it can also be a momentum swinger.

The Sharks find themselves in an (almost) must-win situation for their hopes to stay alive. Down 2 games to zero, a desperate team will take the ice at 8pmEST (5pm in San Jose). How will the team and their fans respond? What can the Penguins expect when the puck drops?

First of all, I must address that if you are so lucky to be living in or making the trip out to California, I hope you have deep pockets. For a “low priced” seat in the Tank, expect a price tag of roughly $920 per ticket. That is on the high end but don’t expect to pay anything less than $550. Comparatively, the same seat in Pittsburgh would have run about $250-300.

The Shark Tank (SAP Arena) is unique in and of itself.

“It feels like the seats are ON TOP of the ice” says Penguin fan Connie Campbell

The team itself will want to get on the board early. Look to Joe Pavelski (who is pointless currently in the series) to go to the net fast and hard as much as he can. Brent Burns will be another force to deal with and he will want to put pressure on our forwards even more. Veteran leaders like Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton will be looking to establish dominance from the first drop so the Penguins speed has to counter at every point.

Sharks Goalie, Martin Jones, is no slouch but could easily be described as the softest goalie the Pens have faced since the playoffs began. He is also the only current Sharks player with their name on the Stanley Cup (he was J. Quick's backup in 2014 when the Kings won). The Pens will want to pepper him early and often with as many on-net shots as possible. He is more of an up-and-down style goalie rather than butterfly (as described by Pierre McGuire himself in what was a fantastic Q&A session at the Comcast X1 event this past Tuesday).

He drops that right knee for saves more than anyone I have seen this playoff season . That leaves the top shelf open. If someone is in front of the net, can get a good rebound and elevate the puck up and over the shoulder while he is still down, it can mean red lights all day. Shot after shot both on and off angle will throw him and keep him off balance and (hopefully) pay off in goals scored.

What about the fans?

Games were sparsely attended during the regular season. A barn that may have been only half packed is now standing-room only. The Sharks faithful are behind their team for this Cup run and will have no problem letting others know it.

Like the Penguins “Gold Rush”, I expect a “Sea of Teal” from the Sharks organization and a lot of noise from fans. It will be very loud, almost deafening.  The fans will want to put some fuel in the tank for their team to draw from so it will be up to the Pens to make it quiet early and build on/ keep a lead.

“Say what you want about the Bay area sports culture, but that place loves it’s championships. Fans are very excited that the Sharks are in the Final” comments Jeff Merrill who is a Pittsburgh transplant currently living in the area (and Paul Martin’s biggest fan).

Excited they may be. But one thing different is that the Sharks fans are a lot less hostile than other fan bases. It might be that California “laid back” mentality.

Connie Campbell described visiting Sharks fans that were in Pittsburgh as being “…nice and good natured”. Jeff Merrill concurred as he has visited the Shark Tank a time or two during the season.

Something else a little different are the theatrics. The players enter the rink through an open, “frothing” (by way of fog machines), shark mouth. Something definitely neat to see. Very dramatic and suspenseful.

All in all, Sharks the fan base will be looking to bolster their team any way they can. The Sharks team is going to want to make it just as difficult in San Jose to win on the road as it was for them in Pittsburgh. So the Pens players have to stick to their game, their identity, and what has worked for them since January 1st.

The Pens could essentially put the harpoon into the Sharks by winning Game 3 but that is entirely up to them and their mindset.

The Stanley Cup Final marches into Cali and the Sharks are looking to even the score against the Mighty 'Quins. People say Sharks can smell blood in the water, but it could just be their own this time.


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