The San Jose Sharks play on ice.
Right now the Sharks also are playing on the precip-ice.
One push and San Jose is over that precipice — and out!
On Thursday night in Pittsburgh, the Penguins can heave the Californians right over the Stanley Cup cliff with just one more win.
Based on their 3-1 triumph on Monday night at SAP Center, the odds are overwhelmingly indicating that champagne will be cascading in the Pens dressing room on June 9.
At the expense of being redundant, I have to say that once again Pittsburgh’s speed, near-airtight goaltending and incessant puck possession continually denied the Sharks any ownership of the rubber.
And when San Jose did have the puck the Sharks shots faced a forest of lumber with more drives blocked by enemy defenders then slipped through to goalie Matt Murray.
With a three-games-to-one lead in the series, the Penguins simply are in no mood to miss the opportunity to win The Cup at home.
Or are they?
Coach Peter DeBoer’s Sharks still have stars with the potential to fire bombs instead of blanks but you’d never know it by the manner in which they’ve been corked by Pittsburgh’s no name defense.
Over four games San Jose captain Joe Pavelski has been more invisible than The Ghost Who Has Gone West. Jumbo Joe Thornton has done the work of three men but the result has not illuminated the goal light.
Usually reliable Patrick Marleau enjoyed a clean breakaway in the third but he wasn’t too happy with his shot; not high enough to beat Murray.
Meanwhile, a first-period goal by Pittsburgh defenseman Ian Cole — he almost never scores — put the visitors ahead. Evgeni Malkin added a rare power play goal in the second and that emerged as the winner.
Eric Fehr’s late third-period wrister past Martin Jones sealed the deal for the game and very likely the series. Once again the Penguins simply were better.
“We improved in the fourth game,” says Sidney Crosby, “and gained confidence. Our goalie (Matt Murray) was terrific. We’ll know what to do when we get home.”
The only thing the Sharks can take out of the defeat was a furious third-period assault that produced one goal; a result, too little, too late.
For all four games, the Penguins scored first and if ever San Jose has a hope to avoid elimination it would behoove the Sharks to get that opening red light. Right now, all signs lean toward a Pittsburgh Cup.
“Winning at home will be special,” says Kris Letang, a constant Pitt star, “but we can’t lose our focus.”
Goalie Murray won’t let it happen, nor will his buddies who have been virtually eating pucks when not actually blocking them.
“When I see my teammates sacrificing their bodies to keep the puck out,” says Murray, “it says a lot about our team.”
If that isn’t enough of a problem for DeBoer he has to figure out why his club constantly gives up the opening goal.
“We have to find a way of getting on the board early in the game,” concludes DeBoer. “But I don’t have the answer for that now.”
If he doesn’t find the answers in Pittsburgh, you know who’ll be the Cup-winner and it won’t be San Jose.