San Jose Sharks (+135) at Pittsburgh Penguins (-155, 5.5 o/u)
The San Jose Sharks (12-6 SU, 5-4 Away) will make their first ever Stanley Cup appearance this Monday when they visit the CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh to take on the Penguins (12-6 SU, 7-3 Home) in Game 1 of the best of seven battle (8:00 PM Eastern).
After 25 seasons in the NHL, the Sharks finally claimed their first conference championship by ousting the St. Louis Blues in six games. The run to the finals has been a surprise for the playoff-challenged squad. Thanks to a history of choking in the postseason, the Sharks were 60/1 longshots to win the Cup at the start of the season.
But they exorcised a lot of playoff demons with a round one win over Los Angeles (4-1), and then edged out Nashville in seven before knocking off St. Louis.
San Jose’s offense has been outstanding all year and it’s only gotten better during the playoffs. They averaged 2.9 GPG in the regular season – third best in the league – but have upped that to 3.5 in the postseason. That number went even higher (3.7 GPG) against the Blues, a team with an elite D corps and solid goaltending.
The Pens boast their own prolific offense, of course. They matched the Sharks with 2.9 GPG in the regular season and are besting that in the playoffs (3.2). They didn’t need much in the way of scoring to seal their berth in the finals, though, beating Tampa Bay 2-1 in Game 7.
Pittsburgh’s D stepped up in a big way in the decisive game, limiting the Bolts to just 17 shots on net, while peppering Tampa with 39 of their own.
The Pens were pushed to the limit by the Lightning but looked relatively comfortable in the first two rounds, crushing the Rangers four games to one and then downing the President’s Trophy-winning Capitals in six.
The squads faced off twice in the regular season with each team winning on the road. The Sharks have been road warriors all year, but it’s hard not to go with the more experienced group in Game 1, and that’s Sidney Crosby and the Penguins, who still have a handful of key players from their 2009 championship team (Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, Chris Kunitz, and now back-up goalie Marc-Andre Fleury).
Pick: Penguins (-155).
(Photo Credit: pointnshoot (Flickr) [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/])