Having yet to trail during any game so far in the Stanley Cup final, Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins are in position to clinch the championship when they host the San Jose Sharks in Game 5 on Thursday.
The Penguins’ depth, along with money goaltending from the 22-year-old rookie Matt Murray, has helped them take a 3-1 lead in the NHL championship series. For Game 5, the Penguins are listed as a -160 moneyline favorite at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com, with the Sharks installed as a +144 underdog.
The total is set at five goals. The total has gone UNDER in nine of the Sharks’ last 20 playoff road games, with three pushes. It has also gone UNDER in nine of the Penguins’ last 20 playoff home games, with four pushes.
The Penguins, dating to mid-November this season, are 13-7 in their last 20 games at the Consol Energy Center where they were a moneyline favorite of -150 or more according to the OddsShark NHL Database.
As many experts anticipated going into the series, the Penguins’ speed and luxury of having four lines that can contribute offensively has helped them have the run of play against San Jose. They have gone 435 minutes 46 seconds – the equivalent of more than seven regulation games – without playing with a deficit, since San Jose’s only win in the series was a come-from-behind overtime decision.
Crosby has lived up to his reputation as one of the game’s top all-around centers. Right wing Phil Kessel, who assisted on the first two Penguins goals in their 3-1 win in Game 4 on Monday, is considered the frontrunner to be selected NHL playoff MVP if the Penguins win the Cup. Pittsburgh has also had timely goals from depth forwards such as Conor Sheary and Eric Fehr.
The Sharks, who are in their first Stanley Cup final, are hopeful that the two-day break since their Game 4 loss will help them regain some energy. San Jose has not been blown out in a game, but its most reliable attackers such as C Logan Couture, C Joe Thornton and RW Joe Pavelski are all goal-less against the Penguins.
The Sharks’ offensive punch has also taken a hit with the loss of LW Tomas Hertl (lower body injury). San Jose is 5-6 on the road in the playoffs, with an even 5-5-1 over/under split.
Thirty-one of the 32 teams that have fallen behind 3-1 in the Stanley Cup final have been eliminated. The only exception was in 1942.