Both during and after the first period of Pittsburgh's Game 1 win over San Jose in the Stanley Cup final, plenty of Sharks fans on social media were panicking.
Pittsburgh no doubt dominated that first frame, but looking on the brightside, best to have a really bad period in the first period of Game 1 than any other period in the series. The best time to sh*t the bed is at the very beginning of any task.
As luck would have it, the Sharks bounced back quickly (as they usually do) with a strong second period. Again, let's look on the brightside as Sharks fans. The Penguins threw out their very best effort in Game 1 on home ice and needed a late goal in the third period to win the game.
San Jose can play a much better 60 minutes of hockey. I'm not so sure the Penguins can. Game 1 againt the Penguins certainly wasn't a carbon copy of Game 1 against the Blues, but there are many similarities. Sharks got off to a bad start, came back strong with a chance to win and it just didn't happen.
Take away the awful first period, and San Jose out-scored the Penguins 2-1 over the final 40, and the shots were relatively even over the last two periods. Not to mention, all three goals the Penguins scored were bad breaks/uncharaterstic mistakes by two of San Jose's elite defensemen in Justin Braun and Paul Martin.
Those types of goals aren't likely to be given up on any sort of consistent basis. Law of averages dictate Braun and Martin being much better as the series goes on. Also, Brent Burns isn't likely to lose his stick again in the moments before a lapse in concentration by Martin.
Speaking of Martin, Martin Jones was absolutely fantastic. While it is easier said than done, if Jones stays strong in net, the Sharks can very easily fix their mistakes and play a full 60 minutes the way they played that second period. Just like last series, fans should be confident that the Sharks can take Game 2.
If Healthy, Where Does Matt Nieto Play?
At some point in this series the Sharks expect to get Matt Nieto back healthy. When that happens, it remains to be seen where he will slide in and who comes out of the lineup.
Joel Ward did not have a great game in Game 1, the Penguins speed seemed to be troublesome for the Sharks forward who isn't the fleetest of foot. Nieto getting back into the lineup would add speed for the Sharks to counteract with, and the best spot would be on Ward's wing.
For a good portion of the second half, Patrick Marleau centered Nieto and Ward on an effective third line. They didn't score much but for weeks they were strong defensively. That is the line I would like to see head coach Peter DeBoer turn to when Nieto draws back in.
I would then bump Melker Karlsson up the Couture and Donskoi line as Karlsson arguably had his best game of the playoffs in Game 1. Coming out of the lineup would either be Nick Spaling or Chris Tierney. Either one of them would center the fourth line between Dainius Zubrus and Tommy Wingels. Those two have been strong on the fourth line playing together. No reason to take either of them out.
Spaling is the likely choice to come out of the lineup as he is lower on the depth chart than Tierney, but perhaps DeBoer wouldn't want to break up that fourth line. Either way, getting Nieto back in with Marleau and Ward might be the best way to go to counteract Pittsburgh's high-flying attack.