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Stanley Cup Final Preview: Who has the better special teams?

Leading up to Monday's Game 1, Puck Daddy is previewing every facet of the Stanley Cup Final between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the San Jose Sharks — on the ice and off the ice.

POWER PLAY 

As you’d suspect, the special teams for both of the Penguins and Sharks have done pretty well in the three rounds leading up to the Final. The Penguins’ power play (23.4 percent) comes in just behind the Sharks’ unit (27 percent), with both having been lethal at time this postseason. 

Pittsburgh rolls out a talent-laden top unit featuring four forwards — Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Patric Hornqvist, Phil Kessel — and one defenseman, Kris Letang. That crew has scored 12 of the Penguins’ 15 goals with the man advantage. The second unit took a blow when Trevor Daley fractured his ankle in the conference final against the Tampa Bay Lightning and saw his season come to an end. Justin Schultz stepped in and picked up two power play points in his first three games re-entering the lineup.

San Jose’s power play has been one of the best this postseason and enters the Final rolling with a 27 percent success rate. Like the Penguins, the Sharks deploy four forwards — Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Logan Couture, Joe Pavelski — and a one defenseman in Brent Burns in their No. 1 group. Pavelski (5), Couture (4) and Burns (4) are all in the top five in power play goals this postseason and Couture (11) and Pavelski (9) are the top two in power play points. They’ll deploy a very strong second unit featuring Tomas Hertl, Joonas Donskoi and Joel Ward, who each have provided timely scoring this spring.

ADVANTAGE: Sharks, by a slight edge.

PENALTY KILL

Pittsburgh’s penalty kill has been as good during the playoffs (83.6 percent) as it was during the regular season (84.4 percent). And with the likes of Carl Hagelin on the unit, they’re always a threat for a shorthanded goal, something San Jose has allowed happen twice this spring. Against Tampa, the Penguins did a good job of keeping the Lightning’s power play group off the ice, allowing them only 13 opportunities, including 0-fer’s in the final three games of the series.

The Sharks faced a good power play in the conference finals against the St. Louis Blues and now face an even bigger test with the Penguins. San Jose ended their series against St. Louis allowing three power play goals on eight opportunities in the final three games — that was after keeping that unit in check for the opening three games. But they enter the Final with a solid performance overall — 80.4 percent kill rate — and can throw our two sets of strong defensemen, with Paul Martin, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Justin Braun and Brent Burns.

ADVANTAGE: Penguins

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