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Stanley Cup Preview: Who has the better forwards?

Sharks vs. Penguins

The Pittsburgh Penguins and the San Jose Sharks are going to battle for the Stanley Cup. Who are they? How did they get here?

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS

Early in the year the Penguins tried to load up their superstars on two lines in hopes that they would produce mega totals together. That didn’t work, and instead putting Phil Kessel on the team’s “third line” (aka HBK line) with Nick Bonino and Carl Hagelin has turned Pittsburgh into one of the most dangerous teams in the NHL. Kessel’s nine goals and 18 points leads the Penguins this postseason. His line has been Pittsburgh’s most productive with 45 points combined between the three of them.

This has softened the blow from lesser-than-expected production from Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, who each have 15 points this playoffs.

Essentially for the first time in a while the Penguins aren’t a two-line group and they’re a better team for it.

Lower line players like Matt Cullen, Tom Kuhnhackl and Eric Fehr have also made important plays at some point this postseason. Before the year, the Penguins’ forward depth was considered a question mark. Now it’s one of their biggest attributes.

SAN JOSE SHARKS

Throughout this postseason the Sharks have had two of the most dynamic lines in the playoffs. Joe Thornton’s group with Joe Pavelski (13 goals to lead the NHL) and Tomas Hertl have combined for 50 points and 21 goals. Pavelski has a 5-on-5 CF% of plus-5.4, Thornton is at plus-5.2 and Hertl is at plus-6.9.

San Jose’s “second-line” center is Logan Couture and he leads the Sharks with 24 points and has notched 16 assists.

This postseason the Sharks have shown flexibility at forward with how they’ve used veteran Patrick Marleau. When they needed an offensive boost in the second-round they added Marleau to Couture’s line at wing. If they needed to play matchup, like they did in the first-round against the Los Angeles Kings, they put Marleau at center on the third-line.

Their fourth line, centered by Nick Spaling, is a responsible, defensively capable group that doesn’t make a lot of mistakes. San Jose’s four lines are as well balanced as any in the NHL and they’re a huge reason why this team is playing for a Stanley Cup.

WHO HAS THE EDGE?

San Jose

The Sharks’ forwards have been dynamic and balanced this postseason. They have the playoff’s leading scorer and leading goal scorer. While the Penguins have been waiting the last two rounds for Crosby and Malkin to deliver all of San Jose’s best forwards have contributed from Game 1 against the Los Angeles Kings through Game 6 against the St. Louis Blues. 

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Josh Cooper is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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