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‘No ideal matchup’ when defending Pens, says Sharks defenseman

Ian Cole and Evgeni Malkin each notched a goal to give the Penguins a 2-0 lead through two, but Melker Karlsson gave the Sharks hope in the third. However, San Jose couldn't solve Matt Murray and dropped Game 4, 3-1.

PITTSBURGH -- Heading into the Stanley Cup Final, Marc-Edouard Vlasic talked about the unenviable task of matching up against Sidney Crosby.

Four games later, Vlasic admitted the other ones aren’t much more desirable.

“There’s no ideal matchup,” Vlasic said on Wednesday afternoon. “You concentrate on Crosby too much, and then [Evgeni] Malkin explodes. Or [Phil] Kessel explodes. Concentrate on those two guys, and then Crosby’s going to do damage.

“When you get this far in the playoffs, depth is what gets teams here. And they have really good depth.”

Plenty has been written about Pittsburgh’s depth this postseason, especially with the likes of Nick Bonino, Conor Sheary, Bryan Rust, Ben Lovejoy and Ian Cole all finding the back of the net.

So in a sense, Vlasic is right -- there’s no ideal matchup, because Pittsburgh comes at you with a lot of different weapons.

But let’s get real.

When asked about player deployment on Wednesday, Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer said he was “going to dance with the girl we brought to the dance.” And given Vlasic and partner Justin Braun have largely been up against the Crosby-Sheary-Patric Hornqvist line, all signs point to it continuing.

In Game 4, Vlasic and Crosby went head-to-head for nearly 15 minutes, and it was one of the few times this series where Vlasic had the edge. He and Braun both posted solid possession metrics, and the Crosby line failed to score a single point.

Of course, while that was happening, Kessel and Malkin combined for a goal and three assists.

“If you look at their last game, Malkin was on fire, Kessel was on fire, and they’re not even on the same line,” Vlasic continued. “Every game one of those three lines, even the fourth line was dangerous too.”

Looking ahead, it’ll be interesting to see what the Penguins do with last change. Mike Sullivan will be able to manipulate things more than he did in Games 3 and 4 in San Jose, and Vlasic did float the possibility of shifting away from the Crosby matchup.

“Matching up tomorrow night, probably all four of their lines are going to be good,” he said. “I’ll be playing against everybody and all six of us will be just rolling through.”

Just remember to take that last line with a grain of salt.

In the Stanley Cup Final, nobody tells you what they’re actually going to do.