Logan Couture will be heavily relied upon in the upcoming series. Photo: Bridget Samuels/Flickr.
The seventh seed San Jose Sharks will be playing the second seed St. Louis Blues in the first round of the playoffs.
During the regular season, the Blues dominated the Sharks, winning all four matchups. San Jose was outscored 11-3 during those contests. Hopefully, this series will prove to be more competitive.
San Jose St. Louis
G/G: 2.67 2.51
G/G: 2.50 1.89
PP%: 21.1% 16.7%
PK%: 76.9% 85.8%
FO%: 53.3% 50.4%
EV GF/G: 1.10 1.34
Based on these numbers, San Jose has a much better power play, a stronger chance in the faceoff circle, and scores more goals per game. However, St. Louis has one of the strongest penalty kills, and one of the lowest goals against averages per game. These numbers that battle head to head should make for an interesting matchup.
While both Brian Elliott and Jaroslav Halak have had better numbers during the regular season, Antti Niemi has won a Stanley Cup (Chicago 2010). This makes me think that the goaltenders will end up being evenly matched. Defensively, the Sharks need to be efficient, and prepared to clear the zone quickly with as few icings as possible. Once they are in the offensive zone, they need to fire the puck frequently, and bury their chances when they get them. Five on five scoring is where this series will be won in my opinion. The Sharks have a slightly lower goals per game average during even strength times, but they will need to come up with the majority of their goals during five on five opportunities. When it comes to special teams, the Sharks need to take as few penalties as possible. A dismal penalty kill throughout the season will only hurt them more during the playoffs. Even though San Jose can count on their power play to be very strong, they need to realize that the St. Louis Blues do not take a lot of minor penalties (and most of their majors come from fights, which makes them matching penalties).
Luckily for Sharks fans, San Jose has one of the best offensive cycling games in the league. If the Sharks get moving in the offensive zone, they are often lethal. This fact, combined with St. Louis’ defensive strength, should provide an intense battle. It is often said that playoff hockey is “big boy hockey”. For San Jose, their “big boys” need to be Joe Thorton, Logan Couture, Patrick Marleau, and Joe Pavelski. Dan Boyle and Brent Burns are the best offensive weapons from the blue line. If these six players step their game up, the Sharks will have a very strong chance of winning the series. If St. Louis manages to shut them down? Things will be much more difficult for the boys in teal.