April 14, 2012; St. Louis, MO, USA; Members of the St. Louis Blues celebrate a goal against San Jose Sharks goalie Antti Niemi (31) during the first period in game two of the 2012 Western Conference quarterfinals at Scottrade Center. The Blues defeated the Sharks 3-0. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-US PRESSWIRE

Halak, Elliott Combine to Shut Out Sharks 3-0; Blues Even Series at 1-1

 

Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott combined to make 29 saves as the St Louis Blues captured Game 2 of their best of seven series with the San Jose Sharks in pitching another shut out of team teal 3-0. Vladimir Sobotka, David Backes, Andy McDonald scored for the home standing Blues as their win evened the series with the Sharks at a game a piece. The series now moves to the Shark Tank for games three (Monday 4/16) and four (Thursday 4/19). For team teal this was yet another frustrating night at the Scottrade Center as once again the Sharks were just unable to find a way to score despite the number of opportunities they had. The game also ended as apparently the Blues decided that just winning the game wasn’t sending enough of a message. A post game brawl at the final buzzer resulted in Sobotka breaking Dominic Moore’s nose after slamming him down to the ice. Needless to say this is now a series and whomever wins it will have certainly earned it.

Maybe the sure sign that Game 2 was not going to be the Sharks night was apparent just 91 seconds into the game as Sobotka was credited with the games’ first goal after Sharks goalie Antti Niemi appeared to have stopped the puck, only to see it roll behind him. Mark Edouard-Vlasic then accidentally tipped the puck into the Sharks net in a failed attempt to clear it away. The other sign may have been in the second period after Halak was injured when his own teammate Barret Jackman collided with him, knocking Halak out of the game. Halak had made 12 saves before leaving and gave the Sharks some fits throughout the first period. Enter Elliott, who unfortunately for the Sharks was just as on the mark as Halak was and performed strong in relief making 17 more saves in keeping team teal off of the scoreboard.

A Recap of Game 2 in St.Louis:

What the “Halak” is Going On Here?- The Sharks were in for one “Halak” of a night as things turned out. If you look at the glass half full, the Sharks in reality were not shut out, it’s just that Vlasic put the puck in the wrong net in what was probably the worst Sharks playoff “own goal” and goof up since Dan Boyle performed that feat in Colorado two seasons ago. You know it’s not a good sign when you see the arena’s jumbo-tron post your picture and post the words “Thank You” below it. It not even that this goal should have been enough to beat team teal, but it was one “Halak” of a way to start the evenings festivities. The Sharks even after the “own goal” still picked up the pace significantly. At one point in the first period the Sharks actually had a 10-3 shot advantage yet were unable to find the back of the net. Joe Pavelski in a wave of Sharks opportunities came the closest as his shot from almost point blank range hit the crossbar. Logan Couture, along with Brent Burns, Pavelski and Vlasic all had a few good looks at the net at various times only to come up empty. It was just too bad for Niemi that he could not stop Vlasic’s “first shot” on goal either.

Enter Elliot- Halak’s night would end with 11:12 remaining in the second period after his accidental run in with his teammate B Jackman as he raced down ice to try to stop a Martin Havlat scoring attempt. Blues Head Coach Ken Hitchcock went to the bullpen and brought in Elliott who has had the Sharks number all season. After managing just two shots off of Halak, team teal was able to get more pucks on Elliot over the course of the period however were turned away as they rained eight more unsuccessful shots on goal. Elliot’s best stop of the second stanza came towards the end of the period as he stoned a wrap around scoring attempt from Couture who had beaten two Blues defenders from behind the St Louis goal.

More Combat Pay for Niemi- Meanwhile Niemi was doing his best to keep the Sharks in the game as the Blues would launch an assault on the team teal goal that lasted for much of the period. Niemi’s best save of the evening would come as he turned away a point blank shot from Sobotka. Despite Niemi’s best efforts three pucks would beat him, two of which hit post. The other shot belonged to the Blues’ Backes who took a perfect feed pass from T.J.Oshie to beat Niemi to his right side and give the Blues a two goal lead just over six minutes remaining in the second period. If you count the two posts and other pucks that flew in or around the team teal net, in reality St Louis had over 20 shots at or around Niemi for the period.

Eggs St.Louis Style- The third period for the Sharks went just as wonderfully as the previous two, with several shots on goal yet nothing more to show for it than more St Louis styles eggs…goose eggs to be exact. At the rate the Sharks are not scoring goals in the Gateway City this season, they will all need to be checked for possible high cholesterol once their season wraps up. Early scoring chances by Burns and Pavelski were denied by Elliot. Even two power play opportunities went for not as the Sharks had good looks at the Blues net but could do nothing with either opportunity or with the nine shots on goal they managed to get. The Blues only had two shots on goal for a majority of the period as St Louis seemed to more focused on playing strong defense which has been their forte all season long. The Blues late in the period in between scuffles would manage an “insult to injury” power play goal scored by McDonald with just 24 seconds remaining in the game as the score and the game itself had started to get out of hand.

Yard Sale II: The Sequel- As the end of the game drew near and the end result became apparent enough to end what little suspense there could be, things started to get very chippy and in a hurry. The Blues apparently decided to send the Sharks several messages to go along with their win as several fights broke out at games end. Most notable was Blues’ Sobotka’s breaking the nose of Moore after throwing down on the ice during one fight. Justin Braun was also attacked as Roman Pollak wanted to introduce himself after Braun had gotten mixed up with the Blues B.J.Crombeen. Douglas Murray and the Blues’ Jackman had to be separated. Many of the tempers may have boiled over after the Blues final power play goal. A total of 88 penalty minutes were handed out after the games end. After the fights were broken up, the Blues high fived each other in front of their bench while the Sharks just headed out to their locker room and eventually to the St Louis International Airport. The scene at the end of the game is something the Sharks wont soon forget, and neither will the Blues. Even Sharks Head Coach Tood McLellan remarked in the post game interview room that Sobotka’s attack on Moore was a “sucker punch”. *

Game Analysis- The Sharks honestly did themselves no favors in this game. An “own goal” at any point of any game is at the very least inexcusable, however this really isn’t where the Sharks lost the game. Honestly the combined efforts of Halak and Elliott were the story as far as the game was concerned disregarding all of the fighting during and after the game. The Blues took advantage of situations and space, all that the Sharks were willing to give them and made the most of it. If not for the “own goal”, the Sharks maybe are in a better situation in the final period being down just one goal and approach the period a little differently. The Sharks did not make too many mistakes in this game, they just simply got nothing in the way of bounces. The Sharks have now played 12 periods of hockey in St Louis the season, and have been shut out in 10 of the 12 periods. If the Sharks have any designs of winning this series they are going to have to figure out ways to have more effective scoring chances and get a few more pucks not just on the net but in the net. With Halak being questionable for the rest of the series, the Blues will likely need to rely on Elliott as their “go to guy”. If the Sharks do not get some favorable bounces and are not able to create a lot of their own luck, don’t be surprised to see Elliott steal a few games and the Blues advance. The hope for the Sharks here is just maybe all of the fighting at the end and the Blues open high fives as the Sharks left the ice are plenty of motivation for team teal going forward. It had better be if the Sharks are planning on still being in the playoffs after next week.

COME HOME SHARKS, GET READY FOR GAME 3…AND BEAT THE BLUES!!!

The King Shark

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*-source: NHL.com & NHL Network

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