San Jose has posted a 3-3 record on the road this postseason, but will look to strike first in Game 1 for the third-straight series.
The San Jose Sharks are in the Western Conference Final for the third time in seven years, and fourth time overall in franchise history. Team teal will look to advance to the Stanley Cup Final for the first-time ever, but standing in their way will be a formidable foe in the St. Louis Blues.
St. Louis last played for the Stanley Cup way back in 1970 so both of these franchises have waited a long time to play for the ultimate prize.
Both of these teams are coming off convincing victories in Game 7 as the Sharks throttled the Predators by a 5-0 final, while the Blues dispatched the Stars by a 6-1 margin.
San Jose won two of the three regular season meetings with the road team scoring victories in each game. This should be a fascinating series to see which team will finally break through to the final round, and can’t wait to get it started in Game 1 tonight.
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Sharks: Brent Burns. Burns is always a wild card for San Jose as he can create offense in a flash for team teal. The Sharks are at their best when they are firing pucks at the net and there’s no one better in these playoffs at doing that than Burns. He’s second on the team with 15 points (four goals, 11 assists) in the postseason, and is far and away the top scorer amongst blue liners. He’s improved tremendously in his own zone as well with a plus-three rating and leads the Sharks with nearly 26 minutes of ice time per contest.
Blues: Robby Fabbri. The 20-year-old rookie has been tremendous thus far for St. Louis. Fabbri is tied for the team-lead with 13 points (three goals, 10 assists) in the playoffs and has been a load to handle alongside Paul Stastny and Troy Brouwer. The former first-round pick is coming off a campaign where he scored 18 goals and 19 assists in 72 games, including the game-winning tally against the Sharks back on March 22.
Keys to the Game
1. Special Teams
By now, you know about the potency of the Sharks power play (30.9 percent), but the Blues aren’t to shabby themselves with a 27.5 percent success rate, one spot behind San Jose.
These teams are very evenly matched so whomever can win the special teams battle will likely be the ones on top at the end of the day. The Sharks have done a good job on the penalty kill of late, killing off 10-straight opportunities against, but will have to be on their toes with Blues sniper Vladimir Tarasenko on the other side.
2. Use Your Speed
One area where San Jose should have a decided advantage is with their foot speed. The Sharks used that speed game to frustrate a big, bruising team like the Kings in round one and they will look to do the same against this similarly-built Blues squad.
Team teal is at their best when they’re moving their feet and getting cleanly through the neutral zone as they did in Game 7 against Nashville. San Jose’s defense will have to get back to pucks quickly and make crisp, solid exit passes to get in on the attack.
If they can do that successfully, the Sharks should be able to dictate the play and create scoring chances against a Blues team that has struggled with speed during these playoffs.
3. Fast Start
The Sharks will have to weather a storm early in Game 1 as the crowd in St. Louis is sure to be fired up for this one. San Jose wants to be engaged early and not allow the Blues to establish their forecheck.
Also, team teal has done a good job of capturing Game 1 in each of their first two series which has helped them settle into the action. In their three previous trips to the Western Conference finals, the Sharks have found themselves in a 2-0 hole. Putting forth a strong effort and reversing that trend tonight would go a long way for the confidence of this San Jose team.