Blues vs. Sharks - Playoff Preview

Finally! After a long 82 game schedule the Blues can really get down to business. Champions are not made in the regular season, but are made through the playoffs. This time around, this St. Louis Blues team could make a strong run. They have the home ice set for at least the first two rounds, and looking at their record at home they could not ask for anything better coming into their first playoff game against the San Jose Sharks on Thursday.

But is home ice enough for these youthful Blues to take down a perennial Western Conference powerhouse in the Sharks? This preview should be able to sort all those questions out and more.

Sharks and Blues

I think a season sweep, and two shutouts to go along with it (only 3 goals against in total), speak for themselves. The Blues have had the easy edge over the Sharks this year, not dropping a game, or a single point to them in the process. The Sharks were unable to score a goal on the road while playing in St. Louis, and even though they scored 3 at home they were still on the losing side by a margin of two goals each game.

The 'Shark Tank' needs to be a place where San Jose can get a few wins against St. Louis in this series, otherwise the Blues are just too good at home for San Jose to even contend. After the season series sweep the Blues have to be looking very confident with the match up they have been given.

Team Comparison

Below is a chart that takes a quick look at some main categories of the two teams, the St. Louis Blues and the San Jose Sharks. Whichever team takes the check mark is the team that we feel has the edge, even if it is just slight, in the corresponding category.

 

St. Louis Blues

Team Comparison

San Jose Sharks

 

Categories

 

Forwards

Youthful energy is good, but may not be enough for the experience and depth that San Jose can produce on the front end.

       CHECK

 

      CHECK

 

D-Men

Is it the goalies or the whole team defense that works for St. Louis? Either way their defense is one of the best complete sets in the league.

 

      CHECK

Goalies

Not many teams can match the two pronged defense that St. Louis employs from the crease.

 

    

      CHECK

 

Coaching

After the turnaround by Hitchcock of this Blues team he should be a top contender for the Jack Adams.

 

 

Power Play

The second best power play in the league can be very dangerous when looking at the players it can set out to manage it.

 

       CHECK

 

 

      CHECK

 

Penalty Kill

San Jose's second worst penalty kill in the league will not be a shining point come playoff time.

 

 

It would look like the Blues have the edge over the Sharks when comparing the teams, coaches and special teams, but it is never that easy to predict. If the Sharks forwards can take a bite out of the defensive stingy Blues they might be able to put more pressure on them than a traditional 7th seed should.

This could come down to a coaching battle, mainly if Hitchcock can make sure he gets the right guys out there to smother any of the attack that the Sharks may bring. In the end however, I think the goaltending will be the biggest factor that will put the Blues out on top by the series end.

The Difference Maker(s)

St. Louis Blues

Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliot

Like it has been all year long for the Blues, the goalies are going to be counted on huge. If they perform like they have all year then the Blues are going to be very well off. Although, I would say, each do not bring a wealth of playoff experience with them, they are two very confident goalies who know how to perform.

Halak has one solid year of playoff performance, coming from Montreal's run in the 09/10 season where he played in 18 games. As for Elliot, he brings a grand total of 4 games to the table from his playing days with Ottawa in the 09/10 playoffs.

The tandem manning the crease for the Blues may the key point to any run that they are looking to make in the playoffs this year.

(Courtesy - Halak photo by Chris Lee; Elliott photo by Associated Press)

 

Nonetheless, these two guys are some of the only goalies I would not care about the experience at the moment. They have just been too good all season for the playoffs to affect them that much. With that being said I would expect Halak to be the go to guy for the most part, and Elliot will only be making an appearance should Halak falter twice.

San Jose Sharks

Joe Thornton

His point production come playoff time with the Sharks in recent years has been nearing a point per game, but the big question does not revolve around the vision and touch that Jumbo Joe brings to the Sharks offense. Instead, it comes from his inconsistency to becoming a true leader when his team looks to make a run in the Stanley Cup playoffs. He just has never been able to show everyone that extra gear that is needed come playoff time.

If the Blues can manage Joe Thornton and company, keeping them off the score sheet will be key, they might be able t punch their ticket to the next round.

(Courtesy - http://www.rivercitysportsblog.com/tag/joe-thornton/)

 

Could this be the year he steps up and leads a Sharks team that could easily be a dangerous 7th seed. There is not as much pressure on the team, or on Thornton’s shoulders as years passed, and this could be key for them to slowly put something together.

In the end though, it all comes down to Joe Thornton, yet again, to help get this team over the hump. And this does not mean in his play, but rather proving why that 'C' is stitched onto his jersey.

The Last Stretch

St. Louis Blues

The Blues cooled off in their last 10 games of the season, including three loses in a row on home ice to end the season. Not to much to worry about though, as the Blues had their playoff spot locked up, including home ice. Maybe they were just taking a little off the gas to save some for a playoff run where expectations are taking them past the first round, and maybe beyond. Either way, I do not think the record of their past 10 games is any inclination of the type of team the Blues are going to be once the playoffs start.

San Jose Sharks

In their last 10 games to finish off the season the Sharks have been red hot, winning 7 of the 10 games. Including a streak of four in a row to finish the season. Although not making a huge difference in the playoffs (just the last two spots), the Sharks were able to beat the L.A. Kings twice in a row in their last two games. Which meant, the Sharks took 7th, and a date with the Blues, and ultimately avoiding the class of the West and the Vancouver Canucks. Hopefully those two battles against L.A. did not take too much out of the Sharks as they lead up for their series against the Blues.

Injuries

St. Louis Blues

After playing almost the whole year not being able to sport the lineup they imagined at the start of the season, the Blues are able to do so going into the playoffs. According to TSN they do not have any team injuries at the moment and that is very good news for a Blues team that has struggled with them throughout.

San Jose Sharks

San Jose also has the good fortune to being healthy going into their first round playoff series. The only player who may be questionable going into game 1 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals is Torrey Mitchell. Mitchell is currently nursing an undisclosed injury, as playoff protocol, but will be looking to make it back into the lineup sometime early in the series.

Final Prediction

St. Louis Blues in 6 games