TCL Round 1 Staff Predictions: St. Louis Blues vs. San Jose Sharks




It's still uncertain whether the San Jose Sharks have shed their reputation of being chokers. They made the conference finals the last two seasons, but lost pretty badly both times. Considering every year lately seems to be "their year", even the conference finals seems like it's not enough. But this year is different. They haven't exactly been dominating the west as they usually do, in fact they barely squeaked into the playoffs. But the pressure is still there even if it might not seem like it, and people's jobs will more than likely be on the line if they "choke" yet again.
But there's a monster challenge waiting for them in the form of the St. Louis Blues. After firing their coach, picking up Ken Hitchcock and seemingly being out of it, the Blues went on to dominate the conference and unexpectedly win the Central Division. Jack Adams honors are no doubt on the way for Hitchcock, and both of their goalies (Brian Elliott and Jaroslav Halak) should be in consideration for the Vezina for carrying a team that basically doesn't score to victory. But the playoffs are unpredictable, and the Sharks have way more experience than the Blues in these situations. Our TCL Panel thinks the Blues will take this one, but we're probably in for a long series.

Consensus: St. Louis Blues in 7.


Game 1: Thu. April 12 at 7:30PM in St. Louis
Game 2: Sat. April 14 at 7:30PM in St. Louis
Game 3: Mon. April 16 at 10PM in San Jose
Game 4: Thu. April 19 at 10:30PM in San Jose
Game 5: Sat. April 21 at 7:30PM in St. Louis (if necessary)
Game 6: Mon. April 23 at 10PM in San Jose(if necessary)
Game 7: Wed. April 25 at 7:30PM in St. Louis (if necessary)
*All Puckdrops are inEastern Standard Time*
Genius or Madness: 
Andy Veilleux - SWEEP, Blues in 4
The Sharks are still an overrated team. Niemi is an okay goaltender. Their "stars" are generally without heart and hustle (at least Marleau and Thornton, and sometimes Havlat too). The Blues are ridiculously good on defense, and had the best goalie tandem in the league, Either goalie can steal games, and Halak is tapped as the starter. He is a big game goaltender. I wanted to predict at least one sweep, and this has the best chance at that.

Previous Series: Three previous series in 2000, 2001 and 2004, all in the Quarterfinals. San Jose leads 2-1

Key Players:

St. Louis: 
-F David Backes 82GP 24G 30A 54PTS +15 226 hits;
-F T.J. Oshie 80GP 19G 35A 54PTS +15 188 shots;
-D Alex Pietrangelo 81GP 12G 39A 51PTS +16 24:43TOI;
-D Kevin Shattenkirk 81GP 9G 34A 43PTS +20 5PPG;

-G Jaroslav Halak 46GP 1.97GAA .926SVP 6SO 26-12-7

San Jose:
-F Joe Thonrton 82GP 18G 59A 77PTS +17 156 shots;
-F Logan Couture 80GP 31G 34A 65PTS +2 11PPG;
-F Patrick Marleau 82GP 30G 34A 64PTS +10 251 shots;
-D Dan Boyle 81GP 9G 39A 48PTS  +10 25:34TOI; 

-G Antti Niemi 68GP .915SVP 2.42GAA 6SO 34-22-9

Key Injuries:
St. Louis: Brian Elliott (Upper body, DTD)     

San Jose: None.

Prax's Take:
I've been sort of out of the loop lately, so I have no idea what the Blues might be doing with their goaltending situation (Edit: Obviously Elliott is injured for Game 1 but the point still stands). Brian Elliott is the name you'll see more prominently in most goalie stat categories, but in most cases, Jaroslav Halak is right up there with him. Then there's that whole thing about playoff experience. Brian Elliott has only played 4 playoff games at any level. Jaroslav Halak had one of the most spectacular post-season performances ever with Montreal two years ago. Ken Hitchcock has a tough choice to make here, but considering he hasn't made a bad decision since he was hired in St. Louis, I have a feeling he'll make the right one. And, oh ya, the Sharks are going to choke.
Prediction: Blues in 6
Around The Checking Line:
Kyle Busch:
Brian Elliott is remarkable, but he hasn't done so in the playoffs yet. San Jose consistently has been in the thick of things (made playoffs every year since lockout), the top scoring lines of Thornton, Marleau, Pavelski, Havlat, Couture and Clowe trumps anything St. Louis can throw at them. The Blues play a tight defensive game that might steal some games along with Elliott's play.
Prediction: Sharks in 7
Derrick Newman:
The Sharks have snuck into the playoffs here and I think are going to give the Blues all kind of grief.
PredictionSharks in 7
Mark Trible:
 It's hard to peg this series. Hitchcock, fantastic goaltending, and youth have helped the Blues be one of the most impressive teams all season. San Jose's experience factor will produce the upset. Too many guys have been there before for the Sharks.
Prediction: Sharks in 6
Nick Symon:
The ship is sinking in San Jose and it wasn't a pretty ride as they sneaked into the playoffs. The Blues have a young and up coming team that has a good mix of veterans. The youth and energy that youth brings into a dressing room, along with outstanding goaltending from Jaroslav Halak will be enough for the Blues to move onto the next round. The Sharks are too inconsistent and with an aging core are another team who has played a lot of hockey in recent seasons.
Prediction: Blues in 6
Evan Pivnick:
The Sharks are a hungry team, no pun intended, but the Blues are too consistent of a team. The Sharks will give the Blues a run for their money, but the Blues will move on.
Prediction: Blues in 7
John Link:
The Blues are one of the biggest stories of the NHL season going from having to fire their coach at the beginning of the season to making the playoffs as the second seed. The Blues have waited for quite some time to make this run in the playoffs and even with the Sharks putting up a strong fight in the first round I just don’t see the Blues losing this one.
Prediction: Blues in 7
Conor Hassard:
The Blues and Sharks will be a close series. The Blues aren’t the best of offensive teams, but neither are the Sharks. Alex Pietrangelo is at the helm of the Blues’ defense, while offseason additions for the Sharks have given them a lot of depth on the blue line. The clear advantage in goaltending goes to the Blues, as they have allowed just 1.89 GA per game, good enough to be first in the league. The Sharks have something the Blues don’t have though: experience. The Blues haven’t won a single playoff game post-lockout, while the Sharks have made it to the conference finals in the last two seasons. The Sharks’ experience will carry them over to defeat the Blues.
Prediction: Sharks in 6
Bryan Wright:
Yes, the Blues finished the regular season with the second best record in the league. Yes, the Sharks just slipped into the playoffs garnering the 7th seed. However, I don't for one minute believe the Blues are that good, nor do I think the Sharks are that bad. Like the Kings, the Blues need their goaltending to be stellar. If the St. Louis goaltending tandem doesn't keep up their play from the reguar season, this one could be over, in the Sharks' favor, in a hurry.
Prediction: Blues in 6
Matt Cefalu: 
San Jose looks poised to make a significant playoff run, despite struggling in the latter half of the season, at least through the first two rounds. I love the way St. Louis came together under Ken Hitchcock, but I don’t think they have a roster capable of withstanding the physical play San Jose will bring to each game. This will be the year Joe Thornton finally earns his money in the post-season for his club and Niemi will elevate his game play “enough” to get San Jose through two rounds.
Prediction: Sharks in 6
Adam Pardes:
This one comes down to goaltending. Where the Sharks have been inconsistent, the Blues have absolutely flourished, thanks to the tag-team efforts of Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliot. While Elliot appears the be nursing an injury coming into the series, there is no question Halak can hold down the fort in his stead (See: Montreal, 2010). The Blues play a controlled, physical brand of hockey that is reminiscent of Cup winners past.
Prediction: Blues in 6
George Royle:
Playoff experience is in favour of the Sharks and is something that the Blues seriously lack. The reason I think the Blues will prevail is simply because they have home ice advantage and their home record in the regular season was sublime.
Prediction: Blues in 7
Ty Fisher:
Funny how the Sharks looked so completely down and out just a few weeks earlier. Now, they're actually rounding into quite a contender--on paper at least. The Blues are well-known as probably the best defensive team in the league and it's hard to imagine anyone outside San Jose's top line putting pucks in the net. Nonetheless, I just can't see St. Louis being able to wrap this one up quickly. The Sharks are big, tough and will wear down the opposition regardless of score. Chalk this series up at #3 behing PHI-PIT and NSH-DET for potentially the most exciting one yet.
Prediction: Blues in 7
Chuck Gaston Jr.:
They run a forward core like a linebacker crew and boast the leagues best GA. San Jose will struggle to create enough chances as St.Louis skates away with a rather easy win. Alex Pietrangelo is the guy to look out for in this series.
Prediction: Blues in 5