NHL Western Conference Finals Underway; St. Louis Blues Defeat San Jose Sharks 2-1
The NHL Western Conference Finals went underway Sunday night. The San Jose Sharks, reaching the conference finals for the first time, traveled to St. Louis to face the Blues, who haven’t been this far in the playoffs in quite some time themselves. Though he only played in one playoffs with the team, not even the “Great One” Wayne Gretzky could carry the team to the third round of the NHL Playoffs.
The Blues got the scoring started in front of a raucous home crowd with a power play goal. Captain David Backes scored on a redirection of a point shot from defenseman, Kevin Shattenkirk. This came just after the Blues thought they had a goal, but were overturned after video review determined that there was sufficient incidental contact with the Sharks’ goaltender to disallow the would-be goal.
The Sharks immediately answered the Blues’ goal with one of their own less than a minute later. Thomas Hertl scored on a redirection of a Joe Pavelski shot to tie the game. The two teams headed to the locker rooms tied at 1 after twenty minutes of play.
The second period featured a big shot advantage for the Sharks at 16-5, but the only goal scored was by Jori Lehtera of the Blues. Despite the consistent pressure on the offensive end and onslaught of shots by the Sharks, goalie Brian Elliott held strong for the Blues to hold the lead going into the third period.
The final stanza featured a lot of action, but no goals. The Sharks were held at bay most of the period, but coach Peter DeBoer pulled his goalie with about two and a half minutes remaining in regulation in an attempt to tie the game. The Sharks managed 6 shots in that finite amount of time, but Elliott was able to turn all of them aside. Despite being outshot 32-23 and losing 57% of the face-offs, the Blues scored the only power play goal on the night and emerged victorious to hold suit with their home ice advantage.
This series is sure to be an interesting one and one with no clear-cut favorite. Records and seeding aside, both teams have a history of under-performing in the playoffs after monster regular seasons — so there is pressure on both teams to keep their demons at bay.
It’s clear the Blues want to set the tone and establish the physical advantage as they did tonight, by outhitting the Sharks by a 2-1 advantage. Goaltending will also be a huge factor in this series, as seen tonight by Brian Elliott earned first star honors for the Blues with 31 saves and a clean sheet for the final two periods of the game.
Game 2 takes place in St. Louis on Tuesday night, where the Sharks will aim to even the series before the action shifts to southern California.
(NHL Western Conference Finals Underway)