The St. Louis Blues will begin the second part to their season on Thursday as they host the San Jose Sharks to start the playoffs. The Blues ended their season by going 4-3-3 in their last 10 games. That stretch was not very impressive compared to what they were able to do all season. The Blues will be looking to get off to a good start at home. They are 30-6-5 at home this season and this will certainly be an advantage throughout the playoffs.
The Sharks have so much talent on all sides of the ice. Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski, and Logan Couture are dangerous when they have the puck. Dan Boyle and Brent Burns provide good puck moving skills and defense in the back end. Then Antti Niemi has shown to make the saves when they matter and to be a clutch performer when the Sharks need him to be. To me it is shocking that the Sharks ended up in 7th place in the west given the big names on the team, but if it’s anything the playoffs have taught us, it’s that seeding in the playoffs means nothing.
So far this season, the Blues have won all 4 meetings against the Sharks, including two shutouts. The Blues will need to continue to grind their ways to victory and will continue to need their goalies to be strong. Jamie Langenbrunner and Jason Arnott have won cups with different teams and this type of leadership will be useful throughout the playoffs, as well as depth to go all the way. Patrik Berglund has been producing more with Andy McDonald back creating a solid 2nd line, and the top line of David Perron and TJ Oshie has been money for the Blues. Hitchcock will have some tough decisions on where to put David Backes, Alex Steen, Matt D’Agostini, Chris Stewart, and Vladimir Sobotka. On the defense, Alex Pietrangelo and Kevin Shattenkirk have proved to be able to play 20+ minutes in games, and behind them Carlo Colaiacovo, Barret Jackman, and Kris Russell have played consistent defense all year. Jaroslav Halak will most likely get the start for the opening playoff game as Biran Elliot is listed as day-to-day with an upper body injury. Jake Allen has been recalled for emergency conditions. This will be Halak’s chance to take the starting position for the playoffs. I really think Elliot would have taken the starting job if he was at 100% come playoffs as he was remarkable during the final month.
-Perron has gained much Selke consideration with his great year.
-Elliot and Halak won the Jennings Trophy for having the allowing the fewest goals during the regular season.
-Elliot also posted franchise records with 9 shutouts and a shutout streak of 241:33.