With two game down, the Western Conference Finals now move to California for the next two games. The St Louis Blues and the San Jose Sharks are tied with one win a piece in the series between the two Western powerhouses. St Louis, who has been successful in the playoffs away from home, is going to look to take the lead back in this series while on the road. While the Sharks hope that their home dominance continues. Tonight’s game is set to start at 9:00 PM ET/ 8:00 PM CT and will once again be on NBCSN.
Game 2 between the St Louis Blues and the San Jose Sharks did not go as planned for the Blues. After winning Game 1 on Sunday, the Blues had hope that they would be able to make it two in a row at home. It only took 2:07 after the drop of the puck for the Sharks to score their first goal of the game. The second period saw a power play goal from Brent Burns while Troy Brouwer was in the box. Another power play goal from Burns in the third (again with Brouwer in the box) put the Sharks up 3-0. The Sharks finished off the game with an empty netter in the final seconds. The final: Blues 0, Sharks 4.
St Louis went 0 for 6 on the power play for the night, including a double minor that the Sharks took for high-sticking. The Blues were virtually a no-show all night. They are known for being a heavy, aggressive team with net-front presence. Unfortunately this night they were slow, and just lacked that jump in the game that was needed.
The St Louis Blues are going to need to make some changes to their play in Game 3. The Sharks absolutely dominated St Louis in Game 2. If the Blues want to get the upper hand in Game 3 they are going to need to do a better job of using their big bodies to screen Sharks’ goaltender Martin Jones. He was not challenged enough, and always seemed to have clear views of shots coming his way.
Another change the Blues are going to need to do is to simply stay out of the penalty box. The Sharks scored twice out of 5 attempts on the power play. San Jose is lethal when on the man-advantage, and the more chances they are given, the more likely they are to score. Obviously the Blues cannot always stay out of the box. So when St Louis does take penalties, they are going to need to find a way to win the special teams battles (or at least break even).
It is vital that the Blues take at least one of the games on the road in this series. St Louis has been powerful away from home in the playoffs. The Blues’ road record is 5-2, while their home record is 4-5. They enjoy being on the road, where they can just play the game and not worry about matching lines. Hopefully this road trip will be similar for the club. They need something to jump-start this team and get them moving. The Sharks have been the better team in both of the first games in this series. St Louis is going to need to find their game before it’s too late.
On that note, the Blues will be looking to make some lineup changes for Game 3. Coach Ken Hitchcock will not say exactly who will be in or out, nor who may simply change lines. Of course, if the other series that the Blues have played are any indication, then we can make some educated guesses. Steve Ott has not played his best hockey in these first 2 games against the Sharks. He may be the first to leave the lineup. In his place may be either Ryan Reaves, Dmitrij Jaskin or Magnus Paajarvi. Both Reaves and Jaskin have played in the playoffs this season, Reaves in 5 games and Jaskin in two. The last game that Paajarvi played in was April 9 against Washington. Another lineup change may be the removal of Joel Edmundson to replace him with Robert Bortuzzo. This worked earlier in the playoffs when the team needed a little pick-me-up, and may work again. The final change that Hitchcock could make is to split up the “STL” line. He did this late in the Dallas series, moving Alexander Steen into Jori Lehtera’s place. The “STL” line has some of the best chemistry on the team, but desperate times call for desperate measures. (blues.nhl)
One thing that does not seem to be changing is Brian Elliott between the pipes. Elliott has been a rock for the Blues in the playoffs, and quite frankly the main reason that they are where they are. Elliott has won his last 3 consecutive road playoff games, so with any luck that will be extended tonight. He has a goals-against average of 2.26 with a .929 save percentage in 16 games. Elliott is proving to everyone that he is not a backup goaltender.
The Sharks have had a turn of fortune at home during the playoffs. While they struggled while at home during the regular season, going 18-20-3; they have found their way during the postseason, posting a 5-1 record at home. In their last series against Nashville, the Sharks made a clean sweep going 4-0 at home. The St Louis Blues are going to need to find a way to break through this home streak that San Jose has going if they want to win the series. It will not be easy, but it’s the Stanley Cup Playoffs, it’s not supposed to be easy.
Injury Report: None.
Let’s Go Blues!
Feature Image Courtesy Of Dinur / Flickr