The Western Conference Finals between the St Louis Blues and the San Jose Sharks has moved to Game 6. The Sharks are leading the series 3 games to 2, with only one more win needed to move the team on to the Stanley Cup finals. The Blues will be looking to pull off a win tonight and move the series back to St Louis and a Game 7. Tonight should be an exciting match as both teams battle for the win. The puck is set to drop at 9:00 PM ET/ 8:00 PM CT on NBCSN.
After a blow-out Blues’ win in Game 4, hopes were high that the St Louis Blues could pull out another big win in Game 5 on home ice. Unfortunately the Blues have not done very well on home ice in the playoffs this season, going 4-6 in Scottrade Center. Jake Allen was given the start in goal, and David Backes and Robby Fabbri, both of whom were questionable, started the game as well. The Sharks scored first, but Jaden Schwartz tied the game quickly after. Troy Brouwer ended the first period with his 8th goal of the postseason. The second period was full of power play goals from both teams, two for San Jose and one from Fabbri for St Louis. The third saw three more Sharks’ goals (two empty-netters). The final: Blues 3, Sharks 6. Ouch. Another painful game to watch for Blues’ fans.
Now the Blues head on the road, a place where they have had more success this postseason. This game is a must-win for the Blue Note, who now face elimination. Will they be able to pull off the win and bring the series back to St Louis for a deciding Game 7? They are 2-0 in elimination games in this postseason. One thing is for sure, some more adjustments are going to need to be made.
The first adjustment that will be made is that Brian Elliott will be back between the pipes. Jake Allen started the last 2 games, but it is time to go back to the goaltender who got us here. Allen’s Game 5 was a bit off, he showed some obvious rust. The Game 5 loss was not Allen’s fault, but he definitely had an off night, and things were not as clean as they could be. After being injured late in the season, he has been the back-up to Elliott for some time. It is hard to get your “A” game going when you are sitting on the bench for so long. So Moose will get back in the net just as the Blues need him most. Elliott has been sitting the last two games so hopefully the added rest will allow him to be refreshed and ready to go in Game 6. As coach Ken Hitchcock said, “This has been Brian’s playoffs and we’d like to see him finish the job.”
The next thing the Blues are going to need to do is stay out of the penalty box. Penalties proved costly to the Blues in Game 5, and they are going to need tighten up that part of their game. This has been a special teams series, whichever team wins the power play battle for the night, wins the game. San Jose is so powerful with the man advantage, it will pay for the Blues to stay out of the box and spend the night on 5-on-5 play.
Obviously the St Louis Blues will not be able to completely stay penalty clean throughout Game 6. They should, however be careful not to take selfish penalties. That is, they should not retaliate for hits (the refs always see the retaliation), nor should they take frustration out on Sharks. These little jabs and hits are not necessary, they break your concentration of what you are supposed to be doing (which plays right into the Sharks’ hands), and the refs always call these penalties. These penalties are hurting the team, and need to stop. A great example of this is Kevin Shattenkirk in Game 5. He was hit by Tommy Wingels (a hit that was not called) and then Shattenkirk proceeded to cross-check Wingels over and over, even as play moved away from them on the ice. Of course this was called and, on the power play that followed, the Sharks scored a goal. You don’t win championships if you don’t have discipline, and St Louis did not have discipline in their last game. The Blues are going to need to show that they can still play their hard game, while being disciplined enough to not find themselves in the box.
The St Louis Blues should get some help from Scottie Upshall tonight as it appears that he will be joining the lineup for Game 6. That means that someone must come out of the lineup, and that looks to be Magnus Paajarvi. Upshall last played May 17 in Game 2 against the Sharks. He has been dealing with an undisclosed upper-body injury since the regular season. Hopefully the past week has given him some time to heal. Upshall has 1 goal and 2 assists in these playoffs. Paajarvi played in 3 playoff games and recorded 1 assist.
Everyone seems to be talking about Vladimir Tarasenko lately. Tarasenko has 7 goals and 6 assists this postseason for the Blues, all in the first 2 Rounds. Unfortunately he has been scoreless in the series against the Sharks. San Jose did their homework before playing the Blues, and has been able to shut down Tarasenko like no other team this postseason. Yes, he has taken some hard hits on the ice, and he’s a new dad at home, but fans should not fear that Tarasenko lost his mojo. The Sharks have been on Tarasenko like glue with players like Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Justin Braun. They have been keeping him from taking shots, and just plain frustrating Tarasenko. At any moment Tarasenko could break through and be the difference-maker once again. Until that time, everyone is going to have to deal with him being part of the team as opposed to the star of the team. Tarasenko said it best when he said, “…It’s that time of year when you trade your goals to reach a goal and win a [Stanley] Cup. It’s not the time to think about your goals.” (nhl.com)
Injury Report: None.
Let’s Go Blues!
Feature Image Courtesy Of Dinur / Flickr