For the first time in the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Sharks trail in a series. San Jose sat tied with Los Angeles only in game one and then twice with the Predators in games five and seven, but we never woke up the morning after a game to a series deficit. I did not miss this feeling.
This loss felt nothing like the game three loss in Nashville, which served as a bit of an alarm clock to a team that seemed to be coasting after winning four games in a row. While the Sharks rightfully deserved to lose that game, and game six for that matter, they played a fabulous game in St. Louis to open the series on Sunday evening. If the Sharks continue to do what they did to open this series, I like their chances.
I'll break down what the Sharks need to improve on in another post — for now, let's take a look at the positives we can take from the game one loss. San Jose posted better possession numbers than just about everyone in the NHL this season (and beat two of the teams ahead of them already this postseason) and that trend continued against the Blues.
The Sharks took 59.4 percent of the score-adjusted fenwick attempts in the game and outshot the Blues 32-23. San Jose generated 19 scoring chances compared to St. Louis' 10 and the top line of Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski and Tomas Hertl continued to dominate in the postseason. The hockey gods rewarded the top line with the Sharks' only goal, but an 0-3 night on the power play likely sticks out to fans growing accustomed to the high percentage San Jose has converted with an extra man these playoffs.
Pavelski put seven shots on goal on Sunday while Tomas Hertl and Joel Ward took four apiece. That poor puck luck may continue for the rest of time...but it probably won't. The Sharks owe some of their shooting percentage troubles to the fine play of Brian Elliott but putting that many shots on net game in and game out serves as a mighty tasty recipe for San Jose to find success the rest of the way.
While Martin Jones won't add the second Blues' goal to his highlight reel anytime soon, the Sharks netminder played rather well against a St. Louis team with some great offensive players. He stopped 21 of 23 shots (.913) in all strengths and saved 18 of the 19 (.947) even strength shots thrown towards him. If he plays like that the rest of the series, the Sharks will be just fine.
The first period ended tied 1-1 but the Blues played a bit better than the Sharks, I thought, but San Jose made some adjustments and absolutely blitzed St. Louis in the second. So, naturally, the Blues took a 2-1 lead into the final stanza. The scoreline may be disappointing, but the Sharks' adjustments absolutely worked. That's an encouraging sign in a series that figures to be as long as this one does.