If the Sharks lost game five, we'd be talking about missed opportunities. After the first period the Sharks led in scoring chances 8-5 but trailed 2-1 on the scoreboard. When the final horn sounded on Monday night San Jose held a 19-11 scoring chance advantage and, as you well know, a 4-3 lead.
One constant through this series has been the Sharks edge in scoring chances. San Jose holds a 141-104 scoring chance edge according to war-on-ice.com and a 56-45 edge in high-danger scoring chances. This advantage grows larger still when restricting it to 5v5 play. The Sharks lead in 5v5 scoring chances 109-76 and in HDSC 43-32 while playing at evens.
That speaks as much to St. Louis' strong penalty kill as it does to San Jose's not-so-stellar spells while playing down a man. The point is that the Sharks dominated the Blues at even strength during the first five games of this series, something I can't say I saw coming entering the Western Conference Finals.
While much of the talk after game five will be the Sharks two power-play goals, San Jose also leads the Blues 10-5 in 5v5 goals. If you look all the way back to the regular season (which yes, feels like a long time ago) San Jose holds a 15-8 edge in even-strength tallies. At all strengths they lead 26-16 in goals over eight games played.
For the visual learners among us, here are the locations of the Sharks' scoring chances in game five from the always excellent hockeystats.ca.
Every goal except Marc-Edouard Vlasic's game opener came from a scoring chance. What I love about this San Jose team is that they don't settle for shots from distance when trailing. They stick to their gameplan no matter the score, which is something we saw when St. Louis effectively blew the Sharks out of the water in game four, too.
Leading in scoring chances, corsi, fenwick, etc. are no guarantee that the Sharks will win, of course, but San Jose's dominance in these peripheral numbers bode well for their chances in game six. If the Sharks keep up this kind of production, they'll be in good shape against the Blues on Wednesday.
This is still a small sample size, of course, and while I think the Sharks are the better team this isn't time to get comfortable. If San Jose continues to play the way they have throughout this series (yes, even in the two losses) we'll see the first Stanley Cup Final played at SAP Center next week.