Sharks Playoff Gameday: The Fuse Has Been Lit
Series tied 1-1
CSN-CA, NBC Sports Net
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After all of the fireworks at the end of game two (which has ended up looking like a meeting at a nun convent following the mayhem in Philadelphia yesterday), it seems like there's about two ways tonight is going to go-- it's either an up-tempo war of epic proportions with Patrick Marleau dropping the gloves three times throughout the night, or it ends up a tight-checking affair with your standard post-whistle scrums and nothing more.
A lot of times after a finish like that you'll expect some fireworks, and a lot of times the pace will settle down in the first period and end up looking like nothing happened. It's funny how hockey works sometimes.
As both Todd McLellan and Blues Head Coach Ken Hitchcock told David Pollak of Working The Corners yesterday, moving on is in the best interest of both clubs:
"It doesn’t matter whether I’m OK with that or not," McLellan said of no disciplinary action by the league. (Remember, McLellan was particularly livid about the punch Moore took.) "Decisions have been made and we have to move on."
Added Hitchcock: "It’s yesterday’s news. All this stuff about message-sending, it never works anyway. This time of year there’s only one payback. Win the hockey game. There’s no retribution other than play to win."
If you're looking for one last look at the fights please click here.
Brian Elliot is expected to be in net for the Blues tonight, and while Halak travelled with the team, it looks like Jake Allen will serve the backup role as Halak's health is still in question. But for all those licking their chops at getting a shot at the backup goalie, rest assured Elliot has been just as good as Halak this season if not a little superior-- Elliot led the League in SV% this season with a .940 SV% and actually set a modern day record in the GAA department, posting a 1.56 GAA.
Getting to those high percentage areas to beat Elliot will be huge for San Jose tonight, something they've done in fits and spurts throughout the series but not with any real consistency. The good news is that as we covered during Saturday's game preview (as well in our scoring chance roundups), San Jose has done a pretty good job of limiting St. Louis' chances as well-- both games thus far have been fairly low-event affairs. It speaks to both the defensive quality of these two clubs as well as their rosters being built in a "meat and potatoes" mold, where board play and grinding it out in the corners is an area where they thrive.
In other words, thus far this series has played out like a Jody Shelley fight-- seventeen sweater jabs with the left hand to soften them up, and then a couple right hooks at the end to complete the takedown.
Here's a few relevant questions to be on the lookout for tonight:
- Who scores first? So far the team who has scored the first goal has come out with the victory. As the Blues showed this season they're a helluva team to come back against when they're sitting on a lead, and while the Sharks managed to do it in the third period of game one, I wouldn't count on too many come from behind victories from either team this series. The Blues defensive abilities make it hard to envision them giving much up and Antti Niemi is dialed in like the 2010 WCF's right now.
- Is the shutout in game two continuing a trend or a blip on the radar? With as much firepower as this Sharks team up front you have to figure they're going to find the back of the net the rest of this series, but the fact that St. Louis has managed to shut them out a grand total of 3 times this season (or half the games they've played) is something that needs to be mentioned. We've beaten the neutral zone to death over the last seven days so I'll spare you the X's and O's, but it's pretty clear that's going to continue to be the key from here on out.
- If Roman Polak fought Douglas Murray would it bring about The End of Days? Yes. If it happened at The Tank it's San Francisco 1906 all over again./
Prediction: Sharks win 2-1. Goals by Pavelski and Braun.