2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs – Round 3 Preview – Western Conference Final
It’s hard to fathom how we could have back to back Game 7 duds but that is what we got in the Western Conference. I don’t get how a team (Stars and Predators) can just not show up for the biggest game of the season. To lose by five goals is a complete failure on multiple levels. It’s a failure by all the players, coaches and the captain of the team. It was apparent both games were over after the 1st period as well. It’s just not something I can comprehend. How do you not show up and put in your best effort? Especially when you are at home, as the Stars were. They also missed two empty nets, which is ridiculous on it’s own. But kudos for the Sharks and Blues for both showing up and playing like it mattered.
C2 St. Louis Blues vs. W3 San Jose Sharks
Season Series: 2-1 Sharks
Playoff Series History: 2-2
What We Learned: The Blues took down the defending champs and then the best team in the west in seven games. Those are big feats. The Sharks took down their nemesis and then an overachieving team. Both of these teams were labeled as chokers but they did the choking this time, winning both of their game sevens by five goals.
Stars to Watch: These two rosters are very similar. The Sharks have eight players with at least seven points and the Blues have ten, although they have played in two more games. Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski are the Sharks two most dynamic players and the lead the team in goals. For the Blues it is Vladimir Tarasenko and David Backes. They both have players you’ve never heard of that are contributing big. Joonas Donskoi for the Sharks and Robby Fabbri for the Blues. The funny thing is both had about 30 something points in their rookie year but they are now elevating their game in the playoffs. They both have a skilled defenseman that get bring it offensively. Brent Burns for the Sharks and Kevin Kevin Shattenkirk for the Blues. They also both possess an unsung playoff hero that is usually in the right spot at the right time. Joel Ward for the Sharks and Troy Brouwer for the Blues. As you can tell these teams are very similar and even. I think what gives the Sharks the slight advantage is Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau. Sure they’ve never done anything in the past, in the playoffs, but it’s still more skill and experience than the Blues are able to match.
X-Factor: Can you say pressure? The Blues haven’t been to the Stanley Cup Finals in decades and they’ve never won the cup. The Sharks have never been to the finals period. The Blues are the home team which, I guess, makes them the favorites. This is good for the Sharks because they don’t do well under pressure or when they are the favorites. Because they missed the playoffs last season and came in as the 3rd seed, there is no pressure on them now. The Blues have played the maximum games possible and this series figures to go long so they will probably start to show fatigue. But the Kings went to the max a few seasons ago, and won it all, so it’s not impossible to do.
Goalie Problem: Martin Jones has played well in his only playoff starts of his career. Even though he only faced 20 shots against the Predators in Game 7, he stopped them all. More importantly, he had good net presence of where he should be, when he didn’t know where the puck was. He hasn’t let the spotlight phase him. Brian Elliott keeps proving why he’s been the best Blues goalie the past several seasons. He’s been posting his best playoff numbers of his career so far. The Blues have the experience advantage in net which gives them a slight edge. The Sharks and Blues have two of the best powerplays so the goalies will be tested.
Fun Fact: Out of active players, the most amount of playoff games without a Stanley Cup is 159 for Patrick Marleau. Joe Thornton is second with 144. They won’t break it in this round but at least they could finally get there.
Prediction: Both of these teams are on magical runs that are deserved after all the playoff disappointment they have suffered, or maybe they caused it themselves, over the last few seasons. It’s highly likely the winner of this series wins the Stanley Cup. So for one team, it’ll probably end on the highest note. For the other, it will be disappointment again. Despite the fact that the Blues are playing well, I still feel that the Blackhawks and Stars beat themselves more than the Blues beat them. That’s not to take away from what the Blues have accomplished thus far though. This series is definitely going long. Six games is a minimum but I think it’ll go seven. I am going with the Sharks because I feel that they are the more skilled and deeper team with slightly less pressure but not by much in any of those categories. Sharks in seven.