Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Pierre LeBrun of ESPN,
It is a matchup the St. Louis Blues will take over seven games, and this thing sure has the look of seven: Jori Lehtera's winner Sunday night coming with the San Jose Sharks' third line on the ice.
No offense to Chris Tierney's unit for the Sharks, which played well the previous round against the Nashville Predators, but if the Blues can get Lehtera's unit -- with Vladimir Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz out there, or any of their top three lines -- matched up against San Jose's third line, this is an area St. Louis can exploit throughout the Western Conference finals.
This is a series pitting two evenly matched teams. Games will be won by a hair, the way it was Sunday with the Blues prevailing 2-1 in Game 1 and the Sharks perhaps unlucky after outshooting the hosts 32-23 and owning the larger share of Grade A looks.
So the smallest of edges might make the difference from night to night in this series.
from Mark Purdy of the Mercury News,
Plus, you get to hear Bob Cole in action.
San Jose @ St. Louis 8:00 PM ET NBCSN, CBC & TVAS
I expect a physical series and a long one too.
Feel free to comment on the game.
The Western Conference finals series between the St. Louis Blues and San Jose Sharks -- which gets under way with Game 1 on Sunday at 8 p.m. ET in St. Louis -- features a collision of some pretty talented players. Which matchups will be the most compelling? Pierre LeBrun and Craig Custance picked their favorites.
Alexander Steen, C, Blues vs. Joe Thornton, C, Sharks
Most interesting to me will be how Steen is deployed. My guess is he'll see lots of Thornton, Joe Pavelski and Tomas Hertl -- San Jose's top line. And the matchup with Thornton and Pavelski won't just be 5-on-5. Steen is one of the Blues' pre-eminent penalty killers and he'll be among those charged with trying to slow down the Sharks' lethal power play, spearheaded by that duo.
In particular, look for how Steen tries to read Thornton as he directs traffic on the power play from the side boards. Pavelski loves to get his one-timer off from the slot on the power play as well. I can't wait to see how Steen plays into all that. Steen has taken on all comers so far in two series, including Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round and Jamie Benn of the Dallas Stars in the second round. Steen is letting the world know this spring what the Blues have known for a long time: He's got the kind of two-way game that should garner him a Selke Trophy one day. -- Pierre LeBrun
conitnue for more at ESPN
from Ryan Whitney and Mike Rupp at The Players' Tribune,
Sharks vs. Blues. I mean … yikes. I don’t know.
I really don’t know, man. That’s my analysis: “I dunno, man.” You should go on the NHL Network and say that. It’s the truth the people need.
The first thing that comes to my mind is, San Jose’s power play is ridiculous. When you say skill the first team that comes to most people’s minds is probably Chicago, Washington, Pittsburgh. But honestly, I don’t think there’s a collection of five guys who are more skilled than the Sharks’ top PP.
Thornton. Marleau. Pavelski. Couture. Burns. That’s disgusting. Filthy.
And they way they whip the puck around without even looking, it’s like watching five Sedins out there. They know where each other are at all times.
from Mike Zeisberger of the Toronto Sun,
For much of the past decade, the San Jose Sharks and St. Louis Blues have been the NHL’s poster boys for underachievers everywhere.
Year after year, these two franchises tease their fan bases with outstanding regular seasons, tugging at the heart strings of their supporters with promises of bigger and better riches to come once spring arrives.
Then the playoffs start. And, not long afterward, disappointment reigns supreme.
Entering the 2016 post-season, the Blues had won just one playoff series in 14 years. Had that trend continued this time around, coach Ken Hitchcock and, quite possibly, general manager Doug Armstrong, may well have found themselves on the unemployment line.
As for the Sharks, they are just two years removed from the humiliation of becoming just the fourth team in NHL history to blow a 3-0 lead in a best-of-seven playoff series, bowing out to the rival Los Angeles Kings in 2014.
from Shawn P. Roarke of NHL.com,
The San Jose Sharks and St. Louis Blues are not the most traditional rivals in the Western Conference. That will change during the next two weeks, when they battle for the right to represent the West in the 2016 Stanley Cup Final.
The Sharks, from the Pacific Division, and the Blues, from the Central Division, have met in the playoffs on four occasions, and each team has won two series. The Sharks defeated the Blues in two of three games during the 2015-16 regular season, winning twice at Scottrade Center and losing 1-0 at SAP Center on March 22.
Game 1 of the best-of-7 Western Conference Final is Sunday at Scottrade Center (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).
Each team will feel the weight of history in this series.
The Sharks, in the conference final for the first time since 2011, have never been to the Final. They have lost in the third round on three occasions. St. Louis is playing in the conference final for the first time since 2001 and has not advanced to the Final since 1970. The Blues made the Final in each of their first three seasons in the NHL (1968-70), but were swept each time.
Here are 5 storylines to follow in the lead-up to the Western Conference Final:
1. POINTS OF ATTACK
This series features the top two point-producing defensemen remaining in the postseason in Brent Burns of the Sharks and Kevin Shattenkirk of the Blues.
from Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch,
In John Davidson’s rough outline of how to build a hockey franchise for long-term success, there are three broad directives:
First, make your franchise a place where veteran players want to come and want to stay. Second, surround the youngest players with veterans who can show them how to be pros. Third, draft the best young players and develop them properly.
Davidson, the Blue Jackets’ president of hockey operations, acknowledged that the 2015-16 season, which began with playoff aspirations and ended with the NHL’s fourth-worst record, called into question all three items.
But if Davidson or general manager manager Jarmo Kekalainen — or, for that matter, the beleaguered fan base — needs reassurance, they need only look West.
Or watch the Western Conference finals.
The St. Louis Blues, whom Davidson directed from 2006 to ’12 and Kekalainen built through the draft from 2002 to ’10, are on the doorstep of the Stanley Cup finals.
“I’m proud of what we did in St. Louis,” Davidson said.
From Joe Sudberg,
The Conference Finals matchups are set; the Tampa Bay Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins will square off in the Eastern Conference Finals, while the St. Louis Blues will face the San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference Finals. To reach this point, St. Louis and San Jose both needed to win Game 7s, but both Game 7 wins surprisingly happened in blowout fashion. St. Louis routed Dallas 6-1 on the road, while San Jose won 5-0 at home.
from Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch,
As Wednesday went along, the anxiety at workplaces throughout St. Louis continued to build. Sixteen days after sitting through an agonizing Game 7 against Chicago, waiting until the third period for the game-winning goal, how could Blues fans make it through another?
The club made it much easier on everybody this time.
Sure, there were perhaps many not ready to jump the gun on a trip to the Western Conference finals, but after the Blues jumped Dallas with a first period that took the air out of American Airlines Center, they left little suspense in a 6-1 win over the Stars in Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals.
The Blues are headed to the NHL’s final four for just the seventh time in franchise history — the first time since 2001 — and with Washington and Dallas being eliminated, they are assured home-ice advantage the rest of the way. First up will be the winner of Nashville-San Jose, who will decide their series with a Game 7 Thursday.
Game highlights are below...
About Kukla's Korner Hockey
Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.
Email Paul anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org