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Western Conference Final Game 1 Preview: Sharks vs Blues

Location: SAP Center

Time: 8:00 p.m. ET; (NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS)

Overview:

The San Jose Sharks and St. Louis Blues will play Game 1 of the Western Conference Final at SAP Center tonight. Both teams are coming into the series winning Game 7 in the second round. The Blues eliminated the Dallas Stars 2-1 in double overtime, and the Sharks beat the Colorado Avalanche 3-2 in regulation.

The last time both teams played each other in the Stanley Cup Finals was the 2016 Western Conference Final, with the Sharks winning in six games. The winner of this series will enter the Stanley Cup Final, facing either the Boston Bruins or Carolina Hurricanes.

Sharks Notes and Headlines

The Sharks have the best home record in the playoffs with a 6-2 record. They outscored opponents 31-22 and won both Game 7s at SAP Center. Now they will face against the Blues, who have the best playoff best road record of 5-1.

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Another test for the Sharks is Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington. For the first time all season the Sharks will face the rookie goaltender. Binnington, 25, was 24-5-1 during the regular season. His amazing season makes him the top candidate for the Calder Trophy.

Sharks Defense

Sharks goaltender Martin Jones will have to outduel Binnington to help the Sharks win the first game of the series. Top Defensemen Brent Burns, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, and Erik Karlsson have to shut down the Blues top line of Brayden Schenn, Jaden Schwartz, and Vladimir Tarasenko. In the second round against the Avalanche, the Sharks defensive core did a great job shutting down the top line of Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon, and Mikko Rantanen.

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Sharks Power-Play Unit

The Sharks total power play was 10-for-54 (18.5 %) in the playoffs. In the second round against the Avalanche, they were 2-for-20 (10%). They hope to improve on the man-advantage with Joe Pavelski back in the lineup. Pavelski returned to Game 7 and immediately made an impact scoring a goal and assist.

 

Blues Notes and Headlines

 Offense

Blues top-line of Schenn, Schwartz, and Tarasenko scored eight goals in 13 games. Schwartz has been outstanding being the top goalscorer in the line with six goals. Their competition will be Sharks top line of Logan Couture, Timo Meier, and Gustav Nyquist. The line has been formed since Joe Pavelski injury. They outdueled the Avalanche top line in the second round scoring six goals. They only gave up two goals throughout the second round.

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Ryan O’Reilly is another key player for the Blues. Lately, he had been lined up with David Perron and Sammy Blais in the last two games. Expect those three players to be in the second line tonight. Rookie, Robert Thomas had been outstanding in the playoffs scoring one goal and four assists. He set up the Patrick Maroon series-clinching goal.

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Defense

The Blues defense stood out the most in this year’s playoffs. They are lead by captain Alex Pietrangelo, who scored 11 points in 13 games and averages 25:51 total ice-times in the playoffs. He will be paired with Joel Edmundson, while Colton Parayko will be paired with veteran Jay Bouwmeester. 

Craig Berube Tactics.

Berube style of play made the Blues a strong playoff team. Having a tight, strong forecheck helped the Blues turn the puck over and regain possession. Sharks defenseman Brent Burns has trouble against the forecheck. Berube approach to a disciplined defensive game can provide a good balance against the Sharks strong attack.

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