Blues-Sharks season rewind
ST. LOUIS - The Blues and San Jose Sharks will begin their Western Conference Quarterfinals matchup Thursday night at Scottrade Center. And if their four regular season meetings are any indication, the Blues should be in pretty good shape.
The Blues swept all four meetings from the Sharks and allowed just three goals, thanks in large part to stellar goaltending from both Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott. The tandem each played two games against San Jose and each had a shutout.
Defensemen Alex Pietrangelo and Kevin Shattenkirk were the lone Blues to have multiple goals against the Sharks. They had two apiece, counting for four of the 11 scored by St. Louis in the four games.
San Jose enters the series with three 30-goal scorers and one of the elite centers in the game in veteran Joe Thornton. The Sharks has plenty of playoff experience and knows what it takes to win this time of year.
The Blues can't say the same thing. Aside from a small group of veterans including Jamie Langenbrunner and Jason Arnott, most players on the Blues roster have yet to win a single playoff game. A good portion haven't even played in a playoff game.
Since the Blues won their last playoff game in 2004, the Sharks have won 38 playoff games. They've lost in the Western Conference Finals in each of the past two seasons.
Will the Sharks' postseason success continue or can the Blues end their playoff drought and advance to the next round? We'll find out starting Thursday, but for now, here's a look at the previous four meetings this season and what coach Ken Hitchcock and the players are saying about the series.
Elliott stopped 34 of 36 shots in his first start of the year and the Blues overcame a third-period deficit to win the early season matchup. Trailing 2-1 headed to the third period, the Blues got goals from Kent Huskins and Alex Steen and an empty netter from David Backes to complete the comeback. The Blues were outshot 36-20 for the game, but Elliott stopped all 13 shots in the third period to seal their first win in San Jose in nearly two years.
Elliott continued his early season success by stopping all 24 shots for his fourth shutout to date. In a sign of things to come, Elliott allowed two goals or less for the 13th time in 14 starts. Shattenkirk scored the Blues only goal on a 5-on-3 power play late in the first period. Sharks goalie Antti Niemi was saddled with the loss despite stopping 18 of 19 shots.
In Andy McDonald's first game following a 51-game absence from a concussion, the Blues scored two 5-on-3 goals and added an empty netter for their third win over the Sharks in as many tries. Halak got his first chance in goal against the Sharks and made the most of it, posting his sixth shutout of the season. Perron and Pietrangelo scored with the two-man advantages and Pietrangelo added the empty netter.
The Blues completed the four-game sweep of San Jose with power play goals from McDonald and Shattenkirk and a redirection from T.J. Oshie just 20 seconds after San Jose had briefly tied the game 1-1 late in the first period. Halak stopped 18 of 19 shots for the win, giving the Blues their longest win-streak against the Sharks since they won five straight in 2003.
Forward David Backes on playing San Jose: "They don't give us credit for any of those four wins in the postseason. The past is the past and we need to play that same sort of game where we make them earn their ice. Those four games are in the past and we don't start with a lead because we won four games against them in the regular season."
Coach Ken Hitchcock on the series: "There's a reason we're 4-0 against this team. We're 4-0 because we played better than they did and we have to find a way to keep up that streak."
Shattenkirk on growing playoff beards: "It's starting right now. You may not see it right now but its slowly coming in. I'm hoping to have it going for quite a long time. The worst beard, I'm going to have to go with Oshie. I hate to say it but he's not one to grow much on his face. The best is probably going to be Roman Polak. He's going to have a pretty grizzly beard."