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The St. Louis Blues and San Jose Sharks are set to face off in the Western Conference Finals as both franchises look to advance further for a chance to win their first Stanley Cup. The Blues come off an impressive 6 game series win over a favored Dallas Stars team loaded with offensive power. The defense for St. Louis made things much easier on goalie Brian Elliot as captain David Backes and Troy Brouwer were an authoritative force on the boards with the addition of three game winning goals for Backes as well.
San Jose comes off a thrilling seven game series where the Sharks found their homeice advantage finally this season and came away with a dominating 5-0 win over the Nashville Preditors. The power play for San Jose provided a tremendous advantage over Nashville as captain Joe Pavelski has led the Sharks with nine playoff goals thus far putting him in a tie with Nikita Kucherov of Tampa Bay as the league leader.
Keys to series
For St Louis, look for continued control of the puck as Paul Stastny has been the best of these playoffs winning 191 face-offs thus far. Look for that number to possibly increase as the Sharks were vulnerable at times against the face-off, most noticeably in their Game 6 loss. For San Jose, look for the Sharks to continue their high pressure dump and chase offensive style mix in the their team wide ability to draw penalties and capitalize on power play opportunities. Thus far in these playoffs, the Sharks have continued to lead the league in both power play goals scored as well as power play efficiency. If St. Louis looks to pull out this tight series and advance to the Stanley Cup Finals, they must stay out of the box.
For St. Louis, look for Stastny to create time of puck possession by his ability to win face-offs. By making San Jose play to St. Louis’s tempo, the Blues can pick and choose when to attack the Sharks who’s back-line is lackadaisical at times.
The main factors for San Jose in this series will be the defensive presence of the league’s hardest and most versatile players, Brent Burns. Burns can cover anything on the ice and put players through the glass with his bone-crushing hits. Mix that in with his ability to play up in the zone and a nasty slap-shot, you have one monster to deal with.
Prediction: This series goes the distance to Game 7, but it will be the San Jose Sharks continuing with their ability to win on the road and take this series in overtime and advance to their first Stanley Cup Final.