St. Louis: 49-22-11 / 109 points
San Jose: 43-29-10 / 96 points
San Jose: Joe Thornton (82 GP / 18G / 59A / +17)
Logan Couture (80 GP / 31G / 34A / +2)
Dan Boyle (81 GP / 9G / 39A / +10)
St. Louis: Jaroslav Halak/Brian Elliott (combined for 49 wins and league best 165 goals against)
Alex Pietrangelo (81GP / 12G / 39A / +16)
David Backes (82GP / 24G / 30A / +15)
St. Louis swept the series 4-0 and outscored San Jose 11-3.
St. Louis wins…
If the Blues play to their mid-season form they are capable of sweeping their playoff series. Pietrangelo and Kevin Shattenkirk are an outstanding duo on defense, putting up 94 points between them this season. The Blues come at you in waves, boasting 7 players with 15 or more goals, but it is their team defense that really stands out. Their goalies boast save percentages of 0.926 and 0.940, and they have 11 players with positive double digit plus/minus ratings.
The Blues are also a very physical team, led by their captain David Backes. The additions of Jamie Langenbrunner and Jason Arnott will help lead a young team through the tough playoff games ahead, and their sheer depth may be the biggest factor. Players such as Alexander Steen, Matt D’Agostini, and Kris Russell are very capable contributors.
San Jose wins…
The Sharks have been there before, and this factor cannot be taken lightly. They have advanced to the conference finals each of the last two years, and know what it takes to get past teams like St. Louis.
The Sharks may seem like a team that backed into the playoffs, but were actually 7-3 in their last 10 games. They possess four players with more points than the team high 54 points produced by Backes for St. Louis. Antti Niemi has had an uneven year in net for the Sharks, but he has won the cup and knows what it takes to go all the way. If he finds his game, the Sharks will get their swagger back.
San Jose also has a big, physical team and if they can match up in this aspect of the game they have a chance. They also have an impressive duo on defense with Dan Boyle and Brent Burns, a pair with much more playoff experience than Pietrangelo and Shattenkirk. A wild card in this series could be the play of Martin Havlat, who is rounding back into form after a mid season injury. He has posted 28 points in his last 26 playoff games and has the speed and skill to be a game changer.
The winner is…
The Blues may have struggled recently, but Ken Hitchcock is a great coach who has won the cup. He will settle his troops after a rough period or game, and has the depth to either play a match up game or simply roll all four lines. This series could be over early if Niemi struggles, but regardless of how well he plays he is likely to be outmatched by either goalie for St. Louis. That factor, and the willingness of the Blues to play Hitchcock’s system will carry St. Louis to victory.
Fearless prediction: St. Louis in 6
Check back soon for our next 'Playoff Preview'.