May 11, 2019
By Frank Ammirante
2018-19 St. Louis Blues & San Jose Sharks Season Series Recap
Nov. 9, 2018 – STL 4, SJ 0
Nov. 17, 2018 – SJ 4, STL 0
March 9, 2019 – SJ 3, STL 2 (OT)
NHL Western Conference Finals Series Matchups
St. Louis Blues – Even Strength Forward Lines
San Jose Sharks – Even Strength Forward Lines
Both of these teams have stacked forward groups. The Blues’ top line of Schwartz-Schenn-Tarasenko is the most talented line in the series. Schwartz has followed up a disappointing season with a strong playoffs, tallying 8 goals and 3 assists thus far. However, Tarasenko has struggled, tallying only 5 points in 13 games. He needs to get things going in this series. The Blues are strong down the middle, with Schenn, O’Reilly, and Bozak each contributing solid two-way play. Robert Thomas and Oskar Sundqvist have played well this postseason, which has provided St. Louis with strong secondary scoring. The Sharks have a vast collection of talented forwards. Timo Meier and Tomas Hertl have followed up their breakout seasons with strong playoffs (Meier: 3 G 7 A 14 P; Hertl: 9 G 5 A 14 P). Veterans Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski have also played very well. The Sharks will get a boost with the return of Pavelski, who missed 6 of the 7 games in the semifinals vs. Colorado.
VERDICT: While the Blues may have the most talented line in the series, the Sharks have a more talented forward group overall, with a great mix of veterans and young players, as well as size and speed.
ADVANTAGE: San Jose Sharks
St. Louis Blues – Defensive Pairings
San Jose Sharks – Defensive Pairings
The Blues have a great combination of size and skill on their blueline (Pietrangelo: 6’3, Edmundson: 6’4, Bouwmeester: 6’4, Parayko: 6’6). Pietrangelo is a stud, Edmundson is a shutdown defenseman, Parayko has a rocket of a shot, and Bouwmeester is a smooth-skating veteran. Rookie Vince Dunn is a strong puck-moving defenseman who also has some skill. He does a good job on the St.Louis PP. This is a group with a nice combination of top-end talent and depth. The Sharks defense core might be the best in the NHL right now, with stars like Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson complemented by shutdown defensemen like Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Brenden Dillon. Burns (5 G 9 A, 14 P) and Karlsson (0 G, 12 A, 12 P) have had very good playoffs. Karlsson had a down year with some injuries, so having him at near-peak form has been a huge boost to San Jose.
VERDICT: Both teams have great defense, but the Sharks combination of elite talent with shutdown skills give them the edge here.
ADVANTAGE: San Jose Sharks
St. Louis Blues – Powerplay
Sharks – Powerplay
During the 2018-19 NHL season, the Blues ranked 9th in the league with a 21.1% PP success rate, while the Sharks ranked 6rd at 23.7%. In the playoffs, St.Louis has gone 7-41 on PPs for a rate of 17.1%, ranking 11th of 16 playoff teams, while the Sharks have converted PPs at a rate of 18.5%, scoring goals on 10 of 54 chances, good for 10th out of all playoff teams. On the PK, the Blues ranked 9th with an 81.5% success rate during the season, while the Sharks came in at 15th with a 80.8% success rate. In the playoffs, the Blues have killed 75% of penalties, good for 12th out of 16. The Sharks have been better on the PK, with a success rate 80.8%, ranking 9th out of 16.
VERDICT: The Sharks have two of the best PP QBs in the NHL in Erik Karlsson and Brent Burns holding down the fort. They have been more successful on both the PP and PK. There is a slight advantage here for San Jose.
ADVANTAGE: San Jose Sharks
St. Louis Blues
Season: 24-5-1, 1.89GAA, .927SV%, 5SO
Playoffs: 8-5-0, 2.39GAA, .915SV%, 0SO
Season: 19-17-8, 2.83GAA, .905SV%, 3SO
San Jose Sharks
Season: 36-19-5, 2.94GAA, .896SV%, 3SO
Playoffs: 8-5-0, 2.72GAA, .910SV%, 0SO
Season: 10-8-4, 3.17GAA, .886SV%, 2SO
Playoffs: 0-0-1, 3.33GAA, .861SV%, 0SO
Jordan Binnington set the league on fire when taking over the starting job, winning 24 of his 30 games between the pipes. He is a major reason why the Blues made the playoffs and have been able to advance this far. Binnington has played well this postseason. Jake Allen has experience and is a capable backup. Martin Jones had a highly disappointing season, with a sub-.900SV% and a near-3.00 GAA. He has played better in the playoffs, especially in the Vegas series. Aaron Dell is a shaky backup, as his numbers were even worse than Jones’ this season.
VERDICT: Jordan Binnington has played like one of the best goaltenders in the NHL since taking over this starting job, so the clear advantage goes to the St.Louis Blues here.
ADVANTAGE: St. Louis Blues
At the time of Jordan Binnington’s first start on January 7th, the Blues were 21-23-8, in danger of missing the playoffs for the 2nd consecutive year. They finished off the season on a tear and have continued their strong play in the playoffs. The Sharks are a more talented team from top to bottom, but the Blues have essentially been playing playoff hockey since January. This is a battle-tested team with superior goaltending. I think they will prevail here.
PREDICTION: St. Louis Blues in 6
Are You Playing Game 1 On www.statementgames.com? My Top Three Picks!
10 Point Pick: Alex Pietrangelo will play OVER 23.43 MINUTES
Pietrangelo has averaged 25:52 minutes of ice time this postseason
9 Point Pick: Jaden Schwartz + Brayden Schenn OVER 1.5 Combined PTS
Schwartz has 4 goals and 2 assists in his 6 games. Schenn is pointless in his last 6, but he’s due to get on the scoresheet playing on the top line. Schwartz can go over this total by himself.
8 Point Pick: Total Goals OVER 5.5
Both of these teams can light up the score sheet, and the OVER is 6-2 in SJ’s 8 home games this postseason.