Game Inside the Game: WCQF Game 2 - Sharks @ Blues - Recap
Most of the focus on Game 2 will be on the postgame brawl or Marc-Edouard Vlasic’s inadvertent goal into his own net, but a closer examination reveals a competitive night between the Sharks and Blues’ top lines. Each team’s top unit made much more of an impact than in Game 1, with St. Louis’ top line ultimately having an edge due to David Backes’ goal at 13:49 of the second period.
Here’s a further look at the matchup of the top lines:
SHARKS: San Jose’s top line of Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski and Patrick Marleau didn’t make much noise in Game 1, and although it was kept off the scoreboard, the unit created much more scoring chances in Game 2.
The line’s best chance to score came late in the first period, after a series of strong shifts was putting continual pressure on St. Louis goaltender Jaroslav Halak. Pavelski had a point-blank shot that clanked off the crossbar, an attempt that would have tied the game at 1-1.
Pavelski also had a strong wraparound effort midway through the second period, but it was stopped by fill-in goalie Brian Elliott, who replaced an injured Halak earlier in the period. The aftermath of that chance led to a fight between Pavelski and the Blues’ Kris Russell, with each getting a five-minute penalty for fighting.
Pavelski had yet another high-percentage chance early in the third period when Thornton fed him from behind the goal for a close-range shot, but Elliott made a nice save to turn back the effort.
While the Blues top line was also generating effective offense, the San Jose’s No. 1 unit also had its moments defensively. Thornton came up with a big play early in the second when he stayed with the Blues’ Andy McDonald on a breakaway and used his stick to prevent the St. Louis left wing from getting off a good enough shot to beat Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi.
BLUES: After getting silenced in Game 1, the Blues’ top line of T.J. Oshie, David Backes and David Perron was a force in Game 2.
The unit had several good scoring chances, and cashed in at 13:49 of the second period when Oshie teamed up with Backes to put St. Louis up 2-0. Oshie did most of the work, avoiding a check by San Jose defenseman Jason Demers and then deking Marleau and Pavelski before finally making a perfect pass to Backes, who found himself with a wide-open net in front of him from the left slot. Backes converted on the easy opportunity.
If it weren’t for some tremendous goaltending by Niemi, the Blues’ top line might have had more evidence of its strong night on the scoreboard. Niemi made a good stop on a shot by Backes at 11:30 of the first, a scoring chance in which Backes found himself with a lot of time and space in the Sharks defensive zone. Backes had another shot from the high slot midway through the second period that was turned back by NIemi.
The unit also drew a slashing penalty early in the third period when the Sharks’ T.J. Galiardi tried to prevent a shot from Oshie, who was in position for a high-percentage chance after a nice setup by Backes. Niemi turned back the attempt but Galiardi went off to the box. The Blues, who were 1-for-6 on the power play, couldn’t convert on that man-advantage opportunity.
While both lines were much more of a force than in Game 1, the bottom line is the Blues’ top unit ultimately got on the scoreboard while the Sharks did not. The Sharks’ No. 1 line played better in the first period and the Blues’ unit was the better one in the second. Both had good scoring chances in the third.
The good news for the Sharks is while they suffered a 3-0 loss, not much of the blame can be placed on the No. 1 line. It did give up one goal, but had several good scoring chances of its own. If San Jose’s top line can continue to go toe-to-toe with the Blues No. 1 unit, it should make for a competitive series going forward.
SHARKS’ NO. 1 LINE: 0 G, 0 A, 8 SOG, 2 H
BLUES’ NO. 1 LINE: 1 G, 1 A, 7 SOG, 4 H