The San Jose Sharks face the #2 seed St. Louis Blues in Game 4 in the best of seven Western Conference First Round Stanley Cup Playoffs in San Jose on Thursday. This is the 28th playoff series in franchise history for the Sharks (13-14) and the 4th playoff series meeting vs. the St. Louis Blues.
Previous Playoff Series vs. the Blues (all Quarterfinals series in the Western Conference)
2003-04 – the #2 seed San Jose Sharks defeat the #7 seed St. Louis Blues 4-1
2000-01 – the #4 seed St. Louis Blues defeat the #5 seed San Jose Sharks 4-3
1999-00 – the #8 seed San Jose Sharks defeat the #1 seed St. Louis Blues 4-3
RECAP GAME 3:
The St. Louis Blues took Game 3 and a 2-1 series lead with a 4-3 victory in San Jose on Monday night.
The Blues grabbed a 4-1 lead early in the third period and held the Sharks off for the win. Patrick Berglund (3rd), Andy McDonald (2nd), Jason Arnott (1st), and Alex Steen (1st) scored for the Blues while Brian Elliott made 26 saves in the win. Carlo Colaiacovo added three power plays assists for St. Louis.
The Sharks allowed three power play goals on four chances in the defeat.
MATCH-UPS TO WATCH
With the extra day off between Games 3 and 4 in San Jose, both teams got an extra day of rest heading into Thursday night’s game. This extra day may be of an advantage to the Sharks as they can retool their penalty kill and give a few of their veterans a breather heading into Game 4.
The Blues power play came to life in Game 3 and sunk the Sharks with a 3-for-3 effort in the first 51:00 minutes. Not a good sign for the Sharks who finished 29th in the NHL in the regular season with a 76.9% on the PK and just a 73.3% PK on home ice. The Sharks need to stay out of the Box in Game 4.
THE BIG THREE:
The Sharks top line of Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau , and Joe Pavelski combined for 79 goals in the regular season, but have yet to find the back of the net for three games. Thornton did add three assists in Game 3 but he and the rest of the top line need to find the back of the net…if they are still together in Game 4 – read below.
Coach Todd McLellan inserted NHL playoff veteran Colin White for Jason Demers in Game 3 and White scored the Sharks second goal of the game.
“We can do small things in all areas of the game to get better... We can look at new line combinations, potential lineup changes. There’s a lot of things we can do.” - Sharks Head Coach Todd McLellan
Coach McLellan gave a new look during Wednesday’s morning practice to the top 4 lines:
Brad Winchester adds some size and some grit up front on the sharks 4th line. Winchester played in 67 regular season games for San Jose and added six goals and 88 pims. Winchester has 23 games of NHL playoff experience under his belt and I am sure that he would love to stick it to his former team in the playoffs. (Winchester had a career high 13 goals with the Blues in 2008-09).
Michal Handzus, also a former Blues forward, adds a four-time 20+ NHL goal scorer to the fold. Handzus has good size (6-foot-4, 220lbs) and began his NHL career in St. Louis in 1998-99 season and went on to play almost three full seasons there. Handzus had 24 points (7-17-24) in 67 games for the Sharks this season and may get a look in Game 4.
Will Michal Handzus and Brad Winchester make their Sharks playoff debuts on Thursday? We will have to wait and see but would not be surprised if there are one or two changes heading into Game 4.
Ken Hitchcock inserted Chris Stewart back in the lineup for Game 3 after he sat in Game 2. No lineup changes expected in Game 4…. But will have a better idea after morning skate on Thursday.
Brian Elliott is expected to get the start for the Blues for the second straight game after stepping in relief of an injured Jaroslav Halak in Game 2. Elliott had a 1.56 GAA and a .940 save percentage during the regular season. The Sharks need to get a lot more traffic in front of Elliott to be successful in Game 4. Elliott has a 1.82 GAA and a .935 save percentage in the playoffs this season.
“What’s stopping them, I think is our goalie...They’re (San Jose) getting their looks, but out goalie is making big saves at the right time.” - Blues Head Coach Ken Hitchcock
Antti Niemi is expected to get the start for the Sharks in Game 4. Niemi has a 2.67 GAA and a .911 save percentage through the first three games of the series.
Game 4…San Jose is 14-13 all-time in Game 4’s with a 5-6 record at home all-time. The Sharks are just 1-4-0 in their last five Game 4s.
History on their side…The Sharks have not lost a Game 3 AND a Game 4 at home since the Red Wings swept the Sharks in four games in 1995.
3 PPGA….The Sharks allowed three power play goals at home in Game 3, tied for the most in franchise history. The most recent time the Sharks allowed three power play goals against on May 22, 2011 in a 4-2 loss to the Canucks.
If he is in…Michal Handzus has played in 66 games in the Stanley Cup playoffs scoring 10 goals and adding 20 assists.
Keep Firing…Logan Couture leads all Sharks players with 11 shots on goal.
Blazing Blues…Andy McDonald is riding a three game point streak and leads the series in scoring with six points (2-4-6). McDonald has 15 goals and 32 points in 44 career playoff games.
Tons of Ice... Alex Pietrangelo leads all players in the series averaging 27:33 of ice time through three games…not too shabby for his first three NHL playoff games.
Road Goals...The Blues had a 19-16-6 record on the road this season and gave up the fewest goals in the NHL on enemy territory (92). The road teams in the NHL playoffs have a combined 17-8 record through the first 25 games, including a 3-0 record on Tuesday night.
No injuries for the Sharks through three games other than the broken nose to Dominic Moore in Game 2 while Blues goaltender Jaroslav Halak left Game 2 with an injury and is listed as day-to-day.
“You’ve just got to be smart.” - Logan Couture about the Sharks penalty kill.
The Sharks will have to be smart in Game 4 if they want to tie the series. However, easier said than done. The Blues have moved the puck gracefully on the point on the power play led by Shattenkirk and Pietrangelo which has made it difficult for the Sharks penalty killers this series. The best bet for the Sharks is to stay out of the box and play 5-on-5 in Game 4.
With the possible lineup changes and new look line combinations, the Sharks will look for a quick start and get the frenzied HP Pavilion crowd going early and often. San Jose needs to play HARD but SMART and stay out of the box in Game 4. An early goal or a strong penalty kill would work wonders for the Sharks in Game 4. Getting the series tied at 2-2 heading into Game 5 in St. Louis is almost a must and look for the Sharks to do just that in Game 4 with a complete 60 minute complete team effort. The series may be won/lost in Game 4… if the Sharks win with a complete team effort, they would carry the momentum into Game 5 in St. Louis. If the Blues win Game 4, it will most definitely be an uphill battle for the Sharks the rest of the way.
by Eric Lindquist, SJSHARKS.com
BLUES at SHARKS
(St. Louis leads best-of-seven series, 2-1)
TV: NBCSN, TSN, RDS, FS-MW (HD), CSN-CA (HD)
Big Story: It doesn't take long for the tide to turn in a playoff series, and after seeing the Sharks wrest away home-ice advantage by winning the opening game in double overtime, the Blues have regained it by taking the next two -- most recently Game 3 in San Jose on Monday. Now, the Sharks find themselves in the position previously occupied by the Blues, needing to earn a split in their building to avoid going down two games. Their situation is even more dire, though, because a St. Louis victory on Thursday pushes San Jose to the brink of elimination with the series shifting back to Scottrade Center on Saturday.
Blues: Having to switch your starting goalie in the postseason would be enough to throw many teams off kilter, but St. Louis was accustomed all season to alternating between Brian Elliott and Jaroslav Halak and winning games regardless of which one was in net. So when Halak was injured early in the second period of Game 2 and Elliott had to come in, the Blues just continued on their shutout way, tying up the series, and Elliott followed up with 26 saves in Monday's 4-3 win at HP Pavilion. Two of the goals came in the final 3:02 after the Blues had taken control of the game. Patrik Berglund, Jason Arnott and Alex Steen all connected on the power play, while Andy McDonald scored for the second consecutive game to pace the offense.
"We just do what we do," coach Ken Hitchcock said of the power play. "I don't think we get enough credit. If you look at our power play, I think we finished mid-pack, somewhere around there, but we made a heck of a climb because we were in 30th place and everybody was laughing at us around Christmas time, so we've made a heck of a climb since then. And I think our power play has been a threat now for almost 40 days. We've done good things."
Sharks: Giving up four goals to the team with the NHL's stingiest defense in the regular season isn't a recipe for success, and considering San Jose had the League's 29th-ranked penalty kill and has now given up five power-play goals in 13 times shorthanded in this series, the Sharks' first order of business in Game 4 needs to be to stay out of the penalty box. On the bright side, after managing just a Brent Burns power-play goal in over 96 minutes against Elliott, the offense got goals late from Colin White and Logan Couture to perhaps put a little crack in the façade of the netminder who finished first in goals-against average and save percentage.
"Panic? Absolutely no," defenseman Dan Boyle said in the San Jose Mercury News. "It's a series. … The next game is absolutely huge. We've got to come back, get the second win, and then we start over."
Who's Hot: Berglund now has three goals in the series, while McDonald leads the Blues with five points. … Sharks captain Joe Thornton assisted on all three of his team's goals on Monday.
Injury Report: Halak suffered a lower-body injury in Game 2 and didn't dress Monday as St. Louis recalled Jake Allen from the AHL. Halak remains day-to-day.
Stat Pack: Arnott's goal was the 32nd of his playoff career, with half coming on the power play. The Blues became the sixth different team he's recorded a postseason power-play goal for, joining the Oilers, Devils, Stars, Predators and Capitals. … White has scored on each of his last two playoff shots -- the previous one before Monday came as a member of the Devils, on April 16, 2010, in Game 2 of a first-round series against the Flyers. Prior to that, White didn't have a playoff goal since 2000.
Puck Drop: In spite of Thornton's trifecta of assists in Game 3, the top line for San Jose has yet to score a goal in the series. In fact, other than those Thornton helpers they haven't managed a point -- Patrick Marleau and Joe Pavelski still have all zeroes next to their names in the scoring columns. That's something else that must change for the Sharks to get back in this series.
"Obviously there's a time factor," Marleau said in the Mercury News. "We need to win. So we'd like to see some pucks start to go in. Once you do let pressure start to set in, it's over. So we need to focus on figuring this out."