The San Jose Sharks face the #2 seed St. Louis Blues in Game 5 in the best of seven Western Conference First Round Stanley Cup Playoffs in St. Louis on Saturday. 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 4
The St. Louis Blues took Game 4 and a 3-1 series lead with a 2-1 victory in San Jose on Thursday night.
Joe Thornton (1st) scored late for the Sharks but it wasn’t enough as San Jose dropped their third straight playoff game to the Blues.
B.J. Crombeen (1st) scored midway through the first period and Andy McDonald (3rd) struck on the power play with eight minutes left in the third period for the eventual game winner.
Goaltender Brian Elliott made 24 saves for the victory while Antti Niemi was solid with 22 saves in net for the Sharks.
MATCH-UPS TO WATCH
“We put ourselves in a corner and we need to play ourselves back.” – Joe Thornton after the Game 4 loss in San Jose
The Sharks face a do-or-die Game 5 in St. Louis tonight and must generate more scoring chances vs. Brian Elliott and the Blues. San Jose will need to find a way to try to open up Game 5 as both teams combined for just 49 shots on goal in Game 4, which favors the style of the Blues.
San Jose scored just seven goals in the series. Three of which have come late in the game when the Sharks were trailing by at least two goals. The offense must come alive in Game 5 if the series is to continue for the Sharks.
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 just a single goal through the first four games (Thornton late in Game 4). Coach McLellan split the threesome up in Game 4, but the Sharks still struggled to generate offense against the stingy St. Louis defense.
NEW LINES TO STAY THE SAME?
Coach McLellan gave a new look during Game 4 in the 2-1 loss to the Blues.
The Sharks only generated 25 shots on goal in Game 4 – the Blues 24. It should be interesting to see if San Jose sticks with the Game 5 lineup in a do or die situation in St. Louis.
Ken Hitchcock inserted Chris Stewart back in the lineup for Game 3 after he sat in Game 2. No lineup changes expected in Game 5 after the morning skate.
"We've scored on our power-play chances and they haven't. That's the No. 1 difference in the series." – coach Ken Hitchcock
St. Louis is 6-for-16 (37.5%) on the power play through the first four games. The Sharks just 2-for-15 (13.3%).
Defensemen Barret Jackman and Alex Pietrangelo have done an excellent job defensively on the penalty kill for the Blues. The Sharks MUST find a way to get shots through from the point, get traffic in front, and bang home any loose rebounds – if there are any to be left in front.
An early power play strike in Game 5 may go a long way to get the Sharks rolling in Game 5.
Game 5… San Jose is 12-13 all-time in Game 5’s with a 4-8 record at home all-time. Currently, the Sharks have three straight Game 5 games after winning five streak…. Time to start another streak?
When on the brink… the Sharks are 9-14 when facing elimination in their history and are 2-2 in Game 5’s when facing elimination.
Marleau Time?...Patrick Marleau has a history of scoring big goals when the Sharks are facing elimination. Marleau has the last two game winning goals for the Sharks in their last games that they have won when facing elimination, including the game winner in Game 7 vs. Detroit in San Jose at the HP Pavilion.
Time for a 1st... San Jose has never won a series when trailing 3-1 and has never forced a Game 7. The Sharks have faced a 3-1 deficit four times and went on to lose twice by a series count of 4-1 and twice more 4-2.
Keep Firing…Logan Couture leads all Sharks players with 16 shots on goal. Logan had five of the 25 shots on goal in Game 4 for the Sharks.
''I don't think anybody believes we're going to do it, which is fine. 'It's going to be a tough task. We all know that. It's going to be a very difficult task, but it can be done. It's not impossible.'' – Dan Boyle
“They're (Sharks) not going to go quietly." – Coach Ken Hitchcock.
Let’s hope Coach Hitchcock is correct! Sharks fans must give the Blues credit through the first four games. The young St. Louis team could have crumbled after giving up the late goal in the third period to Andrew Desjardins and the eventual overtime winner to Martin Havlat. But they didn’t. - and the Blues have rolled out three straight wins since.
If there is a team that can come back from a 3-1 series deficit, it is most definitely the Sharks. San Jose has been in every game of the series and only need to make a few minor adjustments to get back into the swing of things.
Watch for the Sharks to get shots through from the point and get into the kitchen area of Brian Elliott from start to finish. Have the Sharks had a lucky bounce in the series?…. can’t recall one. An early one in the first period for the Sharks would sound nice. Would it not?
SHARKS at BLUES
(St. Louis leads best-of-seven series, 3-1)
TV: CNBC, TSN, RDS2, CSN-CA (HD), FS-MW (HD)
Big Story: It's been 10 years since St. Louis last won a round in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but all that can change with Game 5 on Saturday night at Scottrade Center. Since losing the first game of this series against the Sharks in double overtime, the Blues have won three in a row -- including a sweep at HP Pavilion to take a commanding 3-1 lead. San Jose has yet to solve goalie Brian Elliott or figure out how to stop Andy McDonald and Patrik Berglund, and the late goal by Joe Thornton in Game 4 was the first from its top line in the postseason.
Sharks: Coming from behind in the third period and capturing Game 1 in the second extra period to steal home ice seemed like a huge boost at the time for San Jose, which was swept by St. Louis in the regular-season series. But the Sharks were unable to build on that advantage and are now tasked with winning three straight against a Blues team that has beaten them seven out of eight tries. They were 67 seconds from being blanked on Thursday before Thornton scored off an assist from new linemate Logan Couture, who took the place of Patrick Marleau on the No. 1 line along with Joe Pavelski. Coach Todd McLellan said it was the Sharks' best 60-minute effort of the playoffs, but the team still needs to solve its scoring woes in order to postpone an early summer vacation.
"We're just snakebit for some reason," Thornton said in the San Jose Mercury News. "But it is what it is, and now we have to win some games."
Blues: Home ice in the first round of the playoffs hasn't meant much in this series -- where the road team is now 3-1 -- or around the NHL in general, but St. Louis still has to feel confident trying to close out San Jose in a building where it won 30 times during the regular season, just one behind Detroit for the League lead. While McDonald and Berglund have carried the offensive load over the first four games, 13 different Blues have at least one point, and it was grinding winger B.J. Crombeen who had the only goal in the first 40 minutes Thursday, scoring his first career playoff goal 7:12 into the first period. McDonald and Berglund then teamed up for a power-play goal with eight minutes left that turned out to be necessary insurance after Thornton scored. Elliott finished with 24 saves.
"The goals are just around the net," McDonald said. "For me that's a focus point. With our line we have a lot of good puck movement and chemistry. Obviously in this type of hockey, in playoff hockey, you have to be around the net and the hard areas. That's what I'm trying to do, just get to the net."
Who's Hot: Thornton has factored into each of the last four Sharks goals, with a goal and three assists. Couture posts those same totals for the series. … McDonald has goals in three straight games and a series-leading seven points. Berglund has three goals and six points. Elliott has actually improved upon his regular-season numbers in both goals-against average (1.51 to 1.56) and save percentage (.944 to .940).
Injury Report: St. Louis goalie Jaroslav Halak, who started the first two games in this series, didn't dress for either game in San Jose and has been wearing a walking boot on his foot. Rookie Jake Allen remains the backup to Elliott while Halak is out.
Stat Pack: Thornton won 71 percent of his faceoffs in Game 4 and Pavelski won 57 percent, but the Sharks were just 4-for-11 on defensive-zone draws when killing a penalty and offensive-zone draws while on the power play. … Crombeen, who has 27 goals in 288 career regular-season games, last scored on Jan. 21 against the Sabres.
Puck Drop: St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock, who won the Stanley Cup with Dallas in 1999 and led the Stars back to the Final in 2000, has praised San Jose throughout this series and continued to give the opposition credit after Thursday's game.
"We're growing up quick here, but this team is making us do it, too," Hitchcock said. "I don't think there's one guy in that [dressing] room that thinks we've got anything except three wins. I think every player -- you can just see the mood in the locker room. You get grounded real quick because you know that this series could be 3-1 the other way. But I like the fact that we hung in here in this building, hung in real hard."