ST. LOUIS – After Game 1 of the Western Conference Final, a 2-1 Blues win, the victorious team seemed more disgruntled than the losing one.
What ensued in Game 2, a decisive 4-0 Sharks win, is a pretty good reflection of why. From the Sharks' perspective, they felt they deserved better in the series opener, didn’t make any changes to their approach in Game 2, and were rewarded for it.
With the series now headed to San Jose, some Blues – including coach Ken Hitchcock – feel a bit fortuitous that the series is tied at one game apiece after they were outplayed for the majority of Game 1, too.
“San Jose has a lot of momentum from the way they finished [the second round], they've got their A game going right now, and it's our job to catch up,” Hitchcock said. “We have played two B games and I think at times, quite frankly, we're fortunate it's 1-1. We'll take 1-1 right now with the way we've played.”
David Backes liked the Blues’ third period of Game 2, as they outshot the Sharks 11-5, but not much else to this point.
“We started to show some trends there in the third of what we do when we’re successful – getting pucks deep, getting in on the forecheck and being physical down below their goal line,” Backes said.
“But if we’re going to try to play transition with their firepower, and see who can skate faster and execute on three-on-twos, that’s not how we’ve won games in the playoffs [and] not how we’ve won games all season. Frankly, they’ve beaten us at the game for five periods, and had better chances. That needs to be a lesson learned.”
After not finding a way to get that all important power play goal in Game 1, the Sharks struck for a pair in Game 2, both by Brent Burns. The Wookiee simply overpowered Brian Elliott with two blistering shots from the circle.
That shot was a hot topic afterwards. Sharks coach Pete DeBoer called it the “best I’ve ever seen.”
“Just how he can get it off from every angle, how he can get it to the net off balance, in bad spots. He finds a way to get it there,” DeBoer said. “That's a great weapon for us.”
Like the rest of their game, the Sharks didn’t make any drastic between-game alterations while on a man advantage. DeBoer had faith the power play would regroup, like it has all season, and it did.
Burns said: “I don't think we changed much. We didn't score last game. We wanted to make a difference this game. I think all year we've been good if we don't make a difference positively the game before, we can change it the next game. We were able to capitalize on a couple.”
On Burns’ first goal, the Blues made a mistake when Alex Steen went to the bench to replace a broken stick, and the Sharks quickly capitalized when Joe Pavelski pushed a pass through the slot to Burns.
Burns unleashed another one-timer in the third period with Troy Brouwer in the box that essentially put the game away.
Scottie Upshall suggested the Blues’ penalty killers were more passive than they were in Game 1, and the Sharks made them pay.
“They definitely moved the puck around better,” Upshall said. “We reacted instead of initiating. Our PK is good when we’re on our toes and moving well and moving with each other.”
Just like the Sharks in the regular season, the Blues have had more success on the road this playoffs. St. Louis is 4-5 in its own building, but 5-2 on the road.
After a rough regular season at home, the Sharks have reeled off five straight wins at SAP Center, where the series resumes on Thursday.
Something has to give.
“We have another level that we can play at, we've seen it, but it hasn't come out at home as much as it has in other buildings, for whatever reason,” Hitchcock said.
Logan Couture said: “We’ve got to go home and play well. We did a good job in the Nashville series of playing well at home and winning some games, and we have another challenge ahead of us in a couple days.”