The NHL Conference Finals are underway as four teams are left in the battle for the Stanley Cup. The Western Conference Finals between the St. Louis Blues and the San Jose Sharks gets underway on Saturday night. These two teams will look to get the series started with a big win on May 11. This game is set to begin at around 8:00 PM Eastern time at NBC.
St. Louis was in the last place of the NHL in January and now they are in the Western Conference Finals. The Blues finished the regular season with a record of 45-28-9, which put them in third place of the Central Division. St. Louis finished was able to knock off the Winnipeg Jets in six games in the first round and knocked out the Dallas Stars in seven games in the second round. The Blues will look to win a big road game on Saturday night.
The Sharks finished in second place of the Pacific Division with a record of 46-27-9 in the regular season. San Jose had a tough route to the Western Conference Finals as they pulled out two seven-game series wins against the Vegas Golden Knights and the Colorado Avalanche. The Sharks will look to pull off a win at home to take a lead early in this series.
St. Louis and San Jose have both had tough routes to the Western Conference Final, but will look to take an early lead in the series on Saturday night. Both teams are coming off Game 7 wins, but the Blues have had an extra day off since their last game. They will look for that extra day of rest to give them an edge to pull off a quick start on the road.
Regular Season Matchups
The Blues and the Sharks met up three times during the regular season. St. Louis hosted the first game of the season series on November 9. Jaden Schwartz and Alex Steen both scored a goal and an assist for the Blues. Tyler Bozak had two assists, while Chad Johnson stopped all 33 shots to help St. Louis pulled off a 4-0 win.
The second game of the series shifted to San Jose on November 17. Logan Couture added three assists, while Joe Pavelski had two goals. Evander Kane and Erik Karlsson each had a goal and an assist to help propel the Sharks to a win. Aaron Dell had a 30 save shutout to help San Jose bounce back with a 4-0 win in front of their own home fans.
The final game of the season series was hosted by San Jose on March 9. Pat Maroon opened up the scoring, but Timo Meier scored twice to give the Sharks a 2-1 lead. Brayden Schenn tied it up to help send it to overtime, but it was Kevin Labanc who gave the Sharks a 3-2 win in overtime.
San Jose finished out the regular season with a 2-1 series win over the Blues. The home team was able to win all three of the games. The Sharks will look to carry this trend into the playoffs to earn a 1-0 series lead with a win at home. I expect another solid matchup on Saturday night between these teams.
St. Louis’ special teams have not been at their best in the playoffs. The Blues have been able to capitalize on around 17.1 percent of their power play opportunities throughout the playoffs. St. Louis’ penalty kill has only been able to stop their opponent’s 75 percent of the time on their power play opportunities. The Blues struggled against the Stars on special teams and will look to get it going again against San Jose.
The Sharks have struggled a big on special teams as well in the postseason. San Jose has only scored on around 18.5 percent of their powerplay chances these playoffs. The Sharks penalty kill has been slightly better, stopping opposing teams on 80.8 percent of their opportunities.
After putting up strong special team performances in the regular season, the Blues and the Sharks have not been as successful in the postseason. San Jose has a slight edge on special teams with a slightly better power play and a better penalty kill. The Sharks will look for this to lead them over St. Louis in Game 1.
Jordan Binnington helped save the Blues season. He posted a save percentage of .927 and a GAA of 1.89 during the regular season. In the playoffs, Binnington has put up a .915 save percentage and a 2.38 GAA. St. Louis will look for Binnington to carry over some momentum after his tremendous performance in Game 7 of the second round.
Martin Jones had some issues in the regular season and early in the playoffs, but has since bounced back in a big way. Jones finished the regular season with a save percentage of .896 and a 2.94 GAA. He has put up a .910 save percentage and a GAA of 2.72 throughout the playoffs. He will look to continue to step up his game to help San Jose advance to the Stanley Cup Finals.
St. Louis has the edge in net for this series because of how well Binnington has been playing. Even though he is a rookie, he has been performing like a seasoned veteran throughout the entire playoffs. Binnington went toe to toe with Ben Bishop in the last series, which I believe will give him even more confidence against the Sharks.
The Sharks were able to get the better of St. Louis in the regular season series, but with an even slate in the Western Conference Finals, both teams will look to start out differently. I believe that the Blues have a good chance to steal Game 1 of this series. If Binnington can outplay Jones, I believe it would give a good chance to St. Louis.
BetOnline has San Jose listed as a -130 against the money line. This implies that the Sharks will win this game around 56.5 percent of the time. I believe that this game should be closer to even. The Blues have been hot and have had a little more rest, which could give them an edge on Saturday night. I am taking St. Louis as an underdog in Game 1.