Game in a Sentence
Regardless of the seeding this matchup plays like more of a 4/5 series and the first game showed exactly why. Each period got better to watch after a feeler of a first and culminated in a big road win for the Sharks in game one.
-We got a feel for what a war of attrition this series will be in the first period as the tight checking squads limited each other’s chances in the frame. It wasn’t a boring stretch at all but it was certainly a far cry from the end to end action at the game’s conclusion.
-Havlat made his first goal happen with some sneakiness on the power play as he dumped Alex Pietrangelo coming over the blueline and beat him to the net as a result. By the time Pietrangelo could make up the difference, Boyle had got his shot on net and Havlat was there to tip it in.
-Patrik Berglund was brilliant at finding the open ice out there tonight as pucks just seemed to find their way to his stick. On both goals he scored he got himself prime space and made himself available to make a play. It doesn’t always work that way but the scoresheet reflected his hard work. All in all I thought his chemistry with Andy McDonald and Alex Steen made them the best line on the ice tonight for St. Louis.
-St. Louis seemed to have trouble generating quality chances on a regular basis for most of this game and I give the bulk of the credit to the defensive system San Jose played. They were very strong collapsing down to the red line when the Blues tried to open up their cycle game and I thought it was really effective at preventing passing lanes from opening. The Sharks were very strong down low just by making sure there were more bodies than the puck could get through.
-Dare we say, for all he is criticised, Antti Niemi is a quality playoff goaltender? Late in the game, particularly in the extra frames, he made several stops I felt were spectacular and was the main reason why St. Louis couldn’t find their golden goal. Love him or hate him, Niemi has only lost one playoff series in his career and maybe it’s time to acknowledge it’s more than good teams that have allowed that to happen. He was, to borrow a cliché, San Jose’s best penalty killer tonight as well which is a huge boost for the whole team.
-Dominic Moore was my goat on the second Patrik Berglund goal. After a great Kris Russell outlet sprung McDonald, Moore got caught watching McDonald rip through the neutral zone. He almost stops backchecking entirely. Had he kept going back hard there is a great chance he disrupts that play altogether and Berglund doesn’t give St. Louis a 2-1 lead with some great patience and a better shot.
-I’m not a big Dan Boyle guy, sorry if that hurts your feelings, but I thought he was excellent tonight. Made a lot of great plays on the puck and helped set up the Desjardins GTG. He’ll need to continue to be big for this team to advance.
-Speaking of needing to be big, if I’m St. Louis I need to see more from David Backes and T.J. Oshie. I don’t think they played bad games but every time they were on the ice I just got that feeling they could be bringing more, giving San Jose that much more of a problem, and I just didn’t see it.
-That Martin Havlat for Dany Heatley trade looks pretty good right now, eh?
-Jaroslav Halak picked up his playoff form where he left it two seasons ago. His positioning is great, he wasn’t frantic and he made several key stops. It’s a shame that they had to lose that way because he absolutely earned a win. Too much of a screen for him to have a chance on the game winner.
-In game two I anticipate a stronger start for the Blues. They looked pretty listless until that second Berglund goal and even then it was touch and go until the first overtime. The Sharks as a team were more deserving of the win in my opinion, despite the Blues pouring it on in the extra frame.
My Three Stars:
1) Martin Havlat
2) Dan Boyle
3) Patrik Berglund