Roman Polak cares not for the Sharks

Game in a Sentence:

The St. Louis Blues were slow offensively to start despite dominating but they eventually came around to bounce the San Jose Sharks from the 2012 NHL Playoffs.

Observations:

- It’s tough to understate the fact that the Sharks really had no business being in this game whatsoever. Outside of one flurry towards the end of the second period, they really couldn’t sustain any meaningful offense to test this Blues team, much like the rest of this series.

- For all of their weapons, the Sharks couldn’t break down this St. Louis system and were forced to settle for shots along the outside of the zone and from the point. Like most hot goalies, the only way you’re going to break down a guy like Elliott is on scrambles in front of the goal where you catch a gap in him. Shockingly, the Thornton goal was just that. A disheveled Blues D let a puck to Big Joe in the slot and he slotted it past Elliott for the lead.

- It mystifies me that so many players feel the urge to shoot high against these defensive stalwart teams. Realistically the only way you can push any sort of offensive agenda is if you keep shots low and go rebound fishing. It certainly is a much more high percentage approach than blasting slap shots and hoping you catch the right angle. Hunker down and drive the net.

- Speaking of driving the net, Jamie Langenbrunner has been around the block a few times and knows how to get it done in the playoffs. Shockingly, he broke the St. Louis goose egg by driving the net on a rebound and chipping it into the goal. Really, it works guys, I swear.

- Speaking of keeping shots low, you’ll also take care to note that Alex Pietrangelo didn’t wind up for a howitzer on the St. Louis go-ahead goal. He stepped back and put a wrister through the slot. Shockingly, David Perron got a stick on it and the ricochet got past Niemi. Really, it works guys, I swear.

- You’ll also note that playoff revelation and generally underrated young player Patrik Berglund was the man providing the screen in front. What a first round he had. The guy played a big role on the scoresheet earlier this series and did the little things right to close it out.

- This is playoff hockey folks. Good, aesthetically pleasing hockey is nice, agreed, but it’s ultimately that willingness to muck and score the goals that will never, ever be shown on a highlight reel that separates the teams who fizzle from those that thrive. It may be boring for some, but it’s ultimately the smart way to conduct your business.

- Ken Hitchcock also knows a thing or two about winning in the playoffs and his imprint is all over this team even if he isn’t responsible for the players. Kris Russell, one of the few guys who were Hitch’s idea after he was a COLUMBUS CASTOFF was one of the top Blues rearguards this series. Enough said.

- The San Jose Sharks officially look like a team that needs to be remade. Their chief asset is supposed to be their skill and they were totally stifled by a much superior Blues squad. Quite frankly, had it not been for a rough start to game one for St. Louis, San Jose would have been swept out of the first round. This core is aging and expensive and it’s time to extract value from it while you can. Identify who you want to keep around and ship out the rest. This team is no longer a threat to win the Cup and this season made it perfectly clear.

- Brian Elliott should have erased any doubts you had about his ability to keep his level of play high in the pressure cooker that is the playoffs. If the Blues are bounced from the playoffs at any point in time, it won’t be because of poor goaltending, it will be because of a goal drought. They slumped to end the year, but they look like they’re ready to peak again.

- Antti Niemi played a good series though I’m sure he’d like a mulligan on the Nichol rebound which spurred the Langenbrunner goal. He did his best to keep the team competitive but ultimately didn’t get enough out of the guys who play in front of him. Whether or not he sticks around is up in the air, but he had a good postseason and that will work in his favor in any town.

My Three Stars:

1) Jamie Langenbrunner
2) Scott Nichol
3) Brian Elliott