Western Conference Quarterfinals – Game 1 – Sharks vs. Blues

April 12, 2012

San Jose Sharks and St. Louis Blues meet at Scottrade Center, Saint Louis, Missouri (7:30 PM ET, April 12, 2012) in the Western Conference Quarterfinals – Game 1. In the last 10 matches, San Jose has a 7-3-0 record while, St. Louis 4-3-3 record. The best betting odds have Sharks 7/5 and Blues 4/6.

St. Louis had win all four regular-season matchups and dominated in the process. In either game at Scottrade Center, the Blues did not allow a goal, with Brian Elliott and Jaroslav Halak each recording a shutout. Alex Pietrangelo led all scorers with 5 points and 2 goals.

The Sharks had to scratch and claw over the final weeks just to get in for an eight straight year, while the Blues’ postseason berth was never really in doubt the second half of the season. San Jose won its final four regular-season games; therefore, the respective senses of urgency seemed to be evident in their respective play. The wins include a home-and-home sweep of Pacific Division rival Los Angeles. St. Louis on the other hand dropped four in a row before winning its finale against Dallas.

Against a club that led the NHL in goals-against average (1.89) and allowed 14 fewer goals the next-best team during the regular season, the Sharks must figure out how they are going to win one game. It’s the experience of the returning nucleus that led the Sharks to back-to-back appearances in the Western Conference Finals the past two years is one thing that could give San Jose a distinct advantage in this series.

Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Joe Pavelski and Dan Boyle are some of the players who will play a crucial role in this series. Goalie Antti Niemi was part of last year’s squad that lost to Vancouver. He led Chicago to a Stanley Cup title as a rookie. The Sharks have come off consecutive extra-time wins against a fierce rival that was also battling for positioning and there is the fact that they have been in playoff mode for weeks now.

Elliott is expected to dress for St. Louis, while San Jose forward Torrey Mitchell (upper body) is considered likely to play in the series opener. For the first time in their history this season, they had three 30-goal scorers, as Logan Couture, Pavelski and Marleau.

This season, T.J. Oshie and David Backes led the Blues with 54 points. Backes had a team-leading 24 goals. St. Louis team does have veterans like Jamie Langenbrunner and Jason Arnott who have lifted the Stanley Cup before, although this is only the second postseason appearance by St. Louis since the work stoppage.

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