The Blues are feeling good heading into Game 4 Thursday night in San Jose. There are some areas they’d like to tighten up but for the most part they like their chances of putting a strangle hold on the series. The Blues PK is far from being an issue but they know it can be better.
San Jose understands they can’t afford to go down 3-1 to St. Louis as it would be a tall, if not impossible task, to beat the stingiest team in the NHL three straight games.
The word desperation will be tossed around the Sharks dressing room.
San Jose has been penalized 27 times this post-season, more than any other team. If they don’t stay out of the box they won’t win the series.
Entering the series Ken Hitchcock downplayed the importance of the power play suggesting winning the five-on-five matchup is what leads to success in the playoffs. While you can’t disagree with his assessment, you also can’t ignore the lift a successful power play gives you.
The Blues have the third best PP in the playoffs thus far and looked as comfortable as they have all season in Game 3.
St. Louis is at their best with a shot-based power play. It you can get pucks to the net it opens the door for creativity to take over. St. Louis believes Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi struggles finding the puck with bodies in front.
Brian Elliott on the other hand finds a way to see pucks trough traffic as well as any goaltender in the playoffs. If there is an advantage he holds over Jaroslav Halak this is it. He also tracks rebounds and finds loose pucks probably better than Halak. Rarely has Elliott been forced to make second and third saves.
Patrik Berglund has done a tremendous job creating screens and has been rewarded as a result. When you consider how far this guy has come in just a few short years it really nice to see. He was only 19 years old the last time the Blues made the playoffs and looked out of place. The stage against Vancouver in 2009 was intimidating and he's was a non-factor in the series. This came after putting together a solid rookie season.
It would benefit San Jose to make some adjustments to their PK. They’re very laid back especially up top where the Blues have plenty of time to find shooting lanes. The Sharks wait for you to make a mistake opposed to pressuring you into making one. That’s usually not a recipe for success.
The Blues benefitted from winning offensive zone face offs on the PP. If there’s one area they’ve struggled in the first two games, it’s going the length of the ice and getting pucks behind San Jose’s defense.
Having puck possession right off the draw allowed the Blues to quickly get into position to shoot the puck.
This had to be a feel good moment for Carlo Colaiacovo and Jason Arnott. Colaiacovo was a healthy scratch in game one and Arnott was teetering on playing himself out of the lineup. There’s nothing better than contributing to a playoff victory and both players couldn’t have picked a better time to elevate their game.
Colaiacovo had three assists on Monday and was a big part of creating the puck and body movement that makes the Blues power play so successful. He doesn’t possess the big bomb up top but sometimes all it takes is getting shots through. Both Berglund and McDonald scored goals off of point shots from Colaiacovo. The former Toronto first rounder also had five blocks along with playing more than 20:00.
You can make the case it was Colaiacovo's best game in two months.
McDonald and Steen....
Like I said, getting point shots opens the door for creativity. McDonald and Steen have tremendous chemistry and love playing with one another. Their kids play together and they talk a ton both on and off the ice about what they want to do in certain situations. Little plays they make in small areas are a combination of their hockey sense and overall awareness of one another.
“Everything we do we talk about,” said Steen.
It’s amazing it’s taken this long for these two to play together. Andy Murray tried to make Steen a third line checking player during his time here. Davis Payne moved Steen around but felt comfortable using him in a shutdown role. I’ve written several times Steen has to be in your top six and he’s found a home with McDonald and Berglund.
McDonald’s back door feed to Arnott was set up by the passing ability of both Steen and McDonald. Arnott deserves credit for gathering the puck from his skates and getting it over the top of Niemi.
There’s a lot of talk of the play of Berglund, and there should be. There’s no better time to raise your game than the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Steen and McDonald are a major reason for this. Their teammates tell me they demand a ton from Berglund and he’s picked the right time to respond. They’re constantly talking to him and have no problem letting him know they expect more.
Berglund had to find a way to adapt to playing with Steen and McDonald and so far so good.
There’s no secret Berglund’s game has taken off since playing with both of these guys. You have to give him credit for playing big and strong.
McDonald is tied for the NHL playoff lead with four assists and second in playoff scoring with six points.
Alex Pietrangelo leads all players in the series with nine blocks. He’s been a little quiet offensively in the series but you can’t forget he’s getting a taste of playoff hockey for the first time in his NHL career. It’s not easy playing a patient game in the playoffs.
The Blues 38.5% PP ranks them third in the NHL in the playoffs. They rank 9th in PK at 81.8%
San Jose has killed off only 61.5% of their penalties which ranks 14th among the 16 playoff teams.
Tommy Wingles leads both teams with 13 hits.
Roman polak leads the Blues with 11.
St. Louis has been penalized 25 times in the three games although a lot of this came at the end of regulation in Game 2. They’ve committed 18 minors in the first three games.
Jaro Halak remains sidelined and is not expected to be available Thursday night. I don’t anticipate this being a long term injury.
More to come,
The Latest Truth
Post about tonight's Isles-Blues game with your fellow TrueHockey.com fans. Read more
Berglund Says He's Full of Confidence
Post about tonight's Blues-Kings game with your fellow TrueHockey.com fans. Read more
Blues Look to Rebound in LA
Post about this afternoon's Blues-Sharks game with your fellow TrueHockey.com fans. Read more
Post about tonight's Blues-Avs game with your fellow TrueHockey.com fans. Read more
Post about tonight's Wild/Blues game with your fellow TrueHockey.com fans. Read more