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5 Keys: Sharks at Blues, Game 2

St. Louis needs to change approach on breakouts; San Jose must limit turnovers

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika @cotsonika / Columnist

ST. LOUIS -- The San Jose Sharks and St. Louis Blues play Game 2 of the Western Conference Final at Scottrade Center on Tuesday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports). The Blues lead the best-of-7 series 1-0.

Here are 5 keys for Game 2:


The Blues are a hard, heavy team. They played quick, speedy teams in the first two rounds in the Chicago Blackhawks and Dallas Stars but now need to adjust to an opponent like themselves. Blues coach Ken Hitchcock called Game 1 of the conference final the hardest his team had played in the Stanley Cup Playoffs from a "compete-on-the-puck" standpoint, with lots of board play and battles. He used words like "exhausting," "demanding" and "draining."

"We're playing a mirror image of ourselves," Hitchcock said of the Sharks. "It's going to take some getting used to because we frustrated a lot of teams all year. They're able to do that too. Their game, they are committed. They are 100-percent, all-in committed. We're just going to have to learn to play through it to beat them."

Video: Pregame 5/17: DeBoer


Though the Blues won Game 1, the Sharks outshot them 32-23, including 16-5 in the second period. The Sharks' line of Tomas Hertl, Joe Pavelski and Joe Thornton was the best on the ice, holding onto the puck and generating scoring chances. If not for Blues goaltender Brian Elliott the outcome might have been different.

One thing the Blues will need to do is change their approach on breakouts.

"We faced two teams in the first two rounds that we felt like we had to make more plays coming out of our zone," Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said. "San Jose's such a good forechecking team that we might have to worry about getting pucks up to our wingers quicker. Whether it's a rim or something that's just not as clean, that's fine. I just think we have to move that battle out high because their forwards are so great at tracking that puck."


The Sharks turned over the puck too often in Game 1, giving the Blues odd-man rushes. Though they dominated the second period, one mistake burned them and led to what turned out to be the winning goal. Sharks defenseman Brent Burns banked a pass off the boards in the neutral zone. Blues forward Jori Lehtera intercepted the puck and fired a shot from the left wing past goaltender Martin Jones.

"We didn't manage the puck as well as we'd like," Sharks defenseman Paul Martin said. "When you turn the puck over it's hard to get into that flow of the game. You're on your heels."

Video: Sharks/Blues Game 1 Recap, needed adjustments for SJ


The morning of Game 1 and again Monday, Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said the Blues had been one of the most penalized teams in the NHL. Hitchcock responded by saying the Blues wouldn't "whine" for calls. It was typical playoff gamesmanship. The Blues don't want the power plays to be lopsided; they had two in Game 1 to three for the Sharks. But they don't want to get away from their game either.

"When you're a heavy team to go out and play against, in certain situations you're going to be on the wrong end of things because of how hard we're playing," Blues forward Steve Ott said. "That's just a testament to the group in here. We put our heads down. We grind. We don't complain. We just keep going."


The Sharks power play entered the series converting at a rate of 30.9 percent, second in the playoffs and first among conference finalists. But the Blues penalty kill went 3-for-3 in Game 1 by being aggressive. Hitchcock had talked about how the Sharks become more dangerous the longer they hold the puck in the attacking zone. The Blues went after them to keep them from getting set up.

Thornton said the Sharks needed more movement.

"I think our power play's pretty free-flowing," he said. "Really just can't key on one guy. We got five guys that can hurt you. I think for us it's just the way you move around. It's really hard to defend."

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