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Behind The Numbers

Breaking down Western Conference Final

Faceoff prowess of Blues' Stastny, Sharks' power play may loom large

by Rob Vollman / NHL.com Correspondent

The St. Louis Blues and San Jose Sharks play Game 1 of the Western Conference Final at Scottrade Center on Sunday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

The Blues are looking to advance to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1970. The Sharks are hoping to get there for the first time in franchise history.

Here are five statistical takeaways to keep an eye on entering the series:

1. 'D' WAY TO GO

Effective defensive zone play is a trademark for each of these teams.

The St. Louis Blues and the San Jose Sharks have the lowest offensive zone start percentages in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, at 43.4 and 43.9, respectively.

Even in the regular season, the Blues and Sharks had offensive zone start percentages of 48.7 percent and 49.4 percent respectively, which ranked second-last and fourth-last among playoff teams.

Video: STL@CHI, Gm6: Pietrangelo beats Crawford to gain lead

Both teams keep winning because they have defensemen whom they can trust in the defensive zone such as Alex Pietrangelo of the St. Louis Blues, and Marc-Edouard Vlasic of the San Jose Sharks. Pietrangelo leads the League with 132 defensive zone starts.

2. STASTNY IN THE CIRCLE

A tight playoff game sometimes can come down to one critical faceoff, and Paul Stastny of the Blues likely will be on one side of it.

Stastny has won 191 faceoffs in the playoffs, leading the League by a wide margin over Mike Fisher of the Nashville Predators (141).

Stastny won 56.1 percent of his faceoffs in the regular season, which ranked No. 15 among the 211 players who took at least 100 draws, and 59.0 percent in the playoffs, second to Paul Gaustad of the Predators (59.4 percent).

3. SHARP SHOOTING

Having led the League with a .930 save percentage in the regular season and with a .929 save percentage so far in the playoffs, a lot of attention is on Blues goaltender Brian Elliott. But can he rise to the occasion against the great shooters of San Jose?

Video: NSH@SJS, Gm7: Pavelski beats Rinne on the power play

Joe Pavelski of the Sharks is tied with Nikita Kucherov of the Tampa Bay Lightning for the League lead with nine goals, on 39 shots. San Jose's Logan Couture has seven goals on 32 shots. As a team, the Sharks lead the NHL with an 11.9 shooting percentage.

4. GREATEST HITS

In an effort to neutralize San Jose's strong shooters, expect the Blues' highly physical play to continue.

St. Louis led the League with 283 hits in the first round against Chicago, and continue to lead with 493 hits after two rounds.

At an individual level, the Blues are led by captain David Backes and Troy Brouwer with 57 hits each. That ranks third in the League behind Matt Martin of the New York Islanders with 69 hits, and Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals with 59.

Backes also leads the NHL with three game-winning goals, including two in overtime.

Video: STL@DAL, Gm2: Backes drops Janmark with big check

5. FEEL THE POWER

The physical play might feed into one of San Jose's greatest weapons, its highly effective power play.

The Sharks led the NHL during the regular season with 62 power-play goals on 275 opportunities, and their 22.5 power-play percentage ranked third behind the Anaheim Ducks (23.1) and Chicago Blackhawks (22.6).

In the playoffs, the Sharks have a League-leading 13 power-play goals on 42 opportunities, and their 30.9 power-play percentage ranks second to the Blackhawks (31.6).

At an individual level, Couture leads the NHL with 17 points, including eight power- play points, tied with John Carlson of the Capitals for the League lead, and four power-play goals, tied with Carlson, Pavelski and Phil Kessel of the Pittsburgh Penguins for the League lead.

 Video: SJS@NSH, Gm4: Burns tallies power-play goal for lead

Among defensemen, Brent Burns leads the NHL with 15 points and ranks second to Carlson with seven on the power play.

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