Skip to main content
playoffs

5 storylines for Western Conference Final

Blues' Shattenkirk, Sharks' Burns turn on power; 'Moose' gets call for St. Louis

by Shawn P. Roarke @sroarke_nhl / NHL.com Director, Editorial

ST. LOUIS -- The San Jose Sharks and St. Louis Blues are not the most traditional rivals in the Western Conference. That will change during the next two weeks, when they battle for the right to represent the West in the 2016 Stanley Cup Final.

The Sharks, from the Pacific Division, and the Blues, from the Central Division, have met in the playoffs on four occasions, and each team has won two series. The Sharks defeated the Blues in two of three games during the 2015-16 regular season, winning twice at Scottrade Center and losing 1-0 at SAP Center on March 22.

Game 1 of the best-of-7 Western Conference Final is Sunday at Scottrade Center (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

Each team will feel the weight of history in this series.

The Sharks, in the conference final for the first time since 2011, have never been to the Final. They have lost in the third round on three occasions. St. Louis is playing in the conference final for the first time since 2001 and has not advanced to the Final since 1970. The Blues made the Final in each of their first three seasons in the NHL (1968-70), but were swept each time.

Here are 5 storylines to follow in the lead-up to the Western Conference Final:

1. POINTS OF ATTACK

This series features the top two point-producing defensemen remaining in the postseason in Brent Burns of the Sharks and Kevin Shattenkirk of the Blues.

Burns leads all defensemen with 15 points in 12 playoff games and is the fulcrum of San Jose's attack. Generally, the Sharks will look to get the puck back to the points upon gaining the attacking zone. More often than not, that means it ends up on the stick of Burns, who can either uncork his heavy slap shot or make a pass to open up a shooting lane for one of his teammates. Burns has taken 43 shots on goal this postseason, an average of 3.58 per game.

Shattenkirk is not as flashy or noticeable as Burns, but he's equally effective. He has 10 points in 14 games, the second-highest total among defensemen left in the playoffs. Shattenkirk has 31 shots on goal, the most on the Blues.

St. Louis has 30 points in 14 games from the seven defensemen it has dressed; San Jose's defensemen have 30 points in 12 games.

2. POWER VS. POWER

San Jose's first power-play unit has been together for several years, and it shows. The chemistry is stunning and the Sharks' ability to move the puck in and out of the smallest seams has bedeviled the Los Angeles Kings and Nashville Predators so far.

San Jose has 13 power-play goals in 12 games and is clicking at a playoffs-best 30.9 percent (13-for-42). Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski have four power-play goals apiece. Couture has eight points with the man advantage; Pavelski and Burns each have seven.

The Blues are 11-for-40 on the power play, a 27.5 percent success rate, which was tied for second with the Pittsburgh Penguins after two rounds of the playoffs.

Expect some fireworks, especially at SAP Center. The Sharks are clicking at 45 percent at home, scoring nine goals in 20 opportunities. The Blues are 7-for-18 on the road this postseason for a playoffs-best 38.9 success rate away from home.

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

3. HELLO KITTY

There will be a lot of talk about black cats after one became the Sharks' good luck charm by taking a spin in front of the home bench at SAP Center before Game 1 of the series against Nashville.

The stray became a viral sensation after her stroll was captured on video and the Sharks then earned a Game 1 victory.

The team named the cat "Jo Paw-velski" and made arrangements to transfer her to a local animal shelter, where she was put in a room with Sharks paraphernalia and rally towels. She has her own webcam and has been monitored 24/7 by Sharks fans looking for luck wherever it can be found.

4. FRESHMAN FACE

St. Louis center Robby Fabbri is a rookie, he just isn't playing like one.

Fabbri, 20, has 13 points (three goals, 10 assists) this postseason; he's tied with Vladimir Tarasenko for the most points on his team and the fourth-best total of the postseason. His 13 points equal the total of Pavelski, the captain of the Sharks and a contender for the Conn Smythe Trophy after two rounds.

St. Louis' first-round pick (No. 21) in the 2014 NHL Draft, Fabbri made his debut in October and has progressed faster than expected. Now he is a key member of the Blues and is having a playoff that puts him in elite rookie company for postseason heroics.

The next most productive rookie this postseason is San Jose left wing Joonas Donskoi, who has seven points in a dozen games.

Video: STL@DAL, Gm7: Fabbri lifts backhander past Lehtonen

5. MOOSE CALLS

Listen carefully when the fans get loud at Scottrade Center, because it is likely they will not be booing, but rather "Moose"-ing.

Blues goaltender Brian Elliott goes by the nickname "Moose," and the fans have slowly but surely followed suit.

Elliott, who was given the nickname by former teammate Chris Stewart several years ago, always has a moose on the back of his mask as a tribute to a family friend who died while Elliott was in college. The friend was a champion moose caller.

View More