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Agnew: Blues have to play tougher in Game 3

Former NHL assistant says Sharks were faster, more competitive on loose pucks in Game 2

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

For additional insight into the Western Conference Final between the San Jose Sharks and St. Louis Blues, NHL.com has enlisted the help of Gary Agnew to break down the action. Agnew will be checking in throughout the series.

Agnew, 55, was an assistant with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Blues and Columbus Blue Jackets. He also served as interim coach of the Blue Jackets for five games during the 2006-07 season, and has been coach of Syracuse of the American Hockey League and London and Kingston of the Ontario Hockey League.

Gary Agnew thought the San Jose Sharks were the better team throughout Game 2 of the Western Conference Final against the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday.

"They looked faster, they were more competitive on loose pucks and won the board battles, all things that St. Louis is known for," Agnew said.

Agnew also saw some of that in Game 1 from the Sharks, and that has to be a concern for the Blues and coach Ken Hitchcock even though they won 2-1 in Game 1 and the best-of-7 series is tied 1-1 heading into Game 3 in San Jose on Thursday (9 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sporst).

Video: SJS@STL, Gm2: Brouwer wrists one off the post

"[Hitchcock] was probably right with what he said after Game 2, in that they were probably lucky to get a split of the games," Agnew said.

The Blues will have to be better in their own zone going forward if they want to stay in the series.

Agnew said he thought the Sharks got to their game plan far too easily once they gained the Blues zone. They were able to get the puck low to high, and then, because the points were open, get it down low again in dangerous positions.

"I think that ability gave them more time in the offensive zone," Agnew said. "They had good support down there once they got control of the puck.

"In this series, it's the team that has the second man quick on the puck that usually is the team that ends up with some offensive time. Throughout Game 2, that team was the Sharks."

Video: SJS@STL, Gm2: Burns finishes Pavelski's feed for PPG

Agnew also said St. Louis can't take penalties like it did in Game 2; San Jose was 2-for-5 on the power play.

"The Blues got a little bit undisciplined, and when you do that, you skate right into the San Jose game plan," Agnew said.

The Blues will have to kill some penalties even if they are more disciplined. When they do, they have to be more focused on what they are trying to accomplish.

According to Agnew, the Sharks have two primary weapons on the power play. One is Joe Thornton directing the offense with his passes from the half-wall. The other is Brent Burns unleashing his world-class shot from the point.

In Game 2, Burns had two power-play goals, each a one-timer from above the circles.

Video: SJS@STL, Gm2: Burns blasts one-timer PPG past Elliott

Teams almost have to pick their poison against the Sharks, scheming to take away the option that they deem to be more dangerous, Agnew said.

Two things the Blues can do better on the penalty kill are win more faceoffs, allowing them to clear the puck faster than they did in Game 2, and make entry into their zone more difficult. San Jose was able to gain the attacking blue line far too easily throughout the game Tuesday.

Finally, Agnew said the Blues must play to their strength during 5-on-5 play.

"Once they get the puck, they have to keep it in the offensive zone," Agnew said. "They have to get to their grind game. In the series against Dallas, I thought St. Louis was very good on the forecheck.

"Again, it is all about the quick second man in. If St. Louis can establish that, it will be harder for San Jose to exit the zone than it was in Game 2 and it will lead to more offensive-zone time for the Blues."

The Sharks have the momentum, but as we learned in Game 1, momentum can be fleeting in a series pitting two excellent teams.

"Now, it's St. Louis' turn to adjust," Agnew said. "They need to counter those things that San Jose did well in Game 2 and address the areas in which the Blues can be better in Game 3. [Hitchcock] has been around a long time, and I'm sure that process has already begun.

"The next two games in San Jose should be really interesting."

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