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5 Keys: Sharks at Blues, Game 1

St. Louis wants to keep it simple; San Jose remains confident

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

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

Here are 5 Keys for Game 1:

1. ARRIVE EARLY

St. Louis Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said it is imperative his team get to its game as fast as possible in Game 1 to force the Sharks to react to the game instead of dictating how it is played.

"See the adjustments they make, and that is how you get a read on them," Shattenkirk said. "We don't want to go out there and see what they bring. That is one of the mistakes we made in the Dallas series, and that is hopefully something we have learned from. It's going to be a little easier to get to our game with the home crowd encouraging us."

Video: NSH@SJS, Gm7: Thornton buries rebound for PPG

2. POWER UP

The Sharks have the top power play (30.9 percent) among the four remaining playoff teams. The Blues are No. 2 among the teams remaining at 27.5 percent (11-for-40).

For the Blues, who average 11:12 penalty minutes per game in these playoffs, the key to negating the San Jose man-advantage will be limiting the amount of time San Jose has in the attacking zone.

"When you have a chance to win the faceoff and get it down the ice, you have to do that," St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock said. "You can't give them extended zone time. It's in the extended zone time they make you panic, they force you into mistakes, they force tired errors.

"If you don't [clear it], when you're standing on the bench, you can literally feel the goal coming."

3. KEEP IT SIMPLE

The Blues have not found home ice as hospitable as they would like this postseason. They are 3-4 at Scottrade Center in the first two rounds.

So, what can the Blues do better to find home success?

"I think just simplifying," St. Louis defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. "The emotions sometimes playing at home in front of the fans too, it's going to get you a little excited. Sometimes you're trying to do too much. I think on the road we really simplify our game and that seems when we're having the most success.

"We talked about that, trying to get that same game at home where it's a simple game, trying not to get too emotional, not to get into the ups and downs of the game and just continue what we need to do for 60 minutes."

Video: NSH@SJS, Gm7: Thornton lays a big check on Ellis

4. GO BIG OR GO HOME

The Sharks have been long labeled a skill team, but they have shown some grit as well this postseason. Left wing Joel Ward and defensemen Roman Polak and Brenden Dillon, have led the physical charge.

San Jose coach Peter DeBoer said those players will play a big role in this series.

"Big, heavy; those are all words that we're all using daily in the playoffs," DeBoer said. "I think that's a reason that [general manager] Doug [Wilson] went out and got some of the guys we've acquired here, starting back in July. Joel Ward, Polak, [Nick] Spaling. Everything is toward this time of year. We all know what's important this time of year, what wins, how tight the games are.

"Those guys are those type of players. We wouldn't be sitting here without those guys and their contributions through the season or definitely through the playoffs, especially considering the teams we played, the L.A. series, and even Nashville."

5. FEELING GOOD

San Jose defenseman Brent Burns said there are no nerves heading into the conference final. He said the Sharks have an air of confidence after defeating the Los Angeles Kings and Nashville Predators in the first two rounds.

"I think you always feel good," Burns said. "At the start of the playoffs, 16 teams feel good, now there are four teams that feel good. We've said all along that we feel great with our group and the energy in the room. It's been fun, but it is a long way to go. It's going to be a tough series."

Burns even channeled UFC fighter Conor McGregor to explain the Sharks' mindset.

"Conor McGregor said, 'You got to have one feeling, you might as well feel good. Feel unbeatable,'" Burns said. "It's a great quote, and you've got to feel that way. Confidence is all about how you feel. If you are going to feel something, you might as well feel unbeatable and feel like you are the best."

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