Welcome to the Stanley Cup Playoffs Buzz, a daily in-depth look at the 2019 NHL playoffs. The Western Conference Final began with the San Jose Sharks defeating the St. Louis Blues 6-3 in Game 1 at SAP Center on Saturday.
What We Learned
Here are some takeaways from Game 1 of the Western Conference Final:
Couture continues to lead Sharks
Sharks center Logan Couture continued his impressive postseason with two goals and an assist. He finished a 2-on-1, forced a turnover that led to a goal and scored into an empty net, giving him the lead in goals (11) and points (17) in the playoffs. "If he's not the top two-way center in the League, he's in that conversation," coach Peter DeBoer said. "Plays a 200-foot game, always on the right side of the puck, always making the right reads. And I think when your centerman is like that, he drives the guys around him to play as honest a game as that."
Sharks remain composed
The Blues came out hitting, but the Sharks kept their composure for the most part. The Sharks made the Blues pay when they took a 2-1 lead on a 5-on-3 goal by forward Joe Pavelski at 11:24 of the first period, and were not impressed with how the Blues finished the game. After Couture made it 6-3 with an empty-net goal at 17:39, the Blues took three roughing penalties and a 10-minute misconduct at 17:55, while the Sharks took two roughing penalties and a 10-minute misconduct. "We played hockey tonight," Sharks defenseman Erik Karlsson said. "They worried about a few other things, and we won the game."
Video: WCF, Gm1: Blues @ Sharks
Blues can draw positives from loss
Losing the opening game by three goals hardly is the way the Blues wanted to start the series. But from a glass-half-full perspective, there were reasons for optimism. Center Ryan O'Reilly, the heartbeat of the Blues, admitted his second-period goal took a lot of pressure off him. Prior to that, he scored two goals in 13 playoff games and believed he'd been snakebit around the net. Not anymore. Coach Craig Berube was impressed with the offensive zone time the Blues accrued in the third period, which resulted in a goal on 12 shots. He hopes that will carry over into Game 2 at SAP Center on Monday (9 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS).
Blues discipline will be determining factor
The Blues had gone 136:20 without a penalty until defenseman Jay Bouwmeester was assessed an interference minor at 9:36 of the first period. Colton Parayko took a slashing penalty 57 seconds later, and each were in the penalty box when Sharks forward Logan Couture opened the scoring. The Blues finished the game with seven penalties for 22 minutes; the Sharks four for 16 minutes. Berube admitted St. Louis must rediscover its discipline or it will make efforts to advance to the Stanley Cup Final that more difficult.
Game 1 quick links
-- Timo Meier continues to impress for the Sharks, writes columnist Nicholas J. Cotsonika
-- Blues mistakes, not goalie Jordan Binnington, were the biggest factors in St. Louis' Game 1 loss, writes staff writer Mike Zeisberger
-- The sons of Brent Burns and Joe Pavelski put on their own show for Sharks fans in Game 1.
-- Mr. October himself helped get the Sharks going in Game 1.
Eastern Conference Final, Game 2
Carolina Hurricanes at Boston Bruins (3 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS): The Hurricanes played a strong Game 1 but allowed two power-play goals in a 28-second span early in the third period that allowed the Bruins to take the lead en route to a 5-2 win. The Hurricanes haven't lost consecutive games in the playoffs since Games 1 and 2 to the Washington Capitals in the Eastern Conference First Round. The Bruins have won four straight games and appear to be hitting their stride.
Eastern Conference Final quick links
-- Here are 5 keys for Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Final, from staff writer Tom Gulitti.
-- Andrei Svechnikov is making his presence felt on the first line for the Hurricanes, writes Tom Gulitti.
-- Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask is feeling fresh this postseason thanks to extra rest in the regular season, writes correspondent Matt Kalman.
-- Charlie McAvoy will be back in the lineup for the Bruins after serving a suspension in Game 1. Kalman weighs who might come out of the lineup.