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2012 WCQF Game 1 - Sharks @ Blues - April 12, 2012

by Eric Lindquist / San Jose Sharks


2012 Western Conference Quarterfinals - Game 1
#7 San Jose Sharks (43-29-10) at #2 St. Louis Blues (49-22-11)
4:30 PM (Pacific) - Scottrade Center - St. Louis, MO
TV: CSN California HD  |  RADIO: KFOX 98.5/102.1 FM

Visit the Game Day Blog for updates throughout the day

STORYLINES

The (#7) San Jose Sharks face the (#2) St. Louis Blues in Game 1 in the best-of-seven Western Conference Quarterfinal series in St. Louis on Thursday at 4:30 PM (Pacific). This will be the 28th playoff series in Sharks franchise history (13-14) and the 4th playoff series against the Blues.

Previous Playoff Series vs. St. Louis (all Western Conference Quarterfinals)
2003-04: (#2) San Jose Sharks defeat (#7) St. Louis Blues, 4-1
2000-01: (#4) St. Louis Blues defeat (#5) San Jose Sharks, 4-3
1999-00: (#8) San Jose Sharks defeat (#1) St. Louis Blues, 4-3

San Jose enters the playoffs on a high note, having won their last four games to claim the 7th spot in a highly-contested Western Conference while the Blues went just 1-2-2 in their final five games of the regular season.

The Sharks had a tough go in the four-game regular season series vs. the Blues with St. Louis winning all four games while outscoring the Sharks, 11-3. Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo led St. Louis with five points (2-3-5), followed by fellow blueliner Kevin Shattenkirk with four points (2-2-4).

Both goaltenders Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliot posted shutouts against the Sharks in the regular season, both in St. Louis, as San Jose failed to score a single goal at the Scottrade Center on 49 combined shots in the two games. Sharks forwards Torrey Mitchell and Michal Handzus and defenseman Brent Burns scored the only goals for the Sharks in the regular season series.

MATCH-UPS TO WATCH

Offense vs. Defense
The St. Louis Blues defense gave up the fewest goals in the NHL allowing just 1.89 goals against per game and caused fits against the Sharks 11th ranked offense (2.67 goals for per game) in the four-game season series.

Special Teams
San Jose and their No. 2 power play (21.1%) will need to get things rolling offensively, but must do so against St. Louis’ seventh-best penalty kill League-wide (85.8%). The Sharks went just 1-for-15 (6.7%) vs. the Blues on the man advantage during the regular season while St. Louis converted 5-for-19 (26.3%) on their opportunities against the San Jose penalty kill.

Balanced Scoring
The Sharks had four players hit the 60-point mark this season: Joe Thornton (77), Logan Couture (65), Patrick Marleau (64), and Joe Pavelski (61). St. Louis did not have any players reach the 60-point plateau. For the first time in team history, San Jose had three 30+ goal scorers: Couture, Pavelski (31), and Marleau (30). St. Louis had just two players score over 20 goals this season: David Backes (24) and David Perron (21). However, St. Louis did have nine players score at least 10 goals this season while San Jose had just six.

SHARK BITES

Remember me?... Patrick Marleau is the only current member of the San Jose Sharks that was in the Sharks lineup for the last playoff series vs. the Blues in 2004. Marleau led all Sharks players with four points (3-1-4) including series-clinching goal in the five-game series victory over the Blues. Current San Jose Sharks development coach Mike Ricci had a goal and an assist in the series for San Jose.

Game 1… The Sharks have a 13-14 record all time in Game 1’s of the Stanley Cup Playoffs with a 7-7 record on the road during Game 1.

In the 13 Game 1 Wins… the Sharks went on to win 9 of the 13 series (69.2%)
In the 14 Game 1 Loses… the Sharks went on to win 4 of the 14 series (28.5%)

Can’t wait… Rookie Tommy Wingels is looking to dress in his first Stanley Cup playoffs game.

125 and counting… Patrick Marleau is set to dress in his franchise-leading 125th playoff game for the San Jose Sharks in Game 1 vs. St. Louis.

Joe loves the Spring… Joe Pavelski has 38 points (20-18-38) and seven game-winning goals in 58 career playoff games.

Not singing the Blues… Joe Thornton has 37 points (8-29-37) in 37 career games against St. Louis.

Niemi vs. STL… Antii Niemi is 4-5-0 with a 2.59 GAA and .917 save percentage in his career against the St. Louis.

Stats
82 GP 82
43 W 49
29 L 22
10 OT 11
96 P 109
0.585 P% 0.665
2.67 G/G 2.51
2.50 GA/G 1.89
21.1 PP% 16.7
76.9 PK% 85.8
33.8 S/G 30.6
28.6 SA/G 26.7
53.3 FO% 50.4
Date Vis/Home Final
Mar 3, 2012 STL@SJS STL, 3 - 1
Feb 12, 2012 SJS@STL STL, 3 - 0
Dec 10, 2011 SJS@STL STL, 1 - 0
Oct 15, 2011 STL@SJS STL, 4 - 2

BLUES NOTES

Awesome at Home… The Blues had the fewest regulation home losses (6) in the NHL during the regular season.

Familiar Faces… Scott Nichol and Kent Huskins, who spent last postseason on the Sharks roster, open this postseason on the Blues roster. Nichol played 80 games for St. Louis this season, posting eight points (3-5-8), and Huskins added seven points (2-5-7) in 25 games.

Standing Tall… Blues netminder -- and likely Game 1 starter Jaroslav Halak -- has two shutouts in seven career games against San Jose.

2002… The last time the St. Louis Blues won a playoff series.

A change will do you good… The Blues went 43-15-11 to close out the season after head coach Ken Hitchcock took over behind the bench on November 6, 2011. Hitchcock led the Dallas Stars to the Stanley Cup in 1999.

Just grabbed 20… David Perron had a goal in five of his last six games for the Blues and scored nine times in the last 15 games to reach 21 goals this season.

Welcome to the playoffs… The Blues have seven potential players set to make their Stanley Cup Playoff debuts this spring. Ian Cole, Evgeny Grachev, Alex Pietrangelo, Chris Porter, Ryan Reaves, Jaden Schwartz, and Kevin Shattenkirk.

INJURY REPORT

San Jose is relatively healthy headed into the postseason. Right wing Torrey Mitchell missed the regular season finale due to injury, while defenseman Douglas Murray returned to the lineup for Game 82 after missing four. There were some questions about alternate captain Ryane Clowe’s health, but head coach Todd McLellan quickly quieted those questions stating that he expected Clowe to be ready for Game 1.

St. Louis goaltender Brian Elliott (undisclosed, day-to-day) is questionable after reportedly sustaining an injury in practice. Accordingly, the Blues have recalled Jake Allen from Peoria to serve as a potential backup to Jaroslav Halak, the probable Game 1 starting goaltender.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

"They (St. Louis) play a hard game. Up and down the ice, physical, pucks to the net. We've got to match that. If they're going to do it to us, we've got to do it to them." – Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Sharks defenseman

BOTTOM LINE

The Sharks would love to score an early goal, grab momentum and break the 0-for-49 shooting percentage in St. Louis this season. A few goals early in Game 1 for the Sharks could go a long way in this series against a very young and rather inexperienced Blues team. Although it is always a great way to start of a series with a win on the road, the Sharks just need to focus on keeping a high-tempo physical style of play and grab a split in the two games on the road before heading home to HP Pavilion at San Jose.

Let the Playoffs Begin!

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