Originally written on Shutdown Line  |  Last updated 11/15/14

Much like the Vancouver-Los Angeles series, the #2 vs. #7 matchup between the San Jose Sharks and St. Louis Blues looks to be a lot closer than the team's seedings indicate. In one corner, we have the Blues who have quietly assembled a great foundation over the last few years and are now seeing it pay off as they are sitting pretty at #2 in the Western Conference. In the other corner, we have the hard-luck kids known as the San Jose Sharks who were expected to contend for the Cup (yet again) but ended up not earning a playoff spot until the last week of the season.

I am willing to bet that if you asked almost any fan at the beginning of the season which one of these teams would be one of the best in the Western Conference and which one would be battling for one of the final playoff spots, they would probably guess the Sharks for the former and the Blues for the latter. It hasn't quite worked out that way, obviously and it's actually been more of the opposite. Most pundits are impressed with what Ken Hitchcock has done with the Blues this season and have them winning in a short series, but I think it'll be much more difficult for them. Find out why after the jump.

Like many of the playoff matchups this year, both teams are among the best in their conference at driving possession, but the Blues have been an elite team in this category this year. This has been one of their stronger areas for the last couple of seasons and it seems like great goaltending is what has finally gotten them over the hump. Meanwhile, the Sharks have constantly been among the league's best at scoring and puck-possession but they have fell victim to some bad shooting percentages at even strength and awful goaltending on the penalty kill, which has been part of the reason for their struggle this year.

Team 5v5 FenClose 5v5 Tied St. Louis 55.07 55.52 San Jose 52.19 52.6

 

Team 5v5 Sh% 5v5 Sv% St. Louis 7.5% 0.936 San Jose 7.0% 0.926

 

Team PP Sh% PK Sv% PP SF/60 PK SA/60 St. Louis 11.5% 0.892 50.3 43 San Jose 11.7% 0.85 62.9 50.6

When it comes to even strength play, the Blues have the advantage in just about every category. Although, when two good possession teams are matched up against each other, I usually see things going either way at even strength. The Blues still have the advantage in goaltending with the tandem of Brian Elliott and Jaroslav Halak but I am a bit skeptical of how sustainable that .936 save percentage is, especially Elliott's. Even if one of them screws up in the playoffs, it's nice to have another guy to fall-back on which is something San Jose doesn't have as their only guy behind Anttii Niemi is Thomas Greiss, who has not played many games this season.

St. Louis does have the advantage in goaltending but something they don't have is start talent. They have a lot of great players like David Backes, Alex Pietrangelo, David Perron and TJ Oshie but San Jose has a lot more pure goal-scorers. Let's say that one of their goalies has a bad outing, can St. Louis' forwards afford to get into a run and gun style of game with the Sharks? I don't think that will work in their favor, so I could see St. Louis struggling if they are forced into that style of play.

That being said, the Blues' defense is among the best and most underrated in the league so I think they will be fine there. The powerplay is where their only weak-point is but San Jose's penalty kill is one of the worst in the NHL and it's only made worse when you factor in Niemi's atrocious PK save percentage. On the flipside, the Sharks have a terrific powerplay that is up against a stout Blues penalty kill that is backed by good shorthanded goaltending. Something has to give with either of these match-ups and I do think that San Jose does have somewhat of an advantage here.

I could be overvaluing San Jose's talent a little bit, but it is really hard to say that guys like Thornton, Marleau, Boyle, Burns & Pavelski won't be producing on the PP since they've been so good there for most of the year. Then you have the PK which got better with the additions of Dominic Moore and Daniel Winnik. I think those acquisitions will definitely pay off for the Sharks in this series and their PK shouldn't be as porous as it's been for most of the year.

The other area that guys like Moore, Galiardi & Winnik have to help pitch in is with secondary and tertiary scoring. San Jose hasn't gotten much of that this season while the Blues have three lines that produce at a decent rate. These three along with others like Torrey Mitchell need to start producing more offensively if the Sharks want to avoid a first round exit. On the Blues side, they get a solid amount of offense throughout the lineup, but it would help if they had a break-out from one of their forwards to give them an edge over San Jose.

Prediction

This is easily the toughest prediction I've had to make this post-season and I've already changed my mind a few times. In the end, I have to go with the Blues winning in a terrific seven game series. The Sharks are going to give them a scare and will be a tough out but I trust the Blues goaltending a lot more than I do San Jose's and the Blues have somewhat of an advantage with their defensive play and secondary scoring. The Sharks have the potential and the talent to win this series, but I think they just ran into the wrong team in the first round this year. It sort of fits the theme of their season.

GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Colts' suspension of Richardson voids $3.1 million

Five players replacing the biggest names in Pac-12 for 2015

Report: Broncos hire Phillips as defensive coordinator

LeBron James misses Cavs-Blazers game due to wrist injury

Iceman: Thompson’s 37-point quarter doesn't break his record

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Mayweather visited Pacquiao’s hotel room for private meeting

Seahawks GM: Russell Wilson's contract 'presents challenges'

JR Smith: Lack of partying in Cleveland is better than NY

Tom Brady admits he has a cold

Paul Pierce: Computers to blame for lack of NBA trash talk

Darrelle Revis: I don’t feel sorry for Jets fans

Richard Sherman, girlfriend expecting son during SB week

WATCH: Marshawn, Gronk play Mortal Kombat with Conan

Armstrong: I’d use PEDs again under same circumstances

Top five free agent quarterbacks

Report: NFL investigators to consult physicist on Deflategate

5 X-factors for Super Bowl XLIX

Best prop bets about the Super Bowl broadcast

Ten worst teams to ever play in a Super Bowl

Marshawn's new stiff arm to media: You know why I'm here

Six MLB teams going all-in on 2015

Keys to victory for the Patriots in Super Bowl XLIX

Keys to victory for the Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX

NHL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

5 X-factors for Super Bowl XLIX

Ten worst teams to ever play in a SB

Six MLB teams going all-in on 2015

Patriots' keys to Super Bowl victory

Seahawks' keys to Super Bowl victory

DeflateGate ball could fetch $50K

Doug Baldwin ready for Revis Island

Top storylines for Super Bowl XLIX

Barnes unhappy with NBA over fine

Does MLB need more offense in the modern game?

Re-ranking the Top 25: exposing the biggest flaws

Putting the Cavs’ pieces together

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.