The second round of the NHL playoffs were as exciting as could possibly be. Ben Bishop had over 50 saves before giving up the game winning goal to Patrick Maroon to close up the Blues and Stars series. The other series between the Colorado Avalanche and the San Jose Sharks came down to a full seven games before the Sharks won by one goal. The Sharks got healthier and stronger while the Blues were tested by their division rivals and made the changes necessary. These two teams will have another stellar conference championship series, with the winner probably taking possibly another seventh game. Time to predict who’ll possibly reach the Stanley Cup Finals from the Western Conference.
Western Semi-Conference Final Picks: 1-1
The last game these teams played was back when Jake Allen started Saturday, March 9th. An overtime win for the Sharks with only 17 saves out of 19 attempts for Martin Jones can offer a glimpse of what we may see throughout the series. Three star players sat out that game: Vladimir Tarasenko for the Blues, and Evander Kane and Erik Karlsson for the Sharks.
The biggest difference for these two teams are the goaltenders. Martin Jones has been battered throughout the postseason and had a rough regular season before that. However, he’s shown up when it matters most, especially in the two Game Seven’s the Sharks have been in. This series may be played with who’s got the more talented and carefully used depth outside the net than the reverse. Both teams haven’t had a lot of time to prepare for the first two games (which will be played in the SAP Center in San Jose), which may affect how the Blues play. This is going to be important because star net-minder Jordan Binnington hasn’t been rested once yet throughout the playoffs, whereas Martin Jones was pulled three out of seven games in the first round. Joe Pavelski didn’t seem to miss a step in his return in Game Seven and star free-agent signee Erik Karlsson looks like himself for the first time in three months, which means the Sharks defense could get confident and aggressive.
If the St. Louis Blues don’t start off well the first two games, they’re going to have to find ways to climb back into the series. They were good with physicality against Dallas, they’ve proven they can win critical road games (they’ve won five combined in the first two rounds) and Craig Berube has done his magic with lineup changes. This is going to be a series worth watching.
Prediction: Sharks win series 4-3