NHL Pick: San Jose Sharks @ St. Louis Blues Game 1 Preview
The San Jose Sharks are usually considered amongst the favorites to beat the Stanley Cup odds every single season. This year though, they are big time underdogs, starting on Thursday night at Scottrade Arena when they take on the upstart St. Louis Blues.
The Sharks were lucky just to make the postseason this year. They had to fight hard over the course of the end of the season to fend off the Dallas Stars, but in fairness, they won the games that they really had to in order to make it to the postseason. They beat both the Los Angeles Kings and the aforementioned Stars twice each in the final four games of the year, and before that, there were three wins against teams that were all competing for playoff spots as well. Still, when you look at the talent that is on the ice this year in relation to years past and what the team has been able to do this year, you have to be a bit underwhelmed. The Sharks only averaged 2.7 goals per game in 2011-12, and save for really Joe Thornton, Logan Couture, Patrick Marleau, and Joe Pavelski, the rest of the team was basically nowhere to be found. Antti Niemi did have a good year with 34 wins, and he does have a Stanley Cup winning pedigree, but he also had 37 losses and a middling 2.42 GAA.
The Blues were just the “Little Engine That Could” all season long, especially down the stretch. They put together gritty efforts every single night, and it was that type of tenacity that had them on the verge of winning the Presidents’ Trophy. Sure, they come into the Western Conference playoffs with the No. 2 seed and not the top mark, but they have to have the utmost confidence in the world. They won a division that featured three other great teams in the Nashville Predators, Detroit Red Wings, and Chicago Blackhawks, and they did so without having anything to sweat over the last two weeks of the year. St. Louis also has not just one, but two goalies that had sub-2.00 GAAs this year with Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott. It has to be a bit concerning that neither net minder really has all that much in terms of postseason experience, but there is no doubt that both hit their stride this year, and they have a defense in front of them that is one of the best in hockey.
The Final Word: In the end, nothing really works here for the Sharks. They lost all four games in this series this year, and they only won 17 games on the road for the whole campaign. Now, they are going against a team that pulled out a 30-6-5 home record on the campaign, the second best mark in the entire league. This should be all one-way traffic in the first playoff game here in the Gateway to the West since 2009. Remember though, that the Blues haven’t won a playoff game since 2004, and they haven’t won a series since 2002.
San Jose Sharks @ St. Louis Blues Free Pick: St. Louis Blues -155
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