The Western Conference Final kicked off on Saturday with a big 6-3 win by the Sharks. The scoreboard may have looked like a blowout, but the two teams were actually more closely matched than at first glance.
Game 1 goes to the Sharks, but it wasn't the kind of domination you might expect from the final score. They took advantage of St. Louis mistakes when they had the chance and take the early series lead. #STLBlues #SJSharks #StanleyCup pic.twitter.com/1tIB0IPs08
— The Point (@ThePointHockey) May 12, 2019
As with any other game, shot totals and zone time end up being a bit skewed since the Blues trailed for most the game, which allowed San Jose to sit back and defend. It’s still worth noting that the Blues’ expected goals total was 3.04, pretty much spot on with their actual performance and even ahead of San Jose’s 2.52 expected goals.
The key to the Sharks win was taking advantage of their opportunities. They had a 5-on-3 powerplay midway through the first and capitalized on it, giving them a lead they wouldn’t relinquish for the rest of the game. They also got a lucky bounce late in the second when Timo Meier’s pass from behind the goal line bounced off Vince Dunn’s skate to beat Jordan Binnington. But Blues defenseman Joel Edmundson pointed to a different area when asked what went wrong in Game 1.
Turnovers by St. Louis defensemen led directly to two of San Jose’s goal. First, Alex Pietrangelo was checked and lost the puck, which gave an odd-man rush to the Sharks on the opening goal.
Later in the game, it was Parayko’s turn to look bad on a play. He was checked at the blueline, leading to Timo Meier pulling a Forsberg for what turned out to be the game-winning goal.
The Sharks are an aggressive team and had the 5th-highest takeaway rate during the regular season, so it’s no big surprise from them. Seeing the Blues make mistakes like this is not what we expected to see. In fact, the Blues had the lowest turnover rate of any team in the NHL this past season, even when factoring in their rough first half. If we narrow it down to just their defensemen, they still rank first. If we narrow it down even further to just defensemen in their own zone, the Blues tumble down the standings all the way to…
*shuffles his papers*
Second in the NHL. Not bad.
In fact, the Blues turnover rate was lower in Game 1 (14.3%) than their season average (16%) and even lower than the Sharks turnover rate in Game 1 (15.9%). Those high-profile mistakes cost them and they are what will stick in the public’s eye, but Blues fan shouldn’t panic. If they cut down on these high-danger mistakes, expect them to be right back in it tonight for what should be a tightly contested Game 2.