The Sharks playoff lives are on the line tonight and we’ve identified our four most likely game-changers. Logan Couture and Timo Meier will be relied on to force Game 7 for their team while Vladimir Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz will be looking to close it out on home-ice. Here’s what makes them so important to their respective squads.
Couture has been the heartbeat of the Sharks, scoring big goals for them all playoffs including leading a late charge in Game 7 of the first round to win a crazy one over the Vegas Golden Knights. He leads the playoffs in goals and points and has looked like a man on a mission out there. Couture has been a scoring chance generating monster, his 4.8 controlled entries per game are the third most of any player left playing and his 2.1 slot pass completions per game are more than anyone. If someone’s going to be able to force Game 7 for the Sharks, there won’t be much surprise if it ends up being Couture who’s showed enough to be considered a Conn Smythe front-runner.
With Tomas Hertl confirmed to not be in the lineup tonight and Joe Pavelski a game-time decision, the Sharks will need Meier to step up his game. Meier is tied for 6th in both assists and points, showing flashes of brilliance throughout the playoffs. He’s continuously getting himself to dangerous areas ranking second in inner slot shots per game among remaining players and seems to create scoring chances in all sorts of ways. Out of the remaining players in playoffs at a per game rate, he’s tied for first in rebound chances, tied for third in rush chances, and first in forechecking chances. He’s due for a big goal and the Sharks will need it tonight.
Is there anyone left in the playoffs who has a better release than Tarasenko? He’s great at using his body to fend off the coverage while keeping control of the puck, ranking 2nd in offensive zone possession time per game among remaining players. When he sees an opening the puck is in the back of the net before the blink of an eye. He isn’t a big forechecker but when the Blues get their cycle going he becomes downright dangerous coming off the wall and letting his quick snapshot go, ranking fourth in cycle chances per game out of remaining players. He isn’t the fastest guy out there but that doesn’t make him any less dangerous off the rush where he has more chances per game than anyone. He’s a silent killer and could be the guy that buries the dagger tonight on the Sharks playoff hopes.
Schwartz became the first Blues player in franchise history to score two hat-tricks in a playoff year and now sits one goal shy of matching Brett Hull’s franchise record 13 playoff goals. What more can you want from a guy? Schwartz sits second in goals behind only Logan Couture and is a constant threat to score. The Blues love to create their chances down low and Schwartz thrives off that. He’s able to possess the puck in the corner while creating space for himself before attacking the net. Among remaining players per game, he ranks tied for fourth in offensive zone possession, 5th in cycle chances, and 2nd in forechecking chances. Schwartz has a knack for finding the dangerous areas of the ice and if the Sharks can’t find a way to keep him to the outside tonight their playoff lives will be in serious jeopardy.
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