The Blues will be in front of their home fans in Game 6 with momentum on their side. They’ve finally broken the back-and-forth with the Sharks, stringing a pair of wins together and putting San Jose’s back against the wall in the process. Jordan Binnington’s play has been a big reason why, with 50 saves on 51 shots in Games 4 and 5, but another key to the Blues’ success has been some terrific shot selection.
In Games 1-3, the Blues had the edge in most shooting categories, but it wasn’t lopsided. They were generally more accurate and did a good job to get to the front of the net, but they elevated their game to a whole other level in Games 4 and 5.
One area we here at The Point track closely is the percentage of total shots that come from the slot. Looking at past years, it seems to correlate to winning even more strongly than the total slot shots. Facing a lot of high-danger shots without many perimeter attempts makes it hard for a goalie to build some rhythm with some easy saves. The Blues clearly got the memo in Games 4 and 5.
Over half of their shots came from the slot, compared to less than 40% for the Sharks. As a result, they averaged the same amount of shots but got roughly four more slot shots per game, Not allowing Martin Jones to get his rhythm going. The Blues also dominated the inner slot in their two wins, nearly doubling the Sharks’ total. Eight powerplays in Game 5 helps, but they were just as dominant at even strength. Looking only at 5v5 play, they got 17 shots from the inner slot to the Sharks’ 7.
The Sharks will need to find a way to get to the middle of the ice more in Game 6, or their season might come to a premature end. Unfortunately for them, Erik Karlsson and Tomas Hertl will not be in the lineup due to injuries, while captain Joe Pavelski is a game-time decision. Karlsson leads the playoffs in possession time, Hertl leads in slot shots, and Pavelski is just two deflections down on the playoff lead despite missing close to a full series. Their backs are definitely against the wall tonight.