The St. Louis Blues seem safely in control of the Central Division lead – and the first or second seed that should come with it – so you can forgive people for imagining potential first round opponents. Any number of interesting Western Conference opponents are plausible,* but former player Terry Yake picked on the San Jose Sharks as a particularly beatable potential draw:
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A matchup to avoid
Personally, the Kings seem like a nightmare matchup for the Blues because – in many ways – they bring many of the same strengths to the table. Each squad might not score a lot but has some solid offensive talent (Los Angeles has a higher ceiling, the Blues have superior depth), both boast strong defensive structures and daunting goalie duos.
Sizing up the Sharks
The Sharks, on the other hand, carry uneven characteristics but shouldn’t be totally dismissed. (Not with that high-end talent on hand nor a respectable +10 goal differential despite a shaky record.)
Those age-old Washington Capitals-like criticisms about “heart” and “choking” do indeed make the Sharks an easy target for prognosticators, however, and this season hasn’t provided their best work. That’s especially true against the Blues; St. Louis swept the season series with an 8-1 total score, so perhaps that’s a big part of “Yake’s take.”
With all that in mind, do you think that San Jose be the best possible draw for the Blues or would they be lucky to get a different seventh or eighth seed opponent?
* – If the Blues draw a first or second seed, they could face any one of Dallas, Phoenix, San Jose, Los Angeles, Colorado or even Calgary depending upon how the stretch run goes.
The breaks and breakaways frequently went the Edmonton Oilers’ way as they eliminated the San Jose Sharks in Game 6 of their first-round series. Those results have been more of a mixed bag for Edmonton against the Anaheim Ducks in Game 1 tonight, though.
Anton Slepyshev is a great example of those ups and downs.
In Game 6 against the Sharks, Slepyshev used his speed to score a breakaway tally that ended up being the game-winner. (See here for those friendly breakaways.)
Slepyshev’s been burning the Ducks with his speed on Wednesday, but the Oilers have been burned in the process. For one thing, John Gibson turned aside this big chance shortly after Ryan Getzlaf gave Anaheim a 1-0 lead:
Later on in that same second period, Slepyshev got a step on the Ducks defense again. This time, he didn’t just fail to score; he took a goalie interference penalty for bumping Gibson.
With Ryan Nugent-Hopkins being among those hitting posts, it might feel like it’s all against the Oilers this time around, but crossbars/posts – another theme from Edmonton’s Game 6 win vs. San Jose – have more or less balanced out.
And, one break really went Edmonton’s way: a Ducks defender broke his stick on the Oilers’ 5-on-3 opportunity, opening the door for a crucial Mark Letestu goal:
The end result is a 1-1 tie, but give the Oilers credit for not getting rattled. If Slepyshev can keep up his efforts, his speed could be a factor in a series that looks like it could be a real tug-o-war.
Let’s be honest: the St. Louis Blues owe a lot to Jake Allen‘s work against the Minnesota Wild in that first-round series.
He probably bought himself a significant amount of goodwill for that outstanding work, but Allen isn’t resting on his laurels. He admitted that “a little mistake by me cost” the Blues the 4-3 decision against the Predators, leaving St. Louis down 1-0 to Nashville.
The goal in question was Vernon Fiddler‘s unlikely 4-3 tally, which came after an unsuccessful poke check attempt by Allen:
Now, to be fair, that wasn’t even the only failed poke check that turned into a goal, as Pekka Rinne also got beat after making such an attempt:
Then again, Allen is wise to score points with teammates for taking the blame. As far as his team, head coach Mike Yeo believes that it was the second period that really made the difference.
Regardless, Allen and the Blues hope to carry over the momentum from their third-period dominance in Game 1 to Game 2 to tie the series 1-1.
That contest airs on NBCSN at 8 p.m. ET on Friday. (You can also watch online and via the NBC Sports App; here’s the livestream link.)
The Nashville Predators’ 4-3 Game 1 win against the St. Louis Blues makes it difficult to use “perfect.”
You could get away with using that word, mind you, as the Predators followed up their surprising sweep of the Chicago Blackhawks by going up 1-0 against the Blues in St. Louis. Still, the ride was so bumpy in the third period, it’s probably wiser to focus on the fact that Nashville is unbeaten.
Because, yikes, that third period was a roller coaster for Nashville.
via Natural Stat Trick
P.K. Subban scored a goal and two assists in the first 40 minutes to help the Predators bring a 3-1 lead into the final frame. The Blues absolutely dominated play in the third, however, briefly tying the game as they put immense pressure on Pekka Rinne & Co.
Ultimately, the Predators received a game-winner from an unlikely source in Vernon Fiddler, gaining a 1-0 series edge.
Even so, few will talk about “mystique” after that shaky finish.
For one thing, both Rinne and Jake Allen allowed goals that they’d like to forget. Also, both squads experienced lopsided periods; Nashville dominated shots in the second (15-8) while the Blues almost doubled-up the Preds in the third (11-6).
Nashville also seems likely to play without rising rookie Kevin Fiala, who was hospitalized after an absolutely horrifying crash into the boards.
It was a weird and often wild – sometimes nasty – contest, with the Predators ultimately coming out on top. There’s plenty of intrigue heading into Game 2, which airs on NBCSN at 8 p.m. ET on Friday. (You can also watch online and via the NBC Sports App; here’s the livestream link.)
Update: With both games likely to run simultaneously, note that Ducks fans can watch on NBCSN in the Anaheim market while the game is also available via streaming links below.
In addition to that, Ducks – Oilers is slated to begin on NHL Network.
This tweet explains it in additional detail.
The second round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs is set to begin on Wednesday, and the NBC Sports Group has you covered with wall-to-wall coverage.
We start with a battle of the hottest goalies in the postseason so far as Jake Allen and the Blues host Pekka Rinne and the Predators. The duo of Game 1’s wraps up when Connor McDavid and the Oilers take on Ryan Getzlaf and the Ducks.
Here’s what you need to know:
Nashville Predators vs. St. Louis Blues
Time: 8 p.m. ET
Network: NBCSN (Stream online here)
Edmonton Oilers vs. Anaheim Ducks
Time: 10:30 p.m. ET
Network: NBCSN (Stream online)