This series had coin-flip written all over it prior to puck drop on Saturday night.
Two stingy teams, cut from the same well-rounded hockey fabric, had many picking at least six games to decide the Western Conference’s representative in the Stanley Cup Final.
The ‘who’ remains to be seen, but the San Jose Sharks called heads in Game 1 of the Western Conference Final and chose right, taking a 1-0 series lead on the back of a 6-3 win against the St. Louis Blues at SAP Center.
The Sharks looked like the sharper of the two teams, whose respective Round 2 series were decided in seven games.
Martin Jones, who finished with 28 saves in the game, made a quick save early blocker save just seconds into the first period on Alex Steen. The play seemed to wake the Sharks up and Logan Couture scored 3:31 in to give San Jose a 1-0 lead.
You’ll look at Jordan Binnington‘s save percentage and conclude he had a poor game. Five goals against isn’t going to get it done for the Blues, but some of them we hardly his fault and turnovers were coming in hot and heavy from the Blues on some of these goals.
Couture’s 10th of the playoffs, for instance, came off a slick cross-ice feed from Gustav Nyquist.
Joe Pavelski‘s came on a 5-on-3 power play.
Kevin Labanc‘s came off a turnover and a nice cut to the net as Labanc went cross-body with the shot.
Meier’s first was a spectacular deke, again, off a turnover, and his second was a flukey goal that caromed off Vince Dunn’s leg and in.
Meier finished with three points on the night. Couture, too, who scored into the empty net late in the third for his 11th. Both had two goals and an assist each.
The Blues did well to answer Couture’s opening goal. Joel Edmundson scored his first of the playoffs to tie it nearing the mid-way point of the period. Pavelski’s marker and then Labanc’s on either side of the first intermission made it 3-1 until Ryan O'Reilly scored his first goal in nine games.
O’Reilly’s name under the goalscorer bit on the score sheet is going to be uber important in this series. He can’t go another whole series without scoring. He’s a great two-way centerman, no doubt, but the Blues need that production.
The Sharks, meanwhile, are now 7-2 in the Shark Tank in these playoffs.
Game 2 goes Monday at 9 p.m. ET on NBCSN
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• PHT Conference Finals predictions
• Conference Finals roundtable
• Sharks-Blues series preview
Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck