Sharks blank Blues in Game 3 to take 2-1 series lead
Tomas Hertl scored twice and Martin Jones recorded his second consecutive shutout to lead the San Jose Sharks to a 3-0 win over the St. Louis Blues in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals.
Joonas Donskoi, on a pretty play that he started with an interception in the defensive zone, also tallied for the Sharks.
Jones made 22 saves on the night. He'll take a shutout streak of 150:45 into Game 4 Saturday night in San Jose (7:15 PM ET; NBC, CBC, TVA), where the Sharks will look to extend their 2-1 series lead.
Here are some quick hits on Game 3:
The Blues got the start they wanted. They asserted their forecheck, created turnovers and piled up the zone time. But the shots weren't there, not the quality ones at least. And as the first period wore on, it began to look like they may have missed their best chance to regain some control over this series.
That proved true when Hertl got the Sharks on the board at 15:53. St. Louis defenseman Colton Parayko, so good in the first two rounds, made a rookie mistake, turning over the puck in the neutral zone, then compounded it by getting caught out of position. That allowed Joe Pavelski and Hertl to enter the zone unimpeded. Pavelski drew the check and fired a pass to Hertl, who rifled a shot that beat Brian Elliott high glove side.
While Parayko wore the horns, this one's partially on the Blues coaching staff as well. Ken Hitchcock took Joel Edmundsson out of the lineup in favor of Robert Bortuzzo, a move that forced Kevin Shattenkirk to move off his natural side. Paired with Parayko on the goal, he was out of position as well and couldn't cover for his partner's mistake.
Gif of the Night (Part I)
I've watched the Joe Thornton pass that set up Hertl's second goal half a dozen times and I still can't quite grasp what happened. He's singing in a totally different language here:
Gif of the Night (Part II)
Moments after ringing yet another wide open chance off the post, Troy Brouwer assesses responsibility for his faulty aim:
Gotta feel for the guy. He's one of the few Blues who's carried his weight in this series and all he has to show for it are four goal posts. Have to think he'll get one before this is over.
Notable Number: 58
That's how many consecutive shots Jones has turned away since Jori Lehtera beat him midway through the second period of Game 1. The streak has earned him a spot in franchise history as the first netminder to post consecutive postseason shutouts.
“He’s the backbone of our team,” Thornton said after the game. “When he’s on, we feel we can’t be beat. We love playing in front of this guy. We honestly believe that he’s the best goaltender in the league.”
If nothing else, he's the best right now.
What It Means
The Blues are only down two games to one, but it feels like they’ve got one foot in the grave after this one.
Nothing's working. They have no answer for San Jose's speed. They haven't figured out how to slow down the Thornton line. They can't get enough shots through to Jones, and on those they do, they aren't getting the screens or rebounds they need to make his job difficult. They're even losing the physical battles.
This biggest problem though is that St. Louis’s top stars haven't risen to the occasion. Vladimir Tarasenko doesn't have a point in the series, and was unnoticeable in Game 3. David Backes has been reduced to a perimeter player. Paul Stastny is skating a lot, but accomplishing little.
The Blues need a big game from their big guns on Saturday. Not one or two of them. All of them. Defenseman Alex Pietrangelo recognized as much in his post-game comments.
"It's tough to win when you don't score," he said. "We can't leave our goalies out to dry like that. It's on us now to find a way to create more offense and to find a way to score more goals."
Interesting to hear coach Ken Hitchcock speak after the game about the quality that's separating Tarasenko from success in this series: experience.
"He's learning hard lessons, like any young player...some really hard lessons. The playoffs are for veteran players. The veteran players on both teams have this thing dialed up.
"As you experience this as a younger player, you're going to have to learn to fight through a lot if you expect to score. We would like him to learn that lesson a day from now, but we're not sure on the timeframe. Some guys never learn it. Some guys can't do it. Some guys learn that lesson and they really become accomplished players, especially scoring players. But he's going to have to fight through everything if he expects to score a goal and contribute offensively."
Is that a challenge... or a vote of no-confidence?
Hitchcock also said after the game that he'd like "to sleep on it" before deciding his Game 4 starter. Elliott wasn't great in this one (he'd probably like Hertl's second goal back) and was pulled after allowing three goals on 14 shots. That said, there should be no question about him getting the start in Game 4. If Hitch turns to Jake Allen, it's a move of pure desperation.