NHL Odds and Picks: Sharks at Blues Game 2 Predictions
by Alan Matthews - 4/13/2012
Only one team lost on its home ice on Thursday night in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and that was the Western Conference second-seeded St. Louis Blues, who fell 3-2 in double overtime to No. 7 San Jose in the best game of these playoffs so far. Ironically, the Blues had beaten San Jose all four times, in dominating fashion, during the regular season. But there are no shootout chances in the playoffs. By the way, there were three overtime games Thursday – the first time there were three overtime games in one playoff day since April 18, 2001.
It makes one wonder if the Blues’ philosophy works in the postseason. They are a tight-checking, defense-first club and everyone says goaltending wins a Stanley Cup – no team was better in the nets than the Blues. But St. Louis also doesn’t have that one offensive star and it’s hard to win a Cup without a star.
Sharks at Blues Betting Story Lines
Martin Havlat was the star for San Jose in Game 1 with two goals, including the double-overtime winner. That’s 30 points in the past 27 playoff games for Havlat, with 14 of those being goals. Andrew Desjardins recorded the other Sharks goal, the one that tied it with just over five minutes to play in regulation. Dan Boyle and Ryane Clowe each had two assists. Patrik Burgland had both St. Louis goals, his first two career playoff goals. But it seems the Sharks go as Havlat does. He missed 39 games this year after hamstring surgery and San Jose struggled. With Havlat in the lineup this season, the Sharks were 25-11-3; without him, 18-18-7.
Was experience a factor in Game 1? The Blues hadn’t been to the playoffs since 2009 and haven’t won a playoff series since 2002 – their last playoff game victory was April 12, 2004. Compare that to the Sharks who, since 2009, had played 11 overtime playoff games and won eight of them. And San Jose has been to the West Finals the past two seasons – although for all its success has never reached the Stanley Cup Finals. San Jose is now 16-17 all-time in overtime playoff games.
Blues goalie Jaroslav Halak played well, but it will be interesting to see if Blues Coach Ken Hitchcock goes with Brian Elliott in Game 2. After sitting out Wednesday's practice with an upper-body injury, Elliott was the backup to Halak in Game 1. Halak finished 26-12-7 with a 1.96 goals-against average, a .926 save percentage and six shutouts during the regular season. Great numbers. But Elliott was 23-10-4 with a 1.56 goals-against average, a .940 save percentage and nine shutouts – he set post-expansion NHL records with his save percentage and goals-against average. Both were 2-0 vs. the Sharks during the regular season.
Oh, and the Sharks didn’t score a goal in St. Louis in two regular-season meetings. Havlat’s first goal at 6:02 of the second period ended San Jose's scoreless streak at the Scottrade Center at 150:58, dating to the 2010-11 season. In fact, those three goals matched what the Sharks scored in four regular-season meetings.
But in reality, perhaps St. Louis should have won. It outshot San Jose, 42-34 (14-8 in the first overtime), and outhit the Sharks, 31-26, and had the lead with under 5½ minutes left in regulation. Probably 99 percent of the time the Blues win a game with a lead that late. Each team went 1-for-3 on the power play Thursday. During the regular-season series the Blues had the advantage when up a man, going 5-for-19 while the Sharks were just 1-for-15 over four games. The Sharks killed just 14 of 19 power plays against St. Louis during the regular season. Five of the Blues' 11 goals in the regular-season series came on the power play.
Sharks at Blues Betting Odds and Key Trends
St. Louis opened as a -165 favorite with the total at five, according to NHL odds. The Blues were 35-47 ATS during the season and 21-43-18 on the ‘over/under’. San Jose was 28-54 and 37-42-3, respectively. The Sharks are 7-0 in their past seven games vs. teams with a winning record. The Blues are 1-5 in their past six games. The under is 3-0-1 in the past four meetings.
NHL Picks: Sharks at Blues Betting Predictions
St. Louis was nearly invincible at home during the season, losing only six games in regulation. The Blues dropped the last two, however, to Phoenix and Columbus after clinching the Central Division. Can they flip the switch back on? If the total goes over, I love San Jose. And I do like the Sharks for the series. But I also think the Blues win Game 2. I don’t think Hitchcock will go to Elliott as that would seem a sign of panic. If St. Louis does lose Game 2, Elliott will be in back in San Jose for Game 3.
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