San Jose looks to take a 2-0 lead in the Western Conference final when it hosts Game 2 of the series against the St. Louis Blues Monday night. The Sharks are 9-7 so far in the playoffs, not exactly setting the world on fire but picking up steam as they move closer to the Cup. The Sharks took Game 1 of the series convincingly in a 6-3 win over the Blues. The San Jose Sharks are listed as -135 money line favorites at home against the St. Louis Blues in Game 2 of the series.
The Blues have been a surprise team this season, and they look to continue their Cinderella season. After having the worst record in the NHL on January 1, the Blues have had a historic run to make the playoffs and have already knocked some of the most dangerous teams out of the West. The Blues topped the Winnipeg Jets in the opening round, then got past the Dallas Stars in a thrilling Game 7 in the conference semifinals.
Blues Look For Better Play
The St Louis Blues look to bounce back after giving up a playoff-high six goals. Their rookie goaltender Jordan Binnington finally showed some weakness for one of the first times this season. Binnington has been nothing short of a rookie sensation this year and is without a doubt directly related to the success of the team.
It is easy to want to put your money on Binnington with the numbers he posted during the regular season, and after all, playoff hockey typically comes down to the goalie. Jordan was a remarkable 24-5-1 this season with a 1.89 GAA. But be careful. Although he has played some great teams, his playoff numbers don’t quite stack up. Binnington is just 8-6 these playoffs, and his GAA has jumped to 2.57. His only game against the Sharks so far, he gave up six.
Sharks Starting To Roll
The San Jose Sharks have very quietly been picking up steam during the playoffs. The Sharks are led by the strongest defense in hockey after the huge offseason pickup of Erik Karlsson. While Karlsson and Burns lead the defense, Logan Couture and Timo Meier have produced a combined 30 points this postseason alone. In fact, Couture leads the NHL this postseason in goals and points, while Karlsson leads the NHL in assists.
Game 2 Analysis
The Sharks are at home, have NHL leaders on their team, and a Game 1 victory under their belt. After a slow start to the season, the Blues have nothing to lose, a very strong rookie goaltender and plenty of time to get back on the right track in the series. In their last six meetings going back to the regular season, the home team has taken every victory. The Blues have struggled playing the Sharks in San Jose all year, going 0-4 so far.
The Blues are going to need their defense to step it up in front of Binnington if they wish to bounce back in Game 2 of this series, but also and maybe more importantly, the Blues have to limit their silly mistakes. The Blues took too many costly penalties in Game 1 that gave the Sharks the edge. The Sharks had the fourth-most power-play goals in the NHL this season, and giving them opportunities is a risk the Blues cannot afford to take. While St Louis did lead Game 1 with 31 shots to 25 and also with 41 hits to 35, they also had seven total penalties, which kept them from getting in rhythm all night.
Game 2 Prediction
I would expect to see more of the same in Game 2, just in a lower dose. I believe the game will slow down a little more for the Blues, but the Sharks will still be too much to handle. Until the Blues prove they can win in San Jose, there’s no reason for me to believe the home team will not take each game this series. I’m going with the Sharks at -135.