Nashville Predators Western Conference Finals Preview

Mar 22, 2016; San Jose, CA, USA; San Jose Sharks defenseman Brent Burns (88) and other players get into a fight with the St. Louis Blues in the 3rd period at SAP Center at San Jose. Mandatory Credit: John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports The Blues won 1-0.
Mar 22, 2016; San Jose, CA, USA; San Jose Sharks defenseman Brent Burns (88) and other players get into a fight with the St. Louis Blues in the 3rd period at SAP Center at San Jose. Mandatory Credit: John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports The Blues won 1-0. /

Nashville Predators fall in Game 7 but plenty of playoff hockey still remains. 

It was a historic post-season for Nashville Predators as they went a full 14 games and they came dangerously close to reaching the conference finals for the first time in franchise history before ultimately succumbing to the San Jose Sharks in Game 7. While it was it wasn’t the outcome the fans had hoped for it was still a memorable playoff run and hopefully, a preview of things to come for the team as they try again next year.

While the Nashville Predators season is now officially over,  the Western Conference finals are underway as the San Jose Sharks take on the St. Louis Blues.  Here we’ll compare the numbers, break down the teams, and give you our initial predictions as the quest for the Stanley Cup continues.

St. Louis Blues Vs San Jose Sharks

This is the series that will hit closest to home for Nashville Predators fans as one of our own Central Division rivals squares faces off against the team that has eliminated us from the playoffs on three different occasions now.  The fact that both these teams have made it to conference finals is an accomplishment in itself.

St. Louis and San Jose both have a well-earned reputation for choking under pressure in the playoffs despite performing well in the regular season in recent years and it is an interesting element to the series that one of these post-season underperformers will finally move onto the Stanley Cup Round.

St. Louis Blues: 3 Stanley Cup Finals Appearances in1968/1969/1970.  Swept in 4 games each time.

San Jose Sharks: 6 Division Titles, 1 President’s Trophy, 3 Conference Finals Appearances with a 3-12 record.

Let’s take a look at the numbers and see how these two teams matchup so far this post-season.

  • Sharks:  Goals for 41,  Goals against 28,  GF/GP 3.42,  GA/GP 2.33,  PP% 30.9,  PK 82.3%
  • Blues:  Goals for 44,  Goals against 34,  GF/GP 2.43,  GA/GP 2.43,  PP% 27.5,  PK 79.5%

I left out the faceoff percentage because surprisingly enough only one of these teams have managed to win the majority of the faceoffs they take and that was the Blues at 50.7%.  One quick look and it is easy to see that the stats are too close to really give one team the edge over the other so let’s take a look at the top scorers for each team.

San Jose’s Top 3 Scorers

  1. Logan Couture: 7g, 10a, 8 powerplay points
  2. Brent Burns: 4g, 11a, 7 powerplay points
  3. Joe Pavelski 9 g, 4a, 7 powerplay points

St. Louis’ Top 3 Scorers

San Jose clearly has the powerplay advantage in this series and these are the same players that caused no shortage of heartache for Nashville Predators’ fans everywhere as the Sharks top lines outplayed our own more often than not. That being said the Blues have thrived on even strength play and will need to stay out of the box and off the penalty kill if they want to dispatch the Sharks.

Also, notice the captains Joe Pavelski and David Backes, from San Jose and St. Louis respectively, leading the way on the scoresheet.  Either of these two could very well be the difference maker in this series and are worth keeping an eye on.

Last but not least let’s take a look at the netminders from both sides and compare them as well before we make our final predictions.

Unsurprisingly we have another close matchup in net as well.  The only advantage that might be found here is Jones’ relative inexperience as an NHL goalie compared to Brian Elliott.  Jones only has one full season as an NHL starter under his belt compared to the 9-year veteran but hasn’t shown any signs of weakness so far in the postseason, much to the Kings and Predators dismay, and will need to keep up his level of play to guide the Sharks past the Blues.

Final Notes

It only took the Sharks 12 games to make it to conference finals but they had the advantage of taking out a familiar foe early on in the playoffs. With very minimal interstate travel in their matchup with the LA Kings and a week’s worth of rest, the Sharks were able to take advantage of a road-weary Predators team that had been racking up their frequent flyer miles with the Anaheim Ducks in the first round.

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While the Sharks were cruising past the Kings in California, the Blues were busy making it past their long-time rivals the Chicago Blackhawks after a 7 game gauntlet against the former champions and then repeated the feat against the Dallas Stars who were the best team in the Western Conference in the regular season.

I think it’s sufficient to say that the Blues path to the finals was the most challenging one among the two teams and have proven that they can go up against the best in the league and win.  They will need the same mentality and effort that they showed in the earlier rounds if they want to make it past the Sharks and onto the Stanely Cup finals.

Final Prediction: St. Louis Blues in 6

It will be a valiant effort by the Sharks but this series is the Blues to win.  They’ve faced the best in the west and won and the Sharks had a much easier path to the Conference Finals and still struggled at times.  The Blues match up well against the Sharks and will only have to contend with their dominant powerplay to prevail in this series. Stay out of the box and continue to perform at even strength and the Blues will be back in the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since 1970.

Next: Preds Offseason Outlook

If the Sharks are able to prevail, it will certainly lend to questions from Nashville Predators faithful as to what could have been.