The Sharks opened a third straight Stanley Cup playoffs series with a win on Saturday night. The home team found the net in every period, and tied their largest margin of victory in these playoffs, with a 6-3 win in Game 1 over the Blues.
Here are five observations from the Western Conference final opener.
Logan Couture keeps on scoring
He put San Jose on the board less than four minutes into the contest, and secured victory late with the empty netter. Those are his 10th and 11th markers of this postseason. The center is coming up huge, just as he did in 2016 when playing for the Cup.
Since 2010, only Alexander Ovechkin (50) has more playoff goals than Couture (45).
One of the less obvious stat leaders on Saturday night could have been Evander Kane. Nobody recored more hits by San Jose in the game than the power winger, who still hasn’t appeared to hit full stride on a regular basis during these playoffs.
The physical game suits Kane well, however, and considering the opponent and their tactic of laying the body, this could be the perfect way for Kane to make his (literal and figurative) mark with this matchup.
The Joe Pavelski story continues
The Joe Pavelski story is almost at Mighty Ducks level. As in, Hollywood couldn’t write a more compelling script than what we’ve witnessed so far. The captain who became an emotional centerpiece of the first round, then returned to help close out in the second round.
All Pavelski did was score on the power play on Saturday night to open up the Western Conference final. With four goals and four assists, Pavelski is not among the team leaders, but it becomes more impressive when you consider all that has come in less than his nine full playoff games.
Goalie Jordan Binnington and the Blues were 5-1 on the road in these playoffs entering their matchup with the Sharks. Binnington, a rookie who is up for the Calder Trophy, had never previously faced San Jose, or obviously played an NHL game at SAP Center.
And while his rise and performance this season were legitimate, the Sharks have to be pleased with their first encounter sending a message to the St. Louis netminder.
Blues’ comeback attempt
St. Louis made a noticeable and respectable third-period push in Game 1. Maybe it was San Jose taking their foot off the gas with a late lead? Maybe the Blues started to figure some things out? As my colleague Scott Hannan stated on our television coverage, it’s hard to carry game play for a full 60 minutes in the postseason.
The Sharks did hold a majority of control on Saturday night, but the visitors carved out their own chances in the middle to late portions of the third period. It would be foolish to think that Craig Berube and the Blues won’t sift through all the video, make proper adjustments and challenge San Jose to a much greater extent on Monday night.