Now that the TV show “Castle” has been cancelled, maybe Richard Castle could unravel this Stanley Cup Playoffs mystery for Game 5 and help all hockey bettors with needed clues on multiple fronts.
St. Louis made their first strong showing of the West Finals Saturday night in 6-3 victory, but in the process Blues forwards David Backes and Robby Fabbri were both injured and their status is very much in doubt in hockey circles.
That St. Louis triumph has made this a best two of three and with visitor posting two W’s in this series and both are very capable of winning on the road. Though the Blues are favored, they are hardly a sure bet for NHL picks. Time to dissect each club and look at the total.
The Sharks to a man realize they did not match the Blues energy level in Game 4 and allowed them to dictate the tempo and pace in falling behind 4-0. With so many playoff games, it is impossible to be sharp every night and San Jose understands a great opportunity went by the wayside.
However, this group does not dwell on losses, having veteran leadership and you do not have a 32-17 SU road record by being mentally soft. San Jose has shown the ability to learn and quickly forget a weaker effort and turn right around with better execution.
What they cannot fall into is letting themselves be taken out by the bigger and more physical Blues and have to initiate the speed game right from the start and grab early lead.
After Game 3, coach Ken Hitchcock and his staff steadfastly broke down all facets of game tape and the first change was at goaltender to Jake Allen, though Brian Elliott had really done nothing wrong. Allen is a more accomplished puck-handler which Hitchcock hoped would improve transition offense.
St. Louis also carried the puck further up ice and when they dumped it in, the purpose was more specific in wanting to work the corners with more physical play for the first time in the series and have defensemen positioned to keep puck in the offensive zone.
It worked to perfection and the Blues pounded San Jose, but they know the Sharks will counter most likely by moving the puck faster to get up ice quicker and if the St. Louis injuries are as expected, their depth will be tested.