After a rough Game 1 loss in which both teams felt the losing team — that being the San Jose Sharks — was in fact the better team, the Sharks picked themselves back up responding with a dominant 4-0 win in Game 2. Little did they know Game 3 would bring new achievements for the Sharks franchise as they continue to surprise not only the hockey world but also their own fan base.
The Sharks dominated Game 3 against the St. Louis Blues. It was the first game at SAP Center this series and gave a glimpse of how it could play out the rest of the way. Despite the Sharks being outshot 22 to 16 in the game, they managed to put three behind Blues goalie Brian Elliot, one in each period, chasing him from the net in the third to be replaced by backup Jake Allen. The Sharks were also beaten in faceoffs, with St. Louis taking 59 percent of the wins in the circle. But when it comes down to it, the only category that matters to win is goals on the scoreboard, something the Sharks have owned in the last 150+ minutes of play over the Blues.
The Great Wall of Martin Jones
Sharks netminder Martin Jones stood tall between the pipes for San Jose yet again, recording his second straight shutout and third in the postseason, all of them coming in his last four starts. This tied him with longtime San Jose favorite Evgeni Nabokov for most postseason shutouts in franchise history, which Nabokov achieved in 2004. But Jones is the first goaltender in teal to ever record back-to-back playoff shutouts.
The former Los Angeles Kings backup has indeed proven that he is worthy of the role that was handed to him by general manager Doug Wilson last offseason. Through his 15 starts this postseason, Jones is boasting a .927 save percentage with 1.89 goals against average, but he isn’t taking all the credit for his impressive numbers.
“We’ve done it as a group…I’m not being asked to steal these games,” said Jones in an NHL.com report. Jones is not wrong about that. In fact, two of the Sharks goals in Game 3 came off great defensive-forced turnovers that created open-ice opportunities for the Sharks.
On Tomas Hertl’s first period goal that started off the Sharks’ scoring, Brent Burns utilized his long stick to deflect a pass off Blues defenseman Colton Parayko to the stick of Joe Thornton, who then fed a soft backhanded pass to Joe Pavelski who then found a wide open Hertl cutting towards the goal on the left side. Hertl buried a slap shot behind Elliot, going top-right shelf. It was a perfect turnover-generated chance that the Shark’s top line capitalized on to open up the scoring.
The second goal of the game came from Joonas Donskoi after he intercepted a cross-ice pass from Robby Fabbri that was intended for Paul Stastny, tipping the puck to Logan Couture and sparking a 3-on-2 rush. Couture found Donskoi in open ice coming down the right side, who fired a wrister past Elliot for the second goal of the game, putting the Sharks up 2-0.
Each of the first two goals for the Sharks in Game 3 were generated off of picked pucks, allowing for the Blues to be caught off guard and unable to catch up with the swarming Sharks offensive attack.
So far the general opinion is that the Sharks have been the better team on the ice. Although his Blues took a 1-0 series lead after Game 1, head coach Ken Hitchcock said his team was lucky to be heading into San Jose with a 1-1 series tie.
But it appears that luck ran out fast, as St. Louis now sits in a vulnerable position approaching Game 4 in San Jose on Saturday. Who would start Game 4 for St. Louis was a mystery, as Hitchcock denied to confirm a starter after Game 3. “Yeah, I’m going to think about that one. Got two good goalies,” he said in a Yahoo Sports report. “Can’t lose on either one.” However, Friday Hitchcock confirmed that Jake Allen would be making his first start of this year’s postseason, snapping Elliot’s 17-straight 2016 postseason starts.
Meanwhile, the Sharks have accomplished something they never have before, as this team now holds a series lead in the Western Conference Finals, just two wins away from punching their ticket to their first-ever Stanley Cup Final appearance.