The San Jose Sharks had a golden opportunity to not only clinch a Stanley Cup-playoff berth but gain ground on both of their California rivals in the Pacific Division Tuesday, March 22. Both the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings lost in regulation, but Brian Elliott spoiled the party in victory for the St. Louis Blues.
He and San Jose’s Martin Jones naturally lead the pictured stars in a 1-0 game. Elliott was just a little better in helping St. Louis avoid being swept in the 2015-16 NHL season series between the teams after having dropped the first two at home by a combined score of 9-4.
The event summary gives a more accurate depiction of which team was better than the score. The Sharks held more of a possession edge than the two extra reflected by the stat sheet (31-23 faceoffs, 8-3 takeaways but 19-8 giveaways) that is more apparent in their 64-43 and 37-24 attempt and shot advantages, respectively.
Despite the extra time defending, the Blues were out-hit 28-29 and had only one more block (14-13)—a much worse shots per block ratio (2.64 vs. 1.85) and percentage of attempts blocked (21.9 vs. 30.8). The two extra penalties only partially explain it, especially considering the last one came inside of the final two minutes and was hence shortened.
The reality is St. Louis was at the end of a five-game road trip, even if it was spread over 12 days. San Jose had more jump at home but could not solve Elliott.
Former Wisconsin Badger NCAA champion teammate and captain Joe Pavelski had a glorious one-time chance Elliott turned away, but the Blues limited most grade-A chances. Jones faced fewer of both but stood tall in the first period as the Sharks gave up 13 of the first 19 attempts through the 12:48 mark and the one he allowed was on a two-on-one in which Dylan DeMelo got a stick on the shot to change its trajectory.
Robby Fabbri got the goal with 10:05 left in the game, shooting a rolling puck sent beautifully off the boards by Troy Brouwer. Jay Bouwmeester got the only other point of the game with the secondary assist.
San Jose dropped back to .500 at home for the 2015-16 NHL season (16-16-3), where the next three games will be played against current and former Pacific Division rivals. Previous coach Todd McLellan’s Edmonton Oilers bring their league-worst point percentage in Thursday before games against the Dallas Stars Saturday and Los Angeles Monday.
That final game against the Kings will be crucial because they are five points up in the Pacific Division with both teams having nine games left on the 2015-16 NHL season, but the Sharks cannot afford to look ahead. Earning three more points over the other six games than the two-time Stanley Cup champions might require winning all of them.
San Jose is also still a game behind Anaheim in second place in the Pacific Division, and the two teams will not meet again this 2015-16 NHL season. Tuesday’s game was the third in a row without blue-line ace Marc-Edouard Vlasic, who CSN Bay Area Insider Kevin Kurz also reported as unlikely to play the next three.