Sunday, April 15, 2012
Elliott gets the call, Sharks need to create
By Pierre LeBrun
ST. LOUIS -- Brian Elliott didn’t begin his day thinking he’d be seeing action in Game 2. But after starter Jaroslav Halak was hammered by teammate Barret Jackman and left the game 49 seconds into the second period, the Blues' backup netminder was pressed into action.
Elliott stopped all 17 shots he faced to preserve the win and the shutout.
"You never want to see anybody get hurt, especially Jaro is a big part of our team," said Elliott. "Just wanted to get in there, and try to feel good and get a couple of stops right off the bat to get into the game. The guys did a great job, I didn’t get a lot of work in the second period, that allowed me to slide into the game really unnoticed.’’
Elliott missed practice earlier this week with what the team called a minor upper-body injury.
"I felt good out there,” said Elliott. "Adrenaline kind of takes over and you forget about your body and you go out and just play.’’
Halak, meanwhile, has a lower-body injury, the team said. He appeared to favor his left knee when he left the game. Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock said Halak would make the trip to San Jose and would be re-evaluated Sunday.
Sharks need to create
The Sharks really didn’t generate much offense after the first period. They’ll need to find a way to penetrate the Blues’ suffocating defensive scheme.
"They close on you very quick and they close on you with numbers,” said Sharks head coach Todd McLellan. "If you can spread your zone out and get your eyes up and then get it to the net, you can get some opportunities off second chances and that type of stuff.
"If you’re slow or lethargic and not winning any of those battles quickly, they close and they’re very effective.’’
Lady Byng combatants
There was a lot of rough stuff in this game and even some unlikely combatants, like when Blues blueliner Kris Russell and Sharks forward Joe Pavelski fought in the second period.
"There’s a lot of emotion out there, guys are competitors, it’s the playoffs,’’ said Russell.
The Blues in the dressing room were buoyed by the way they responded on the night.
"Both teams were emotionally involved in the game,” said Blues forward Andy McDonald. "I thought in the first game we were lacking that a little bit. So that was nice to see tonight. We played with a lot of passion. There was a lot of fire in the guys and everyone stood up for each other. It was a great sign.’’
The Sharks plan to match that intensity in Game 3.
"They upped it a little bit with the physical play tonight and I think we need to respond better as far as ourselves being a little bit more physical,’’ said Sharks star blueliner Dan Boyle.
What could have been
Interesting to hear from team sources that when the Blues believed they might possibly play the Kings in the first round of the playoffs, the St. Louis front office discussed the possibility of going to a 2-3-2 best-of-seven format because of potential building conflicts in L.A.
There hasn’t been a 2-3-2 best-of-seven format used in the NHL playoffs since 1999, when Colorado-San Jose at the last moment switched to that setup following the Columbine shooting tragedy in suburban Denver.
Many, myself included, were under the impression that the 2-3-2 format had been legislated out of the NHL bylaws. But, in fact, a league source told ESPN.com that it has not been taken out of the official Playoff Regulations. Now, the league is not a fan whatsoever of the 2-3-2 format, but it’s clear based on the Blues contemplating it that if there were a tangible reason (long travel, building conflicts) to do so, it remains possible to go to 2-3-2. Something to keep in mind as these playoffs progress.