By Ray Ratto in San Jose, Calif.
The St. Louis Blues lead the San Jose Sharks 2-1 in this Western Conference quarter-final series, but it looks a lot like over. That is, unless you can reconcile the statistical fact that a series cannot end in three games with your lying eyes.
The Blues dominated the second and most of the third period Monday night, scoring three power play goals en route to what can only be described as a 4-3 rout of the San Jose Sharks.
Yes, calling it a "rout" makes perfect sense.
The Blues scored first (Patrik Berglund), then gave up a crowd-rousing return from Brent Burns, then destroyed the game. An Andy McDonald goal 61 seconds into the second and an Alex Steen marker 59 seconds into the third sucked the air out of the typically loud HP Pavilion -- and out of the Sharks as well.
"We rotated our power play well today," Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock said. "We had good composure, especially down low.
"It's nice when you have two units that are a threat and it's hard on the other team because they are under constant pressure."
Pressure? The Sharks' penalty-killing unit is always under pressure. It finished 29th during the regular season and, when you throw the final two games against Los Angeles in with the three playoff games, it has given up goals in 11 of the last 24 kill attempts. That is an absurd 54.1 per cent kill rate, last achieved by ... well, nobody, really.
In short, it nearly killed them in the regular season and it is killing them still.
"Our penalty kill was not very good," concurred PK-weary head coach Todd McLellan. "The first one gets through [and] they earned that one. The second [by Jason Arnott] is a missed assignment and the third is on our tape and we don't clear -- we end up playing in our end and it finds the back of the net.
"It affects your confidence, your ability to keep going. You can feel it a little on the bench.
"It changes the way you play the game. Sometimes, you're not as aggressive as you should be because you're afraid to go to the [penalty] box."
Or, he forgot to mention, you've been too aggressive and ended up in the box. Either way, you're doomed.
And that's the feel of this series, even though it is only 2-1.
St. Louis is growing in experience with every game and every game is an increasingly gruesome experience for San Jose. Three assists from Joe Thornton and a goal and an assist from Logan Couture obscured the fact that San Jose cannot maintain possession in the St. Louis zone end and cannot capitalize on what rebounds Blue goalie Brian Elliott grants them. As a result, they look as deeply degraded as a team only one game to the bad can look.
No goals and no kills is no way to hold off that late April golf date.
ST. LOUIS BLUES
David Perron-David Backes-T.J. Oshie
Alex Steen-Patrik Berglund-Andy McDonald
Vladimir Sobotka-Jason Arnott-Chris Stewart
Jamie Langenbrunner-Scott Nichol-B.J. Crombeen
Barret Jackman-Kevin Shattenkirk
Carlo Colaiacovo-Alex Pietrangelo
Kris Russell-Roman Polak
SAN JOSE SHARKS
Logan Couture-Joe Thornton-Ryane Clowe
Patrick Marleau-Joe Pavelski-Martin Havlat
Daniel Winnik-Andrew Desjardins-Tommy Wingels
T.J. Galiardi-Dominic Moore-Torrey Mitchell
Marc-Edouard Vlasic-Dan Boyle
Douglas Murray-Brent Burns
Colin White-Justin Braun
Ray Ratto reports for CSNBayArea.com. Follow him on Twitter @RattoCSN
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