I spent some time talking to Ryan Cholte from ‘Fear the Fin’ and asked him how he saw this series shaping up between the St. Louis Blues and San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference Final. Here’s what he had to say.
JB- Sharks vs. Blues are becoming familiar enemies in these playoffs. How is the confidence in San Jose going into this series?
JB- The defensive core is top-notch for San Jose, how about the depth beyond the top three?
RC- The Sharks lean heavily on their top three of Brent Burns (averaging 29:13 time on ice in playoffs), Erik Karlsson (25:23), and Marc-Edouard Vlasic (24:01), and rightfully so. Behind them are Vlasic’s longtime partner, Justin Braun (21:34), and Brendan Dillon (16:37). Braun and Dillon are perfectly capable when they’re not deployed against the opponent’s top players. Dillon had an excellent showing in the regular season, and I’m kind of surprised that he doesn’t see more ice time. Joakim Ryan is the sixth defenseman, and he is playing about 8 minutes per night.
JB- Goaltender, Martin Jones has been up and down this season. Has his performance in the playoffs established him as a plus player in your eyes?
RC- Over the last ten games, Jones has been great. For most of the regular season and the first four games of the playoffs, he was not good. Knowing what we do about sample sizes, I am not convinced that this is the new normal for Jones. That said, he does appear to have made some adjustments to his positioning, at least to my eye. There is a segment of Sharks fans who argue that “Playoff Martin Jones” is a real phenom; I’m skeptical, but they might be onto something.
JB- Are there any surprise players Blues fans should keep an eye on for San Jose?
RC- Timo Meier. He might be the Sharks’ best forward. He is a possession driver who scored 30 goals in the regular season. On a team with Couture, Pavelski, Thornton, Kane, and Hertl, Meier doesn’t get the recognition that he deserves.
JB- What is the main reason the Sharks will win this series? What is the reason they will not win this series?
RC- The Sharks best asset and the reason they will win is their depth of scoring. With Pavelski back, the Sharks have ten dangerous forwards and can roll four good lines. With the offense Karlsson and Burns can create, somebody is going to score.
If they lose, it will likely be because they don’t get average or better goaltending.
JB- Expectations? Predictions?
RC- I expect this to be a tense series with lots of offense — Sharks in six.
JB- Thanks for taking the time to chat with me. We look forward to an excellent competitive series. Blues fans, you can find East Bay Ry on Twitter @EastBayRy Be sure to check out their blog for their take on the games. Fear the Fin