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First Round Preview: Style and Player Matchups


Style of Play

The Blues’ first round matchup with the San Jose Sharks presents a number of intriguing player matchups. St. Louis and San Jose  are built similarly, as both teams are centered around their strong defenses. Both the Blues and the Sharks put a premium on stopping pucks which, in turn, creates offense in transition. Although both teams have similar game plans, the pace at which they play is a significant difference in their respective styles of play. San Jose is more concerned with moving the puck at a high rate of speed. The Sharks play an up and down brand of hockey which caters to their speed and overall lack of size. The Blues play at a much slower pace, opting to take time and set up cycles in the zone which enables their power forwards to have an advantage on the forecheck in the offensive zone. These similar styles of play and the pace at which their instituted into a playoff series will make for very entertaining hockey and will undoubtedly create interesting player matchups.

David Backes and Joe Thornton

The battle between the captains is quite possibly the most intriguing of all the individual matchups in this first round series. Thornton, listed at 6′ 4” 230 lbs, and Backes, 6′ 3” 225, are the big, physical anchors of their respective team’s first lines. Both Thornton and Backes are excellent playmakers. The Sharks’ captain tallied eighteen goals and fifty-nine assists during the regular season for a seventy-seven point season, seven more than last year when San Jose won the Pacific Division. Backes also put up impressive offensive numbers during the regular season, scoring twenty-four goals and thirty assists for a total of fifty-four assists. Perhaps the most impressive facet of these two players’ respective games is their defensive dexterity. Both consistently rank among the top two-way defenders in the league. Their overwhelming size gives them advantage playing the body on the forecheck and in the defensive zone. Look for these two to provide a lot of offense and physicality throughout the series.

David Perron and Logan Couture 

This matchup is sniper central. Both twenty-two  year-olds are among the leagues best young offensive talents. Couture, an all-star this season, was a thirty goal scorer in just his second year in the league. The Guelph, Ontario native also managed to tally thirty-four assists, giving him a total of sixty-five points on the year. Couture is natural center, but plays the wing on the Sharks’ first line because of his speed and elusiveness. His snapshot is incredibly accurate and his wrist-shot is just as lethal. Perron’s game has all of the same characteristics as Couture’s. The French-Canadien is a persistent offensive threat who is looking for the back of the net every time he takes the ice. Perron put up twenty-one goals and just as many assists for forty-two points on the regular season. Considering Perron missed twenty-five games with a concussion, Blues fans would have to think the winger could have easily been a thirty-goal scorer. Look for Perron to make up for his lost time with offensive production throughout the series. Both Couture and Perron will be major sources of offense in this first round matchup.

Alex Pietrangelo and Dan Boyle

As the top defensemen on their respective teams, Pietrangelo and Boyle have similar responsibilities and roles. Both defensemen quarterback on their team’s power play, a job than entails proficient passing ability, vision, and great forechecking skills to hold the puck in. Boyle and Pietrangelo are extremely skilled in this position, which is why both put up big offense numbers. Boyle had thirty-nine assists and nine goals for a total of forty-eight points, and Pietrangelo had twelve goals and the same amount of assists as Boyle  for a total of 51 points. They can also lay the wood, as both have stepped into some massive checks while patrolling the blue line this season. While their games are very similar, Boyle and Pitrangelo are nothing alike in terms of intangibles. Boyle is listed 5′ 11′ 190 lbs, while Pietrangelo measures up at 6′ 3” 205 lbs, giving the Blues’ defense men a huge size advantage. Although Pietrangelo may be bigger, Boyle undoubtedly has the edge in experience. At age thirty-five, Boyle is a two-time all-star, Stanley Cup champion, an Olympic gold medalist, and is playing in his eight postseason. Through and through, Boyle is a true veteran with a ton of experience under his belt, certainly more that the twenty-two  year-old Pietrangelo, who is making his first career playoff start on Thursday night. Boyle’s status as a veteran and Pietrangelo’s youth will make for a great matchup throughout the series.