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Sharks learn from regular season losses to Blues

Associated Press Modified: April 10, 2012 at 4:32 pm •  Published: April 10, 2012
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SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — There is at least one lesson the San Jose Sharks learned while losing all four regular-season games against first-round playoff opponent St. Louis.

"Whatever we've done so far this year is probably what not to do," defenseman Dan Boyle said.

The Sharks are looking for a complete reversal from the decidedly one-sided season series in which the Blues dominated special teams, clogged up the neutral zone and thoroughly dominated a San Jose team that had controlled the series in recent years.

That was far from the case this season as St. Louis outscored San Jose 11-3 and allowed just one goal in the final 10 periods played between the teams.

"We didn't play well against this team. So I can give you a long list of about 15 things that have to be better," coach Todd McLellan said. "That could be a good thing for us. We haven't played to our capabilities against this team."

McLellan pointed out deficiencies in penalty killing, a lack of scoring chances, a failure to challenge goalies Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott and the inability to play with the lead. San Jose led for less than 14 minutes in the four games and in only one of the final three contests.

McLellan said the Blues are basically a simple team that plays a "north-south" game under coach Ken Hitchcock and tries to outwork opponents rather than out-trick them.

"You have to understand how they play," McLellan said. "Two and a half goals is enough for them. If you think you're going to hit the home run one shift and play a high-risk game and try and force something it could come back to bite you for one goal against. You don't want to play safe against them. You want to be aggressive but you also have to understand how they play."

San Jose failed to score a goal in two trips to St. Louis, being shut out by Elliott in December and Halak in February, and failed to score on its last 14 power-play chances against the Blues.

The Blues are the stingiest team in the league, setting a record by allowing just 155 goals in an 82-game season. That was even more of the case after Hitchcock took over for Davis Payne in early November and put in his system that relies heavily on the forecheck and waits for the opponents to make mistakes.

"They're tight defensively," forward Logan Couture said. "You look at how they play. They've got five guys around their net most of the time and they really don't give up many odd-man rushes. In the hockey game you get chances. You just got to bear down."

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