SAN JOSE – It was fast, feisty and darn entertaining right up to the final buzzer. Game 1 of the Western Conference final between the Sharks and St. Louis Blues was every bit as entertaining as advertised.
The Blues made things very interesting in the final minutes, but San Jose's second-period scoring surge was enough for the Sharks to hold on for a 6-3 win Saturday at SAP Center.
Here are three takeaways from Game 1.
Physicality is at an all-time high
The Sharks told the press a day before Game 1 they were expecting a far more physical series with the Blues than with the Colorado Avalanche in the second round – and they weren’t kidding. St. Louis didn’t hold back any physicality in Game 1, out-hitting the Sharks 41-35.
San Jose cranked up its own intensity as the game went on – but this is also an area where the Sharks can get into trouble later in the series if they don’t keep their game clean. While they responded with hits of their own, they were also smart and only went to the penalty box once before a few scrums broke out late in the game. Smart physical play is going to be key through the rest of the series.
Timo Meier checks off all the boxes
A physical series such as this one is a good opportunity for power forward Timo Meier to really use his mix of strength and speed. Meier showcased both in Game 1, as he scored two goals and led the team with five hits.
Meier's work on the first goal really stood out. He muscled his way around Blues defense Jay Bouwmeester before putting his foot on the gas and holding onto the puck until he was in perfect position to power it past goaltender Jordan Binnington.
Sharks get to Binnington in his San Jose debut
The Sharks fielded a lot of questions after Friday’s practice about what they thought they could do to be successful against Binnington, who led the Blues' playoff push after taking the reigns in St. Louis' crease. San Jose had not faced the rookie netminder at all before Saturday night, but still managed to get the jump on him. Game 1 was the second time Binnington had allowed five (or more) goals in a game this season.
That doesn't mean the Sharks will score five goals a game en route to the Stanley Cup Final, considering Binnington was one of the NHL's best goalies down the stretch. Plus, Alex Pietrangelo and the rest of St. Louis’ blue line are likely going to tighten up their game in front of Binnington as the series continues.
It’s going to be up to the Sharks to keep grinding for goals like they did Game 1.