The taut and thrilling opener, won by the Sharks 1-0 in overtime, seemed to set the tone for the series and generate momentum San Jose's way. For much of the first two games, the Sharks looked faster and better, and they weren't at all shaken by the Blues' overly physical play. That tempo changed abruptly in Game 3, when the Blues finally got a lead and then did a strong job clamping down defensively
SURPRISE OF THE SERIES
Mike Sillinger with a hat trick? Come on. The journeyman center (10 teams in 14 seasons) had never scored more than two goals in a playoff season, let alone three in a single game. When the Blues picked up Sillinger shortly before the trade deadline, it seemed like a minor move by a team that couldn't decide whether to add or dump talent. But he played well enough to get elevated to St. Louis' top line, and his outburst couldn't have come at a better time for a Blues team that appeared to be getting worn down.
THE SHARKS WIN IF ...
They outhustle the Blues to the puck and start spreading their scoring around. Evgeni Nabokov's solid goalkeeping is a given, so San Jose just needs to minimize the chances that the Blues' big guns get.
THE BLUES WIN IF ...
They get a lead early in games, and the erratic (and perhaps injured) Chris Osgood stays on his good side. He played superbly in Games 1 and 3. St. Louis needs to start drawing penalties and not commit them the way it did in Game 2. A hot streak for the Blues' power play could be in the offing.
We liked the Sharks at the start, and we like them still. They're deeper and faster than St. Louis, and that will show itself as they close out the series.
Sports Illustrated senior writer Kostya Kennedy takes sides each week at SI.com.