2012 NHL Playoffs, Blues Vs. Sharks: Goalie Jaroslav Halak Will Be A Huge Key, But So Will Antti Niemi

The St. Louis Blues are the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference bracket of the 2012 NHL Playoffs and start their march to the Stanley Cup when they take on the No. 7 San Jose Sharks in the first round on Thursday night. St. Louis swept the season series 4-0, but the Sharks played well in the finals weeks of the season and have a strong core of Martin Havlat, Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski. Travis Hughes of SB Nation broke down the series in a recent article, while he thinks the Sharks have a good shot at knocking off the Blues, he calls the Blues the second-best team in the NHL (behind the Pittsburgh Penguins) and adds this:

4) When all's said and done, the Blues' playoff chances hinge on ...

It's easy to say goaltending, because Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott have been so great for the Blues this year, but having two guys who can go into lockdown mode is a good thing. The playoff life of the Blues hinges on whether they can stay in the team concept they played all year and battle hard on every play of every shift in every game. When they do that, they look a lot like last year's Boston Bruins. When they don't, they look like a team that won't weather the playoff storm very well.

Here is what you need to find game one on Thursday:

No. 7 San Jose Sharks at No. 2 St. Louis Blues
6:30 p.m. CT Thursday -- Game 1, Western Conference Quarterfinals | Series tied, 0-0
National TV: CNBC, CBC, RDSI | Local TV: FS Midwest, CSN California

For all news and information regarding the St. Louis Blues, please visit St. Louis Game Time. For updates and perspective on the San Jose Sharks, head on over to Fear the Fin. For complete coverage of the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs, stay tuned to SB Nation's dedicated NHL hub.

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