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2012 NHL Playoffs, Blues Vs. Sharks Game 5 Preview

Tonight marks the first time since 2003 that the Blues will be able to close out a playoff series with a win. That year, they blew a 3-1 series lead to the Vancouver Canucks. This season they hope that doesn’t happen against a very frustrated San Jose Sharks club. Once playoff series win every ten years is not a habit that the Blues want to get into, so expect them to come out full-octane tonight. Don’t expect the San Jose Sharks to sit on their laurels, though. They’ve got more than enough playoff experience to know that winning three games in a row, while tough, isn’t exactly un-doable. Game five’ll be at the Scottrade Center tonight, where the Sharks have won one game all season, which was the 3-2 double overtime loss for the Blues. Aside from that, Scottrade has been unfriendly to the Sharks.

The team recognizes the importance of tonight’s game, and the fact that the Sharks probably won’t crumble; in fact, there’s a good possibility that they play their best game of the playoffs tonight. The Blues need to be prepared for that. Thankfully, the locker room has been saying all of the right things, so at least the team’s portraying the outward appearance of humility and intelligence. The absolute last thing that they need to do is forget that the Sharks want to move to the semi-finals just as much as the Blues do.

"We need to realize this next game is going to be the toughest one," forward Andy McDonald said Friday. "If we don't play our best hockey, they're going to beat us."

Coach Ken Hitchcock said the Blues are going to get the Sharks' "'A' game. We know it. We just have to have an 'A-plus' game."

Bingo, and if there’s a coach to get them to that "A-plus game," it’s Ken Hitchcock. He has the entire team playing like old pros, proof positive that the young guns have matured. As much crowing as there’s been about the youth stepping up there game (for example, Patrik Berglund has been a force with three goals and three assists in these four games), the big difference maker is a vet: Andy McDonald. Berglund has benefitted from playing on the Stanley Cup winner’s line for sure, as McDonald has been a factor in every one of his goals. McDonald has three goals, four assists, and is a plus-one in the series, all coming after T.J. Galliardi’s helmet-cracking hit in game two. The Sharks have poked the bear.

To continue their success, the Blues need to keep converting on the power play. McDonald has seen great success there so far this postseason, as have the Blues. They’re tied for second in power play percentage with the Florida Panthers with a 37.5% effectiveness rate. The only team higher is the Philadelphia Flyers, with an absurd 55% effectiveness rate. All the Blues need to do, it looks like, is avoid the penalty box and make sure that the Sharks know exactly where it is.

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.