SAN JOSE — This could have easily been Timo Meier’s second time in a Western Conference Final.
Meier, just three months after he was drafted ninth overall, was impressive enough at training camp in 2015 that Sharks general manager Doug Wilson, Tim Burke, then the director of amateur scouting and now an assistant GM, and coach Pete DeBoer thought briefly about keeping him around for at least the start of the regular season.
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“A hundred percent. Every time you come to camp you want to make the team,” Meier said. “That was my goal for sure.”
But instead of playing a fourth line role and maybe averaging six to eight minutes a game that year with the Sharks, Meier was sent back to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. After he was traded by Halifax, he nearly led Rouyn-Noranda to the Memorial Cup title at the same time the Sharks were in the Stanley Cup Final.
In the first period of Game 1 Saturday against the St. Louis Blues, Timo Meier pressed Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo in the neutral zone and knocked him to the ice, creating a loose puck. Gustav Nyquist supported the puck quickly — something the Sharks did very well in Game 1. With a few quick strides, Nyquist and Logan Couture attacked 2 on 1. A beautiful pass and finish and the Sharks were up 1-0..
“Did he have the size to play at this level? Perhaps,” Sharks assistant GM Joe Will said. “But it was kind of a no-lose for us. He was going back and could really develop.”
Speaking of Martin Jones — and we really should — you would need to search the playoff archives to find a goalie that has flipped the switch like he has. Jones is resilience personified. That resilience paired with a bold determination powered Jones to overcome questions, criticism and the challenges of the first round and once again be a monster in the net.
Video: Corey Miller and Ahmad Hicks preview the Western Conference Finals from San Jose
That patience is paying off now, as Meier, after his three-point performance in Game 1 of the Western Conference Final against the St. Louis Blues, is tied for fourth on the Sharks with 13 points in 15 playoff games. Game 2 is Monday at SAP Center.
Meier, 22, has improved every year as a professional, going from three NHL goals in 34 games in 2016-17, 22 goals in 81 games last season and 30 goals and 66 points in 78 games this year.
“I remember distinctly the conversation with Doug and Tim Burke, what’s going to be best for this kid long term with what we projected him to be, which is what you’re seeing now,” DeBoer said Sunday. “A guy that could (be physical), but could also score 30 goals.
Video: NHL playoffs: Timo Meier on what changed for him in postseason
Sharks Timo Meier making an impact in playoffs
“The best option was to go back to junior and not play against men in that role at that point in his career. It didn’t make sense.”
Couture once again steps up for Sharks in postseason
The physicality the 6-foot, 205-pound Meier plays with has never left, but he’s become a much more complete player in his three years as a professional.
San Jose Sharks Playoff Power Rankings Week 5: Meier at will
Meier’s second period goal Saturday where he skated around Jay Bouwmeester and undressed goalie Jordan Binnington to give the Sharks a two-goal lead no doubt made all the highlight reels.
Now part of the Sharks’ shutdown line with Logan Couture and Gus Nyquist, Meier also helped slow down Nathan MacKinnon’s line in the second round and was skating regularly against the Blues’ top line of Jaden Schwartz, Vladimir Tarasenko and Brayden Schenn in Game 1.
“It’s my goal to get better, learning from all of the guys and the coaching staff,” Meier said. “It’s a great opportunity to play in the playoffs and I’m trying to get better with every game.”
The Sharks haven’t drafted high enough in the last decade-plus to get a player who could step into the NHL right away at 18 years old. Even players like Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Logan Couture were sent back to junior after they were drafted, and Tomas Hertl stayed in the Czech League until he was 19.
“It’s nice when you’re able to do that. It really pays benefits later,” Will said. “The first thing is, you kind of keep them away from injuries at times. A lot of times, 18- and 19-year-olds, their bodies are still growing. The American League has a few less games and a few more practices. Junior has a few less games and a few more practices.
“That’s probably good before you get into 82 games against guys who are over 200 pounds.”
Meier also played 33 regular season games with the Barracuda in 2016-17. After the Sharks were eliminated by the Edmonton Oilers in the first round of that season’s playoffs, he went back to the AHL and helped the Barracuda advance to the third round of the Calder Cup playoffs — a team that also featured Tim Heed, Joakim Ryan, Barclay Goodrow and Kevin Labanc.
SAN JOSE, CA – May 11: San Jose Sharks' Erik Karlsson (65) clears the puck against St. Louis Blues' Tyler Bozak (21) as Sharks goaltender Martin Jones (31) looks on in the first period in Game 1 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Western Conference finals at the SAP Center in San Jose, Calif., on Saturday, May 11, 2019. (Anda Chu/Bay Area News Group)
Related Articles Drew Remenda on the Sharks: This could really happen San Jose Sharks: Game 1 showed the gap between Sharks, Blues Game 1 takeaways: Couture-Nyquist-Meier line shines, and an early Conn Smythe favorite emerges Timo Time: Meier’s magical stick work sends Sharks past Blues Photos: See the Shark goals from Game 1 against the Blues “It’s still playoff hockey professionally,” Ryan said. “Playoffs are a whole different animal in terms of the intensity and physicality. Being part of a run like that really helped us prepare all of us for the run we’re on right now.”
Blues Rebound In Monday Night Game 2 Showdown
Looking back, Meier’s glad that he was sent back to junior hockey after that impressive camp. After all, his first appearance in a Western Conference Final has so far worked out OK.
“It was a great experience for me to play a long playoff run,” Meier said. “Went back and won the (Quebec League championship) and we got to play in the Memorial Cup. That’s a lot of experience that I try and bring in now.”
The San Jose Sharks look for a 2-0 lead in the Western Conference Finals as they host the St. Louis Blues on Monday night.
If the Sharks beat the visiting Blues on Monday night to take a 2-0 series lead in the Western Conference Finals, history indicates this series is likely all but over. Since the conference format was adopted in the 1981-82 season, teams that take a 2-0 lead in the conference finals won the series 30 of 32 times.
On the updated Sports Interaction series line, San Jose is -250 and St. Louis +187. The favoured exact series result Sharks in five at +350. The long shot is Blues in five at +1200. The Boston Bruins are the likely opponent in the Stanley Cup Finals as the B’s have dominated the Carolina Hurricanes in the first two games of the Eastern Conference Finals. St. Louis is looking to avoid losing back-to-back games in this postseason for the third time. The Blues haven’t dropped three in a row yet. Get up to a $200 bonus when you bet on St. Louis vs. San Jose Bet Now
Blues look to carry their play from the third period over to Game 2
St. Louis has allowed six goals twice in these playoffs and lost both games. That was Game 3 of the first round against Winnipeg, 6-3, and then Saturday in the opener of this series in San Jose by the same score. Joel Edmundson (first of 2019 playoffs), Ryan O’Reilly (third) and Tyler Bozak (third) had the Blues’ goals vs. San Jose. It was Edmundson’s first goal since Feb. 14.
Rookie netminder Jordan Binnington, who might win the Calder Trophy, allowed five goals on 24 shots. Blueliner Carl Gunnarsson sat out with a lower-body injury suffered in Game 7 of the last round vs. Dallas. St. Louis outshot the Sharks 31-25 and outhit them but allowed four power-play chances while getting just one with the man advantage. The Blues still are 7-2 in their past nine as an underdog.
St. Louis Blues at San Jose Sharks: Live stream, start time, TV channel (NHL Western Conference finals Game 2)
Joe Pavelski gave San Jose the lead for good in Game 1 with a power-play goal at 11:24 of the first period. Timo Meier was the No. 1 star with two goals and an assist. Logan Couture added two goals and leads all players in this postseason with 11 goals and 17 points. Couture is only the sixth active NHL player to score at least 10 goals in multiple postseasons. He also did in 2016 when the Sharks reached the Stanley Cup Finals.
Since 2010, only Alexander Ovechkin’s 50 goals during the postseason are more than Couture’s 45. Pavelski, meanwhile, is now one point from becoming the 97th player in NHL history with at least 100 career playoff points. Martin Jones allowed three goals on 31 shots. The Sharks are 6-1 in their past seven at home.
ST. LOUIS BLUES 3 SAN JOSE SHARKS 4 Score Prediction NHL Predictions Line History Time Fav Line Total Opening: 12 May, 2:37 PM SJ -1.5 +206 o +5.5 -110 Current: 13 May, 4:25 PM SJ -1.5 +200 o +5.5 -110 Blues Team Leaders + Open – Close Points Ryan OReilly 77 + / – Ryan OReilly 22 Shots Vladimir Tarasenko 275 Penalty Mins Joel Edmundson 68 Wins Jordan Binnington 24 GAA Jordan Binnington 1.89 Sharks Team Leaders + Open – Close Points Brent Burns 83 + / – Brenden Dillon 19 Shots Brent Burns 300 Penalty Mins Evander Kane 153 Wins Martin Jones 36 GAA Antoine Bibeau 2.16 Injuries + Open – Close St. Louis Carl Gunnarsson D Ques mon – Lower Body – 09 / 05 / 19