This past season St. Louis swept all four games from San Jose, including two games in San Jose where the Sharks have historically been very strong, including 26-12-3 this year. This St. Louis road prowess is attributable to the grittiness T.J. Oshie brings to the team and has provided since he arrived in 2008.
In fact, over the past three years, St. Louis is 6-3-1, a 65.0 win percentage, versus San Jose when Oshie has played, while they are 0-2 against the Sharks in games he has missed. In those 10 games Oshie has played the Sharks have scored only 19 goals or 1.9 per game; in the two games Oshie missed the Sharks scored their more typical four goals apiece. This season San Jose scored only a total of three goals in those four losses to the Blues.
How does one measure this grittiness?
In 2007/8, before Oshie arrived, St. Louis was 13-21-7, a 40.2 win percent, on the road.
In 2008/9 in road games where Oshie played for the Blues, went 13-8-4, a 60.0 win percent on the road. But that same season they were 5-10-1, only a 34.4 win percent on the road in games Oshie missed. He was the rare Blue who produced a +9 on the road to complement his +7 at home.
In 2010/11 in road games Oshie played Blues went 10-12-4, a 46.2 win percent on the road, but that same season they were 5-8-2, a 40.0 win percent on the road in games Oshie missed. H e was again the rare Blue who produced a +4 on the road to complement his +6 at home.
The grittiness reveals itself in a number of performance criteria.
Oshie is by far the toughest Blue, with the exception of David Backes. His 175 total hits and blocks far exceeds the:
133 for Patrick Berglund
133 for Chris Stewart
89 for Jamie Langenbrunner
53 for Alexander Steen
45 for David Perron
37 for Jason Arnott.
Oshie is the Blue's most protective of the puck forward, by far. His takeaway/giveaway ratio of 4.4 comes from his 61 takeaways divided by his only 14 giveaways. Look at this ratio for his forward teammates:
3.2 for David Perron
2.3 for David Backes
1.6 for Patrik Berglund
1.6 for Jason Arnott
1.6 for Alexander Steen
1.5 for Jamie Langenbrunner
0.7 for Chris Stewart
Now let's address Oshie's clutchness within shootouts. He converted five of 14 attempts, a 35.7 percent success rate this season, while the rest of his teammates in total converted a mere three of 26 attempts for only a 11.5 percent success rate. He scored two of the three shootout game deciders the Blues had this year and in fact beat the Sharks with a shootout goal December 3rd, 2009 in San Jose.
He is incredibly clutch, as 52 of his 54 points were meaningful ones with the games still in doubt. He participated in scoring the Blues' first goal of the game 17 times and the Blues were 11-3-3 in those games. Some memorable nights include:
November 4th for Oshie scores two goals and an assist, goes +3, in a 3-2 win against 2011 Conference champion Vancouver.
November 27th Oshie assists game-winning goal in third period at Columbus.
November 29th Oshie goal forges 1-1 tie in 2-1 win at Washington.
December 17th Oshie's goal at 16:08 of the third period gains 1-1 tie in shootout loss at Nashville.
January 5th Oshie assists on 4-3 game-winning goal mid-third period against Edmonton, capping a comeback from a 3-1 third-period deficit.
January 16th Oshie's goal at 11:26 of the third period beats Dallas 1-0.
February 11th Oshie's two power-play goals key a 3-2 overtime win versus Colorado.
February 25th Oshie's two assists for 1-0 and 2-0 leads result in 3-2 shootout win at Winnipeg
March 17th Oshie's assist on short-handed goal for 1-0 lead sparks win at Tampa Bay.
A key matchup will be San Jose's second-ranked power play with a 21.1 percent conversion rate facing the quality seventh-ranked St. Louis penalty kill unit, which has allowed only a 14.2 percent conversion ratio. As one might expect, Oshie plays a prominent role on the penalty kill unit, averaging 1.8 minutes per game in shorthanded situations.
San Jose is just like Washington in the East; both teams have failed to meet the huge expectations for them over the past several years. Also both struggled simply to qualify for the playoffs. Now the Sharks, like the Capitals, have an opportunity for redemption and I expect them to play with a desperate passion. T.J. Oshie brings the passion every night and so this series too ought to produce some wonderful highlights for us hockey fans. Hopefully goalie Brian Elliott's injury is not a deciding factor in the series' outcome.