With all the hype and expectations that come from being a top-10 pick in the NHL draft, some would feel it’s been a slow process for Timo Meier to become an impact player.
To the San Jose Sharks, any extra time it took for the 22-year-old from Switzerland to get to where he is today, the wait was more than worth it.
Meier showed exactly what kind of player he can be by scoring a pair of second-period goals and adding an assist to lead the host Sharks to a 6-3 win over the St. Louis Blues in the opening tilt of the Western Conference final on Saturday night.
“I think he’s right on track,” Sharks head coach Pete DeBoer said of the right winger. “He’s arrived, and he’s the real deal.”
Logan Couture also tallied twice in a three-point game while Joe Pavelski had a goal and an assist and goalie Martin Jones made 28 saves for the Sharks, who have won all three series openers this year in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Game 2 of the best-of-seven affair will be Monday in San Jose, Calif.
Meier, the ninth overall pick in the 2015 draft, broke open the clash with his two goals. Just past the midway point, and less than two minutes after Ryan O’Reilly scored for the Blues to trim the Sharks’ lead to 3-2, Meier collected a highlight-reel marker. Couture forced a turnover that resulted in Meier getting the puck with momentum at the blue line, and he fought off the check for a partial breakaway before completing a great deke.
Meier’s second of the game, and fifth of the playoffs, with 2:26 remaining in the second period wasn’t as pretty but made it a 5-2 game. Meier was at the end boards and sent the puck to the front of the net, where it banked home off the skate of Blues defenseman Vince Dunn.
“Big win for us,” Meier told NBC Sports after the game. “It’s gonna be a physical series and gonna take the best of us, but we’re prepared. It’s a fun time of year.”
Couture and Blues defenseman Joel Edmundson traded first-period goals before Pavelski put the hosts ahead for good with a five-on-three power-play goal at 11:24 of the opening frame when he batted a rebound out of the air. Kevin Labanc also scored for the Sharks.
Tyler Bozak scored late for the Blues, giving them life with seven minutes remaining in regulation, but it was nowhere near a good enough effort from the visitors, who were guilty of far too many egregious turnovers.
“We didn’t manage the puck very well. Especially in the second period,” Blues head coach Craig Berube said. “They check well. They’re a good team without the puck. We’ve got to do a better job through the neutral zone with the puck.”
“There were a few too many mistakes out there, and whenever there was, they capitalized on any chance they got,” he added. “Overall, they were just the better team. We’ll be ready for Monday.”
Jordan Binnington made 19 saves for St. Louis, which knows it’ll take a better performance next game to create the expected long series.
“It wasn’t our best game,” O’Reilly said. “It’s disappointing, but we’ve got to respond.”
–Field Level Media