What we learned in Sharks' series-opening win vs. Blues

 nbcsports.com  05/12/2019 07:23:03 

SAN JOSE - You can't talk about the Sharks' win in Game 1 of the Western Conference final without talking about Timo Meier.

His two goals. His physical play. Everything about his game stood out Saturday. 

The best-of-seven series between the Sharks and St. Louis Blues promises to be a mix of both skill and force -- two elements that Meier showcased simultaneously In Game 1. But this performance wasn't a one-off or a rare occurrence. 

Even through slumps in the regular season, the 22-year-old winger continued along his trajectory. Now, he's grown into the power forward who can help the Sharks on a long playoff run.

"Hes a great player, for one," Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said after his team's 6-3 win at SAP Center. "I mean, we took him in the top 10 in the draft, so you know youve got talent."

The Swiss forward has certainly come a long way since the Sharks selected him with the ninth overall pick in the loaded 2015 NHL Draft -- the same year the Edmonton Oilers drafted Connor McDavid No. 1 overall. Instead of being thrown right into the NHL mix, Meier spent another year with his junior club in the 2015-16 season, and logged some time with the AHL Barracuda before getting his first look with the Sharks the following year.

He bounced back and forth between the AHL and NHL in 2016-17, and was even scratched early in his second professional season last year. But through it all, Meier has developed and found his game.

Meier broke out for 66 points (30 goals, 36 assists) during the regular season, and now has 13 (five goals, eight assists) in 15 games this postseason. According to DeBoer, Meier's development has been as planned.

"I think power forwards take longer, especially physical guys," DeBoer said. "I think those guys take a little longer to have success at the NHL level, learning how to use that physicality and still use their skill. So I think hes right on track."

There was no better example of Meier's emergence as a power forward than on his first goal Saturday. With the Sharks holding onto a 3-2 lead midway through the second period, Meier pounced on a loose puck in the offensive zone and then muscled his way around Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester to beat netminder Jordan Binnington with a back-hand shot. 

"He was a bull," Logan Couture said of his linemate. "You saw the talent on the one where he was able to walk around the d-man and finish. Hes a really good player. Hes coming into his own right now.

Meier's second goal was a bit more fortunate, but still impressive. From behind the goal line, Meier banked a puck off of Blues defenseman Vince Dunn's left skate and past Binnington to give the Sharks a 5-2 lead. 

"I knew the goalie was moving, and the defenseman was coming at me, so I just tried to play with the luck a little bit there and get it right in front," Meier said. " ... It's nice to get a goal like that, where you had some other chances you where you maybe thought it should've went in. It's nice to get one like that, and a big goal to get some separation."

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The Blues are going to have a hard time stopping the Sharks in this series if Meier builds on his Game 1 performance. As a young player in the midst of the best postseason campaign of his professional career, Meier is proving to be a staple in the Sharks' ever-improving offensive arsenal.

"Now hes arrived, and its the real deal, DeBoer said.

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