No one really expected the St. Louis Blues and the San Jose Sharks would be fighting each other to represent the Western Conference in this NHL playoffs preview, but the two unexpected squads both find themselves only four wins away from the Stanley Cup Finals and eight wins away from hoisting the Cup.
The Sharks and Blues meet once again in the Western Conference Finals. Back in 2016, the Sharks beat the Blues in six games to reach the Stanley Cup Finals. However, the Sharks were beat by the Pittsburgh Penguins and they are still looking for their first Cup.
The San Jose Sharks beat the Las Vegas Knights in the opening-round of the NHL playoffs. The Sharks needed seven games to take out the Colorado Avalanche in the Western Semifinals. The Avs incurred a bad beat in Game 7 during a controversial overturned goal after Gabriel Landesko did not exit the ice quick enough while his teammate scored a goal, which would have tied the score. With the goal negated after an official replay, the Sharks went on to win Game 7 and advance to the Western Finals.
The St. Louis Blues were basement dwellers and fired their coach midseason. They replaced Mike Yeo with Craig Berub and the rest has been history. St. Louis picked off the Winnipeg Jets in the first round of the playoffs, but needed seven games to knock out the Dallas Stars in the Western Semifinals. The Blues won Game 7 in double overtime thanks to a huge goal by hometown hero Pat Maroon.
Blues: Rube Goalie and Captain Pietrangelo
No one expected to see the Blues in the playoffs. Rookie Jordan Binnington has been sensational in the net for St. Louis. He went 24-5-1 during the regular season. It takes a hot goalie to win in the playoffs and the rookie has looked like a decade-long veteran. Binnington ins 8-5 in the playoffs with a 2.39 goals against average and 91.5 save percentage.
Binnington came up big time in the last two wins for the Blues, who rallied from behind 3-2 to beat the Stars. He allowed just two goals with one goal each in Game 6 and Game 7.
Jaden Schwartz is the Blues money man with 8 goals and 3 assists in 13 playoff games. Meanwhile, the Blues are led by their captain, defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, who collected 11 points in 13 games. Pietrangelo scored two goals in his last five games.
The Blues kill off only 75 percent of their penalties. They allowed four power play goals in seven games against the Stars.
The Sharks: Old Man Thornton
The Sharks hold home-ice advantage over the Blues. They are 6-2 at the Shark Tank this postseason.
The Sharks scored 10 power play goals in the playoffs, which is top in the league. They scored four in one period during the “The Pavelski Payback” against the Las Vegas Golden Knights after Joe Pavelski got knocked out with a concussion and split his head open on the ice..The refs missed the call, but assessed a five-minute major after a review. The Sharks scored four goals during that major to win Game 6 and force a seventh game.
However, in the last series, the Sharks only scored twice on the power play in seven games against the Colorado Avs.
The Sharks have a slight edge (18.5 percent to 17.1 percent) over the Blues in the power play. On the flip side, the Sharks kill 80 percent of their penalties.
Logan Couture and Tomas Hertl scored 18 combined goals with 9 each. Joe Pavelski had an emotional return in Game 7 with a goal and assists against the Avs. The captain of the Sharks missed the first six games the series recovering from a concussion sustained during a wicked hit against the Las Vegas Golden Knights in the opening round.
Meanwhile, do not sleep on Joe Thornton. The proverbial old guy on the team (at 39-years young), scored 413 goals during his illustrious career with the Bruins and the Sharks.
“He’s the face of the franchise here for over a decade,” said San Jose Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer. “Him and our leadership group really set the tempo every day with their commitment. They live it. They’re the first guys at the rink and the last guys to leave the rink.”
Thornton only scored twice this postseason with six total points, but his veteran leadership in the locker room is invaluable. Thornton skates on the third line with young guns Kevin Labanc and Marcus Sorensen. He’s helped turned them into bonda fide offensive threats with 17 goals each. Labanc has three goals in the playoffs, but Sorensen has yet to find the net.
On Deck: Game 1
The Sharks are -125 on the moneyline for Game 1, which they host in at the Shark Tank in San Jose. The Blues are a minor dog at +115 on the moneyline. They’re actually pretty good on the road with a 5-1 away record this postseason.
According to the South Point Casino and Sports Book in Las Vegas, the St. Louis Blues are +125 to win the Stanley Cup. The San Jose Sharks are 3/1 odds to win the NHL title.