The San Jose Sharks and the St. Louis Blues are used to regular season success followed by postseason disappointment. Now they are meeting in the Western Conference finals, a round neither team has reached in a long time. One franchise will soon defy its reputation — but which?
The Sharks defeated the conference favorites, the Los Angeles Kings, in five games in the first round. Then they went the distance against the Nashville Predators. The Blues avoided collapse against the defending champion Blackhawks in the first round, winning in seven games after blowing a 3–1 series lead. They defeated No. 1 seed Dallas, also in seven games, to get to this point. Both teams had to scratch and claw their way to this series.
The Sharks have gotten unexpected success from goalie Martin Jones. The netminder was passable during the regular season, but during the postseason he has been a steadying force. Jones is 8–4 with a 2.16 GAA in this postseason. That includes a shutout in Game 7 of their second round series against Nashville.
San Jose possesses a balanced attack, which generates lots of offense from the blueline. Brent Burns, a finalist for the Norris Trophy (best defender), has totaled 15 points during the playoffs. Leading the Sharks in points this postseason has been center Logan Couture with 17. Captain Joe Pavelski and former captain Joe Thornton have combined for 24 points in the first two rounds. San Jose is a physical team that can wear opponents down.
The Blues have hit many bumps in the road during the playoffs, but have proved resilient thanks to their strong defense. St. Louis tied for the third-fewest goals allowed (201) during the regular season. They have a strong goaltender in Brian Elliott, who has a .929 save percentage in the playoffs.
Leading the way on offense for the team is sniper Vladimir Tarasenko, who has 13 points. Defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk has totaled 10. The Blues play a very similar style to the Sharks, in that they love to hit and throw around their size. The Blues will need increased production from winger Alexander Steen, who has been silent all postseason.
Both teams play similar styles, and they couldn’t be more evenly matched. They are also both riding hot goalies into this series. What separates the teams just a little bit is offense. San Jose has more weapons than St. Louis, which gives them the slight edge. Because of San Jose’s offense, they will take the series in seven games.
(Photo credit: W. Widner/NHL/Getty Images)