Western Conference Final Series Preview: Blues vs. Sharks

Watch as the St. Louis Blues celebrate on their way to the dressing room after defeating the Dallas Stars in Game 7.

Well, one of these teams will finally get the monkey off its back.

The St. Louis Blues and San Jose Sharks are often compared to each other in terms of playoff failures. Year in and year out, these two enter the playoffs with all sorts of depth and plenty of reasons why they should be Stanley Cup contenders, but every time they’ve failed in some miserable way.

This year really was different.

Neither franchise has won a Stanley Cup in its history and the Blues were last in the Cup final in 1970, when they were swept by the Bruins. In fact, they made the final in each those first three years after 1967 expansion, but didn’t win a game in any.

Here is a breakdown of this year’s Western Conference Final.

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St. Louis — David Backes: The Blues have more than a few good candidates to pick for Conn Smythe talk. Brian Elliott has been a rock in net. Robby Fabbri has come out of nowhere to tie for the team lead in scoring. Vladimir Tarasenko is equal with Fabbri at 13 points and proving one of the biggest differences between this year’s Blues and those from seasons past. But captain David Backes takes the cake here. He draws the toughest matchups, seeing major time against Jonathan Toews and Jamie Benn through the first two rounds. He’s the biggest hitter on the team and he’s third in scoring with 12 points in 14 games. He also leads all playoff scorers with three game-winning goals.

San Jose — Brent Burns: The Norris Trophy candidate has picked up in the post-season right where he left off in the regular season. In fact, he’s probably been better in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Burns is your playoff scoring leader, which is a tremendous achievement as a as a defenceman. Just a little less than half of his points have come on San Jose’s incredibly dangerous power play. Burns is such a unique player and would make for a great picture if he accepts the Conn Smythe in June.

St. Louis: 1-2-0
San Jose: 2-1-0

Their last meeting came late in the season on March 22 and it was the first time the Blues beat the Sharks this season. The Sharks outshot the Blues 37-24 in the game, but Brian Elliott earned the shutout and Robby Fabbri scored a goal mid-way through the third period to give St. Louis the 1-0 win.

ADVANCED STATS (regular season):
Blues: 5on5CF% – 52.0; 5on5Sv% – .933; 5on5Sh% – 7.804; PDO = 100.2
Sharks: 5on5CF% – 51.7; 5on5Sv% – .923; 5on5Sh% – 7.79; PDO = 100.1
(via stats.hockeyanalysis.com)

In 2012, the San Jose Sharks were coming off back-to-back appearances in the Western Conference Final, but went into the playoffs as the No. 7 seed. There, they met the Blues, who were back in the playoffs for just the second time in seven seasons. This was Ken Hitchcock’s first year behind the bench in St. Louis. The Sharks won Game 1 in double overtime on a Martin Havlat goal against Jaroslav Halak. But when Halak left Game 2 with an injury in came, you guessed it, Brian Elliott. The Blues shutout the Sharks in Game 2 and Elliott allowed only five goals against in the final three games as the Blues eliminated the Sharks in five games.

After the Stars won Game 1 they could have put the Blues in a very bad situation by taking Game 2 as well. And it nearly happened. Dallas scored two goals in the third period of Game 2, including a late marker by Jamie Benn, to force OT. The Stars outshot the Blues 13-2 in that third period, so they appeared to have all the momentum. But a little more than halfway through the first extra period, Backes put in this winner to even up the series.

We’ll go with a beauty goal early in the series. Tied 1-1 in Game 1, playoff beast Joel Ward showed off his patience and hands with this nifty goal around Pekka Rinne. The Sharks added a couple more and took the first game at home, 5-2.



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