For just the second time since 2009, it won’t be the Chicago Blackhawks or Los Angeles Kings representing the Western Conference in the Stanley Cup Finals. And for the first time, it will be either the San Jose Sharks or the St. Louis Blues.
Both clubs are looking to permanently rid their closets of some skeletons by getting over the hump. The Blues have home-ice advantage, which has run hot-and-cold for them thus far. And it may be no advantage at all when you consider that the Sharks posted the best road record in the NHL this season.
If the Blues can continue to get stellar play from goaltender Brian Elliott, that will put them over the top. St. Louis can grind out wins, but it showed it can also run away with games too as it did in Game 7 of the second round in Dallas.
For the Sharks, they need Martin Jones to be at least above-average. If he is, the goals will come from Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture, Brent Burns, and Joe Thornton. The Sharks have scored 41 goals over 12 games, an average of 3.4 per game. The Blues come in having scored 44 over 14 games for an average of 3.1.
Offensive balance is so key for both of these teams, with eight Blues players and seven Sharks players having scored at least three goals so far this postseason. Vladimir Tarasenko leads the team with seven, while David Backes has picked some clutch moments for goals and has six.
The difference will be the goaltending and defense in this series. The fact that the Blues have won two Game 7s certainly bodes well for them, including a convincing road win. The Sharks dispatched of the Kings with relative ease and blew out the Nashville Predators at home in Game 7 of their second round series.
Ultimately, this feels like St. Louis’ time even more so than it does San Jose’s. The Blues will find some more magic and advance to their first Stanley Cup Finals. Prediction: Blues in 6.