The St. Louis Blues will have to wait another season to try and make it to the Stanley Cup Final. The Blues have not made it to the SCF since the 1969-70 season when they lost to the Boston Bruins in 4 games (you might recall that flying goal by Bobby Orr in overtime in Game 4). That is a whopping 44 seasons in a row, which ranks 2nd all-time among teams trailing only the Toronto Maple Leafs who have not made it since 1966-67, which is 47 seasons.
This is the San Jose Sharks biggest game in their 25 years of being a NHL team. They will try and silence the St. Louis Blues Stanley Cup run tonight at “The Shark Tank”.
With a Sharks win in Game 6 on Wednesday night, they would advance to the Stanley Cup Final. It would be their first Stanley Cup Final appearance in franchise history. The Blues will be going back to their “number one” goalie Brian Elliott for Game 6. Elliott was benched for their last two games as he was replaced by Jake Allen.
After Allen’s horrid Game 5, where he 0nly stopped 21 out of 25 shots for a terrible .840 SV% the Blues made the switch back to Elliott for the next game. Elliott has given up 6 goals on his last 37 shots in his last 2 starts, as well as being 2-0 in elimination games these playoffs. Allen did start Game 4 in San Jose where the Blues looked like a brand new team winning 6-3 and Allen finishing with a strong .912 SV%. St. Louis fans had something to look forward too after his win, but were let down as Allen and the Blues looked like a pee-wee team and squandered a 2-1 lead and a 3-2 lead and ended up losing the game.
As well as the Blues goalie troubles, they are having scoring troubles from their better players. For example, star winger Vladimir Tarasenko led the Blues in scoring with 40 goals which were the most on the team. Tarasenko has yet to register a POINT let alone a goal in the series. He will definitely have to pick up his play. So the Blues will look to stave off elimination and force another Game 7 back in St. Louis.
San Jose has played in a total of 31 playoff series. Out of these 31 series, 10 of them have ended in 6 games. The Sharks have been on the losing end of the majority of these matchups with their record being 3-7. The Sharks will look to keep their composure and win in front of their home crowd. While St. Louis will look to do the opposite and get the crowd out of the game early, just as they did the last time they were here.
The Sharks won the battle of the crowd-pleasing early, although the game’s first shot didn’t happen until almost two minutes in (courtesy of San Jose), they got the crowd pumped and ready to go with a couple chances early. St. Louis got a little life back as they went on a little run, stringing together 3 shots but were all turned away by San Jose’s goalie Martin Jones. The Sharks would keep the crowd loud and proud as they would tally first almost four minutes in.
Here’s how it went down:
Sharks goalie Martin Jones would come up huge with a wicked glove save to stone Blues vet Alex Steen in the slot. The rebound would go flying into the left corner. Sharks winger Tomas Hertl found the puck lying in the corner and went back to get it. Hertl basically grabbed the puck, turned around in the corner, and threw the puck out of the zone for what it looked like to be a harmless clear.
Well, Sharks vet Jumbo Joe Thornton would sneak behind the two St. Louis’ defenders, pick up the loose puck after it was slowed down by a tip, and burst in on a breakaway. Thornton would come in on Blues goalie Brian Elliott and flip a wrister on net in the slot but would miss the net completely going high and get all glass behind the net.
As both of the Blues defenders would clumsily go behind the net looking for the puck, Sharks captain Joe Pavelski would find the loose puck behind the net. Pavelski sneakily wrapped the puck around the back of the net to Elliott’s left and get stoned by Elliott as he whipped out his left pad. Fortunately for Pavelski, since the defenders were still behind the net, the puck sat on the goal line. Pavelski had another huge whack at the puck and pushed the puck over the goal line to-tally first and put them in the lead at 1-0. This was Pavelski’s league leading 13th goal of the playoffs.
This early goal got the crowd ROARING early and LOUDLY. This was exactly what the Sharks wanted, to jump out to an early lead and get the crowd going. Sharks fans had something to look up to, because in all 5 previous games in the series, the team to score first would end up winning the game. The Sharks would also shut down the Blues offense early as they held St. Louis shot-less for a long six-minute span in the middle of the first period.
Surprisingly, there were no more big opportunities, just small ones, and no team took a single penalty in the first frame which happened for the second straight game. Other than that, to sum up the opening period between these two teams… it was ALL Sharks. When I say “ALL Sharks” I really mean it, this doesn’t happen very often, when a team controls the whole period. The Sharks only let 4 shots reach goalie Martin Jones as he had a quiet period after his glove save. San Jose scored early and dominated the rest of the period and kept their 1-0 lead going into the first intermission.
The “no penalty” part of the first did not carry over into the second period. Just 36 seconds into the middle period, Blues winger Troy Brouwer gets called for interference on Sharks winger Joonas Donskoi. This sent the Sharks to their first power play of the game, where they always dominate even if they don’t score a man up. They always create momentum no matter what. Unfortunately, the Blues were great at getting their sticks in the shooting lane and only let one shot get to Elliott and they killed it off.
The Sharks would once again lock down on defense and didn’t allow a shot until five minutes into the period. This stellar defense would lead to their second goal of the game. San Jose’s 3rd line would go right to work in the attacking zone looking for a goal. Sharks grinder Chris Tierney would find his way out of a battle in the right corner with the puck. Tierney pushed the puck up to Sharks star D-man Brent Burns at the right side point. Burns flipped a wrister on net that would find the stick of Sharks winger, Joel Ward. The puck would deflect right off Ward’s stick, past Elliott’s blocker, and into the net. This was Ward’s 3rd goal of the playoffs and 19th of his career in the postseason.
The Sharks would have another glorious chance as they would get their potent power play back onto the ice, and this one was a lengthy one. Blues 4th liner Scottie Upshall would catch Sharks winger Tommy Wingels up high with his stick. It would be a double minor (four minutes) because Wingels was bleeding from the contact with the stick. The Blues were once again up to the task, only giving up two shots, and killed off a huge penalty to keep the score at 2-0 at the midway point of the second period.
St. Louis would get their best chance to cut into the lead at the 10:48 mark of the period. Blues 1st line center Jori Lehtera would receive a perfect pass from teammate Robby Fabbri right in his wheelhouse in the slot on the right hash marks. Lehtera would unleash a massive one-time clap bomb and was absolutely ROBBED by Jones’ left pad. Jones pushed from his right to his left and kicked out his left pad at the last minute to rob Lehtera to keep his perfect night intact. This save was Jones’ best save of the series by far!
The second period would end with the score still being 2-0 in favor of the Sharks. The only thing different in the summary of the period was that San Jose had all the momentum early in the period especially with the goal five minutes in. Although, after the Blues killed off the massive four minutes power play, they brought the momentum back to their side. They spent probably 70% of the remainder of the period in the Sharks zone threatening to score. St. Louis outshot the Sharks 7-2 after killing the penalty. San Jose’s Martin Jones was there for every shot and turned them all away. The Sharks are 7-0 when leading after two periods in the playoffs while outscoring the opposition 26-12 in the third periods overall.
Well, the Sharks third period dominance showed up again early in the final period. San Jose’s 2nd line was in on the prowl looking to extend their lead and they did with beautiful passing. Sharks winger Joel Ward stole the puck in the offensive zone high on the right side boards. Ward looked up and fired a cross-ice pass over to linemate Logan Couture on top of the left side circle. Couture corralled the pass and skated down to the left side hash marks almost right on the boards.
Couture then whipped a wicked pass over to a streaking Joel Ward, who slipped down past the defense, parked right above the goalie crease to the right and tapped it into the wide-open net to extend their lead to 3-0 just three minutes into period three. It was Ward’s second goal of the game and fourth goal in his past two games.
The Sharks threatened to score again almost two minutes later. Sharks winger Tomas Hertl found himself with the puck behind the Blues net. Hertl stickhandled three to four times in place and found a wide open Joe Pavelski right below the left side hash marks. Pavelski put a snap shot right on net that had to be headed down into the corner by Elliott to keep the Blues’ little glimmer of hope still alive.
That little glimmer of hope was smashed into pieces just four minutes later when San Jose would score again to go up 4-0. Sharks’ Patrick Marleau seized the puck in the neutral zone and skated into the offensive zone on the right side.
Marleau stopped on a T at the hash marks near the boards and dumped the puck off to streaking winger Logan Couture at the top of the circle. Couture took the puck, skated a foot, and spotted fellow winger Joonas Donskoi wide open in the slot to his left.
Donskoi wasted no time with the pass and unloaded a massive one-timer that beat Brian Elliott to his right. This was Donskoi’s 5th goal of the playoffs.
St. Louis would piece together a little bit of hope that was previously smashed by Donskoi’s goal. Blue’s D-man Colton Parayko would get the puck on the top of the right circle. Parayko would rip a wrister on net that was saved by Jones’ pad, but Jones would trip himself up and fall over. Blues’ Jori Lehtera would get the rebound and take the puck behind the net to set back up. Lehtera would find Russian star Vladimir Tarasenko high left side in the slot. Tarasenko would find the puck in his feet, kick the puck to his stick, and shoot a wrister on net that beat the out of position Jones high blocker side. This was finally Tarasenko’s first point and goal of the series to make the score 4-1.
Then with 4:25 left in the game a scrum would ensue between the benches. After everything settled down, both teams would get a penalty with a player from each side going to the box. Sharks’ Tommy Wingels would get caught for slashing Blues D-man Kevin Shattenkirk while Shattenkirk would get caught for cross-checking Wingels right back. We would have played 4 on 4 hockey with the penalties offsetting each other. St. Louis wasn’t going to take any chances and needed to score badly so they pulled Brian Elliott to make it 5 on 4 in favor of St. Louis.
This worked right in favor for the Blues as the scored 50 seconds later to cut the Sharks lead in half at 4-2. Blues center Paul Stastny would get the bouncing puck above the hash marks on the left side. Stastny would pass the puck down to recent goal scorer Vladimir Tarasenko right on the goal line in the left corner. Tarasenko would see that the Sharks were giving him a lot of room and drove right to the net on the goal line. Tara would simply try his luck on goal with a little wrist shot. Somehow the seeing-eye shot would find a way into the net after Tara banked the puck right in off Jones’ hip as he was hugging the right post. This was Tarasenko’s second goal of the game and gave the team a little more hope then before.
St. Louis would then pull Brian Elliott and replace him with Jake Allen. The main reason for the replacement was that Allen is a much better puck handler in case he had to handle a loose puck. They move did not make much sense because they pulled him for the rest of the game to get the extra attacker to play 6 on 5 hockey for the last three minutes of the game.
The extra attacker did not pay off as they only managed four more shots that were stopped by Jones to keep their two goal lead. Then with 20 seconds left in the game, after a nice blocked shot from defender Marc-Edouard Vlasic, the Sharks would put the icing on the cake with Logan Couture’s empty net goal to make it 5-2.
This would end up being the final score as the Sharks ended the Blues season earlier then they hoped. San Jose will now play in the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in franchise history. The most experienced players on the team, them being Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau, will also play in their first SCF after a combined 3,093 games! The Sharks were then presented with the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl, which is awarded to the Western Conference Playoff Champion.
There is a superstition about touching or not touching the trophy when it is presented to you. Some say if you touch it, you will lose the SCF. Well captain, Joe Pavelski did not touch the trophy, as most players choose not to so we will see what happens! This is also Sharks coach Peter DeBoer 2nd career time reaching the Stanley Cup Final. His first time was with the New Jersey Devils in 2012, his first time coaching in the NHL. The 2012 Devils, like the 2016 Sharks, missed the playoffs entirely the year before.
Sharks goalie Martin Jones stopped 23 out of 25 shots for a solid .920 SV% and Blues’ Brian Elliott stopped 22 out of 26 shots for a disastrous .856 SV%. St. Louis led in faceoffs (32-27), penalty minutes (8-2), and hits (42-31) while San Jose led in shots (27-25), blocked shots (18-14), and giveaways (19-12). San Jose was 0/3 on the PP and St. Louis was 0/1.
San Jose’s final stats for their Conference Final are as followed: Teams leading goal scorer were Joe Pavelski and Joel Ward both with four, leading apple (assist) getter was Joe Thornton with seven, leading total point getter was Joe Pavelski with nine points (4G, 5A), the time on ice leader was Brent Burns averaging 23:39 per game. Goalie Stats: Martin Jones appeared in 6 games going 4-2 with a .920 SV% and 2.02 GAA and James Reimer appeared in 1 game (a relief effort) saving 6 out of 7 shots for a .857 and 2.06 GAA.
St. Louis’ final stats for their CF are: Teams leading goal scorer was surprisingly Troy Brouwer with three, leading apple getter was Paul Stastny with four, total point getter was Paul Stastny with four points (0G, 4A), time on ice leader was Alex Pietrangelo averaging 26:44 per game. Goalie Stats: Brian Elliott in 4 games going 1-3 with a .884 SV% and 3.02 GAA and Jake Allen also in 4 games going 1-1 with a .885 SV% and a 3.29 GAA%.
San Jose will have a nice little break as they wait to find out their opponent— either the Pittsburgh Penguins or Tampa Bay Lightning— for the Stanley Cup. Pittsburgh and Tampa battle in Game 7 of the 2016 Eastern Conference Final on Thursday night at CONSOL Energy Center. The first game of the Stanley Cup Final will be on Monday, May 30th.