It has been 49 years since the Blues appeared in the Stanley Cup Finals. That drought could end after tonight, with St. Louis one win away from advancing to the Finals. But this series has had its fair share of twists and turns, with the Sharks hoping to provide at least one more twist tonight.
Here’s a little recap on Game 5, some keys for Game 6, and a final prediction.
Game 5 Recap
With the series knotted up at two games each, Game 5 was a complete and utter blowout. But it was the road team who came out on top in San Jose, as Jaden Schwartz’s second hat trick of the postseason lifted the Blues to a 5-0 win over the Sharks. As you can tell by the score, it was a dominant effort from the Blues, especially in the last two periods where St. Louis outshot San Jose 36-10. In addition to Schwartz’s performance, Oskar Sundqvist scored the game’s opening tally, Vladimir Tarasenko buried a penalty shot in the second period, and Jordan Binnington stopped all 21 shots he faced.
Keys for San Jose
Sunday was a full-blown meltdown for the Sharks, and an embarrassing performance from a team playing at home with a chance to go up 3-2. Frustrations ended up boiling over, evident by the eight power play chances the Blues received. Two of the five goals scored in the game came off of Sharks penalties, and if San Jose is going to avoid elimination, they have to do their best to stay out of the box and avoid any huge momentum swings going against them.
Winning an elimination game, especially one on the road, is much easier said than done. And when the trio of Joe Pavelski, Erik Karlsson, and Tomas Hertl are dealing with injuries, the task becomes even more difficult. All three of those players were unable to finish Game 5 due to injuries, and are all questionable to play tonight. Should any or all of them not be able to go, the depth of the Sharks will be tested more than ever before.
Keys for St. Louis
Just one win away from a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals, it may be easy for the Blues to start planning their locker room celebration and to start preparing for the Bruins. But they are facing a San Jose team that is 4-0 in elimination games this year, and came back from a 3-1 deficit in the opening round. The Sharks may look incredibly vulnerable, but they have also conquered adversity at every turn. It is important for the Blues to take everything one shift at a time and to not get ahead of themselves.
Another key for the Blues tonight is to continue to set Jaden Schwartz and Vladimir Tarasenko up with scoring opportunities. Schwartz is having a postseason to remember, scoring another hat trick to reach 12 goals through the playoffs, while Tarasenko has provided consistent goal-scoring as well. These two will have to become the focal point of St. Louis’ scoring attack to continue their overall success against the Sharks.
There are some factors at play tonight, but none more important than the health of Pavelski, Karlsson, and Hertl. Should those players be out, or simply ineffective, San Jose will have a difficult time mustering scoring chances against a team that has allowed one goal in the last two games combined. It has been a season of magic for the Blues, and the magic will continue in the form of a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals. Give me the Blues -170 to close the series out tonight.