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Sharks vs. Blues Western Conference Final Preview

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Who’s coming out of this one alive?

NHL: San Jose Sharks at St. Louis Blues Billy Hurst-USA TODAY Sports

The San Jose Sharks have forced both of their series to seven games before winning them. The Blues managed to end the Jets in six, but the Stars took seven games plus a period and a half of free hockey before that deciding goal went in.

Both teams must be pooped, banged up, and just want this thing over with.

The Sharks have benefited from a few questionable game seven calls - one of which the NHL even apologized to the Vegas Golden Knights for - that have put their legitimacy in doubt*. They may’ve won game seven against the Avalanche due to a wonky NHL rule.

But you know what? That’s NHL hockey. We’ve been dealing with weird calls and weird rules that get in the way of the game for how many decades now? It’s not changing, and the Blues are getting a rematch of the 2016 Western Conference Final.

The Sharks took those finals in six pretty hard fought games to punch their first ticket to the Stanley Cup Final. Right now, the oddsmakers have the Sharks to win the series. Or maybe they don’t! Whatever the eventual outcome, BetOnline has the series going to seven games and it’s very hard to argue with that.

This Blues squad is a much improved one from 2016, despite the eight point difference in point totals. Gone are Kevin Shattenkirk, Patrik Berglund, Dmitrij Jaskin, and Jori Lehtera. Colton Parayko, David Perron, and Ryan O’Reilly all are an improvement there, though production from ROR and Perron could be better (barring injury; many have a sneaking suspicion that ROR is playing hurt, which explains his faceoff numbers). Brian Elliott gave an outstanding performance in the 2015-2016 season and playoffs, and Jordan Binnington is doing the same here.

On the Sharks side, they have Martin Jones, who is more than a little unreliable. His 2.72 GAA is 14th among goalies who have played in the playoffs, and is 12th among goalies who have seen three or more games worth of action). But offense? Hoo boy, the Sharks are stacked with playoff point leaders. Tomas Hertl has nine goals and 14 points these playoffs, Logan Couture has the same; Brent Burns leads defensemen in points with five goals and nine assists; Erik Karlsson has 12 assists. The Sharks have four players in the top ten for scoring in these playoffs; the Blues have one, Jaden Schwartz (8G, 3A, 11P).

Needless to say, the Blues are going to have to get secondary scoring at clutch moments to advance to the SCF, and they’ve been getting that in these playoffs. Their defensemen, led by Alex Pietrangelo (11 points) and Colton Parayko (7 points) are showing up on the box score, but aside from Schwartz and Vladimir Tarasenko (five goals) the goal scoring hasn’t been fast and furious. But the Blues have gotten it when it’s counted, and that’s why they’re in the conference finals.

SI has the Sharks winning. The Athletic has the Sharks winning. Most of the folks from NHL.com have the Sharks winning. USA Today’s 50/50.

None of that means squat. The Sharks have the scoring, the Blues have the goaltending. Here’s to seven more games.

* Though maybe don’t blow a 3-1 series lead and allow four goals on a five minute major, Vegas? Just saying.