The NHL’s Western Conference finals matchup between the Sharks and St. Louis Blues is fascinating for many reasons, but there’s one reason that overrides all the others – it’s a classic showdown of unmatched postseason misery.
The Sharks and Blues can tell more historical tales of playoff woe than any other two teams in the league trying to chase a berth in a Stanley Cup Final. The Sharks are in the midst of their 18th crack at it without breaking down the door. But that’s a mild headache compared to the Blues’ long-standing migraine of abject disappointment.
Imagine making the playoffs 25 consecutive years and never reaching a Cup final. The Blues somehow did that, from 1979 to 2004. Imagine being in the league since 1967, only missing the playoffs in eight of 47 seasons, yet never winning a Stanley Cup final game. The Blues are so aptly named, because most years they’ve been good enough to make the postseason, but perennially disappoint and sometimes disgust their fans once they get there.
Sharks fans certainly know that sour-stomach feeling. Of the six active NHL teams never to make the Stanley Cup round, they are by far the most successful – six division championships and 17 playoff appearances in 23 prior seasons, yet only three conference finals and zero trips to the championship round.
THREE ON THREE
Here’s a look at three key players for each team:
Joe Thornton, center – Thornton led San Jose in the regular season with 82 points (19 goals, 63 assists). He’s scored 11 points (three goals, eight assists) in the postseason.
Joe Pavelski, center – Pavelski leads the team with nine goals in the playoffs. He was second on the team in points (78) during the regular season and scored a team-high 38 goals.
Brent Burns, defenseman – The 11-year veteran was second among NHL defensemen with 75 points this season (27 goals, 48 assists). He leads all defensemen in the postseason with 15 points, scoring four goals.
Vladimir Tarasenko, forward – The right wing is tied for the team lead in points (13) during the playoffs as has a team-high seven goals. His 74 points (40 goals, 34 assists) led St. Louis in the regular season.
Brian Elliott, goaltender – Elliott has played in all 14 games this postseason, posting a 2.29 goals-against average with one shutout. He blanked San Jose at SAP Center on March 22, a 1-0 victory for St. Louis.
Alex Pietrangelo, defenseman – Pietrangelo has been St. Louis’ iron man in the playoffs, leading the team with an average of 29:01 on the ice. He has seven points, with one goal, in the Blues’ 14 games.
All times Pacific
Sunday, May 15: at St. Louis, 5 p.m., NBCSN
Tuesday, May 17: at St. Louis, 5 p.m., NBCSN
Thursday, May 19: at San Jose, 6 p.m., NBCSN
Saturday, May 21: at San Jose, 4:15 p.m., NBC
x-Monday, May 23: at St. Louis, 5 p.m., NBCSN
x-Wednesday, May 25: at San Jose, 6 p.m., NBCSN
x-Friday, May 27: at St. Louis, 5 p.m., NBCSN
Sharks 3, Blues 1 in St. Louis – Sharks goalie Martin Jones had 26 saves, including one in the game’s opening minute, and Joonas Donskoi and Joe Thornton scored in the second period to help lead San Jose to victory. Matt Nieto added an unassisted goal late in the third to give San Jose insurance. The Sharks improved to 17-7-2 away from home and tied Washington for the most road wins in the NHL. Jay Bouwmeester scored for the Blues.
Sharks 6, Blues 3 in St. Louis – Tomas Hertl, Logan Couture and Joe Thornton each scored two goals, powering San Jose past St. Louis. Thornton also had two assists and Martin Jones made 25 saves as the Sharks, who scored three times in the first period, improved to 21-9-2 on the road, matching their total road wins from last season. Jay Bouwmeester, David Backes and Vladimir Tarasenko scored for the Blues.
Blues 1, Sharks 0 in San Jose – Brian Elliott made 37 saves in his second consecutive shutout since returning from a knee injury and St. Louis withstood some tense moments late after taking two penalties to beat San Jose. Robby Fabbri scored the lone goal midway through the third period to help the Blues finish their trip with a 3-2 record.
SOCIAL MEDIA WEIGHS IN
The Associated Press and the Bee Sports staff contributed to this report. Compiled by Noel Harris.