All things considered, San Jose was just better than St. Louis in the Western Conference Final and that’s why they’re moving on.
While the Sharks await their opponent in the Stanley Cup finals, let’s take a look at how team teal was able to oust the Blues from the playoffs:
1. Top Line Domination
There’s no two ways about it, that was one of the most dominant performances from a single line in Sharks playoff history as the trio of Joe Pavelski, Joe Thornton and Tomas Hertl absolutely torched this Blues team.
Pavelski had a point in every game with four goals and five assists, Thornton chipped in seven assists in six games, and Hertl had three goals and two assists as they combined for 21 points and a plus-12 rating.
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2. Marc-Edouard Vlasic/Justin Braun
The shutdown duo for team teal was tremendous during this six games series and really throughout these entire playoffs.
Vlasic and Braun were a primary reason why Vladimir Tarasenko was held in check until the last 8:30 of Game 6 when it was already too little too late for the Blues.
While many are aware of the exploits of Vlasic, who leads San Jose with a plus-13 rating in these playoffs including a plus-six against St. Louis, it was Braun who had an under-the radar performance for team teal.
Braun’s speed to get back to pucks and take away the time and space from the Blues attackers was a primary reason why St. Louis couldn’t sustain a consistent attack. Like Vlasic, Braun also finished with a plus-six rating in the Western Conference Final.
3. Sharks Made Blues Best Players Irrelevant
Obviously, much was made about the job San Jose did against Tarasenko, but they also victimized many of the top players for St. Louis.
David Backes, Alexander Steen, Alex Pietrangelo and Jay Bouwmeester. The list goes on and on.
Bouwmeester was particularly victimized by the Sharks on numerous occasions including the opening goal as he finished a minus-six for the series despite playing nearly 25 minutes per contest.
Heading into the series, all anyone could talk about was the advantage St. Louis had in the depth department. By the end, the Blues had nothing left in the tank as line after line came at the visitors in waves.
4. St. Louis Forced To Adjust To San Jose
While much was made about the so-called “adjustments” Ken Hitchcock made throughout this series, the fact of the matter is the Sharks forced the Blues to adjust to them.
Peter DeBoer stuck with his lineup and game plan. He was confident that San Jose would prevail if they executed.
Meanwhile, Hitchcock seemed desperate at times trying anything to see what would work. Flip-flopping his goaltenders. Mixing up his lines.
No matter what he tried, it didn’t work as team teal was relentless in outworking the Blues.
5. Sharks Were Flat Out Better
It doesn’t matter what metric you want to use (analytics, the eye-test, etc.), San Jose was clearly the better team in all aspects of the game.
The Blues were lucky in a sense to even force a Game 6 as the Sharks outplayed them for five of the six contests. Team teal deserves to be moving on to their first Cup Final as they wore down a team many through would do the same to them.