The San Jose Sharks defeated the Blues handily on Wednesday night, the final note of a series controlled by team teal — if not always in terms of games won. Take a look at the final marks for the following categories to see what I mean.
San Jose outscored the Blues 22-13, outshot them 160-145, out...scoring...chanced them 167-116 and out corsi'd them 332-285. While it took the Sharks six games to close out St. Louis, this was not a particularly close series by any peripheral statistic. San Jose was the better team and proved it over this series.
That's not to take anything away from St. Louis, a team that put together an excellent regular season. The Blues beat a so-so Chicago team and a good-not-great Dallas team to reach the Western Conference Final yet were considered the favorites against a San Jose team that beat an incredible Los Angeles team and a pretty-darn-good Nashville squad.
Predictions and prognostication aside, the Sharks looked very good in this series. San Jose limited the Blues scoring chances and absolutely shut down Vladimir Tarasenko while taking advantage of just enough of its numerous opportunities against the Blues' great goaltending.
Joe Pavelski tallied eight points and posted a corsi-for percentage of 63.8 at all strengths against the Blues. He finished game six with a +9 corsi differential at all strengths, despite St. Louis putting on a late, score-effects filled push. His possession play was nearly as good at even strength (60.7 percent) as that top line crushed everything the Blues flung their way.
In series this deep into the postseason, the top lines often cancel each other out , making depth players all the more vital. San Jose's top unit took down the Blues' top players and the Sharks' depth shone as Joel Ward scored four goals in the final two games. The fourth line also provided key minutes as Dainius Zubrus and Tommy Wingels in particular played a very nice series.
Defensively Justin Braun and Marc-Edouard Vlasic did exactly what we expect them to. Namely, they shut down Tarasenko and the rest of the Blues' top scorers — this allowed Brent Burns and Paul Martin to affect the game offensively. Burns' 20 points are already the most by a defender in Sharks postseason history.
Then there was Martin Jones. San Jose didn't need him to steal games, but the netminder posted two shutouts and was good enough in games five and six to help the Sharks to their first ever Stanley Cup Final. Jones wasn't the reason the Sharks won this series, but his steady play kept San Jose in games — that's all this group needs.
San Jose topped the Blues because the Sharks played better. They dominated in almost every single facet of the game and eventually the results turned their way. We don't know who the Sharks will face in the Stanley Cup FInal, but given what San Jose has already done there's reason for optimism in Silicon Valley.
That's a nice change of pace.