Photo: Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
The St. Louis Blues will head back to the Gateway City with a chance to clinch a spot in the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1970 after a 5-0 win in Game 5 of the Western Conference Final at SAP Center against the San Jose Sharks on Sunday afternoon. Game 6 of the series is on Tuesday night at Enterprise Center (8 PM ET, can be found on NBCSN).
Forward Jaden Schwartz recorded a hat-trick in Sunday’s win to climb two goals within Sharks center Logan Couture’s 14 for the league lead in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Forwards Oskar Sundqvist (fourth of the postseason) and Vladimir Tarasenko (seventh) also scored in the route of San Jose.
On January 3, the Blues’ 34 points were tied for the fewest in the NHL. They were 11 points behind the Anaheim Ducks for the second wild card in the Western Conference. The Blues fired head coach Mike Yeo on November 20 and replaced him with Craig Berube. They finished 30-15-5 over their final 50 games to finish one point shy of the Nashville Predators, the 2017-18 Presidents’ Trophy winners, for the Central Division title.
They started the postseason with back-to-back road wins over the Winnipeg Jets, who went to the Western Conference Final in 2018. While they lost both Games 3 and 4 to the Jets at home, they won the final two games of the series to secure a spot in the Second Round, where they would face the Dallas Stars. Despite trailing 3-2 in the series with Game 6 at American Airlines Center, the Blues won Game 6 with a convincing 4-1 victory and Game 7 by a score of 2-1 in overtime on a goal by hometown hero Patrick Maroon.
After a lopsided 6-3 loss in Game 1 to the Sharks, the Blues stole home-ice advantage with a 4-2 victory in Game 2. They lost Game 3 due to a horrendous call by the officials on Sharks defenseman Erik Karlsson’s game-winning goal in overtime as forward Tomas Hertl clearly fed him with a hand pass. But the Blues bounced back with a 2-1 win in Game 4 and now a 5-0 victory in Game 5 at the Shark Tank, one of the toughest buildings in the NHL.
Rookie goaltender Jordan Binnington, who made 21 saves in the Game 5 shutout, has been key to St. Louis’ turnaround. After making his NHL debut on January 7, he posted a record of 24-5-1, a save percentage of .927, a goals-against average of 1.89, and five shutouts during the regular season. The 25-year old is 10-7 with a save percentage of .908 and a goals-against average of 2.58 in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. He is nominated for the Calder Trophy, which is awarded to the league’s top rookie.
Now, they’re just a win away from a date with the Boston Bruins to compete for Lord Stanley. They faced the Bruins in the Cup Final in 1970, when they were swept in four games. That marked their third consecutive appearance in the Stanley Cup Final.
If the Sharks are going to force a Game 7 at the tank, they might have to do it without Karlsson, captain Joe Pavelski, and forward Joonas Donskoi, who all left Game 5 due to injuries.
With a chance to clinch the Stanley Cup Final at home, the St. Louis crowd will definitely be roaring on Tuesday night.
By Harrison Brown