The San Jose Sharks are a game away from elimination in their Western Conference Final series with the St. Louis Blues and it really feels like their backs are up against the proverbial wall.
The Blues took Game Five by a final score of 5-0 Sunday, effectively shelling Martin Jones and the Sharks out of the building. The series may not be over, but it may as well be.
St. Louis was everywhere Sunday, forechecking and smothering the Sharks. San Jose was outshot 20-6 in the second period and goalie Jordan Binnington earned the shutout by turning aside a meagre 21 shots. Jones faced 40 in the San Jose crease.
Oskar Sundqvist opened the scoring with his fourth of the playoffs, while Jaden Schwartz continued his tear through the post-season with a hat trick – finishing up with his 12th.
Vladimir Tarasenko scored on a penalty shot and also had two assists.
The Blues are, for all intents and purposes, coming on at just the right time.
“We’re close. We’re very close right now,” forward Patrick Maroon said. “I think the guys know that. It’s in the back of their heads, but we know that that’s a good hockey team over there too and they’re not going to give up.”
That is, of course, the kind of thing you say in the playoffs. The “other team” gets credit where it’s due and the Sharks did make it this far, but they’ve also faced elimination in three straight series and have scored just a goal in their last two games. They had to push back from a 3-1 deficit to Vegas in the first round and may be just too doggone tired to finish strong.
Consider that Erik Karlsson’s been making mistakes on account of an injury. He missed 27 games late in the season and didn’t skate in the third period of Game Five. Tomas Hertl, likewise, was out for the final frame for the Sharks. And, because why not, Joe Pavelski also missed the final period thanks to a hit from Alex Pietrangelo.
It may only be 3-2 at this point and the Sharks do, truthfully, have every chance to get back in the mix and take the series. If will counts for anything, they can get it done. And the Sharks are 4-0 when facing elimination in these playoffs.
“We’re still alive,” said Logan Couture. “We’ve been in this spot before going to Vegas down 3-2 (in the first round) in a very, very difficult building. St. Louis is similar.”
We’ll find out just how similar the Blues are Tuesday, when Game Six goes down in St. Louis.
(Photo credit: NHL.com)