Our NHL betting expert previews the Western Conference Final Series between the San Jose Sharks and the St. Louis Blues and makes his pick for who will reach the Stanley Cup Final.
Last year, the Washington Capitals won the first Stanley Cup in franchise history. That dropped the number of active franchises to never win the Cup to 12. Two of those face off in the Western Conference Finals with the Blues taking on the Sharks. San Jose has home-ice advantage and is a -125 series favorite at SugarHouse sportsbook with St. Louis at +105. Game 1 is in northern California on Saturday night.
The last playoff meeting between these franchises was in 2016, which was also the last time both reached the Western Conference Finals. San Jose won that in six to reach the Cup Finals for the lone time in franchise history, which the Sharks would lose to Pittsburgh in six. St. Louis is the oldest team in the NHL yet to win a Cup, entering the league in 1967-68. The Blues actually made the Stanley Cup Finals that season and the next two but lost in each. They haven’t been back since.
It would have been laughable to project the Blues in the West Finals when the calendar flipped to 2019 because they were last in the entire Western Conference. However, then the club turned the goaltending duties over to rookie Jordan Binnington, and everything changed. Binnington is a Calder Trophy finalist for the league’s top rookie. He was 24-5-1 with a 1.89 goals-against average and .927 save percentage in the regular season and is 8-5 with a 2.39 GAA and .915 SV in these playoffs.
The Blues will have an extra day of rest entering Game 1 as they beat Dallas 2-1 in double overtime in Game 7 on Tuesday. The winning goal, fittingly enough, came from St. Louis native Patrick Maroon. The Blues’ leading scorers in these playoffs are defenseman Alex Pietrangelo and winger Jaden Schwartz with 11 points each.
San Jose is 2-0 in Game 7s in these playoffs, beating visiting Vegas 5-4 in overtime in Round 1 and then visiting Colorado 3-2 on Wednesday. Perhaps don’t bet against Sharks coach Peter DeBoer or netminder Martin Jones if this series goes seven. DeBoer is now 4-0 all-time in them and Jones 3-0. It’s the first time in franchise history the Sharks have won multiple Game 7s in a postseason. They are 5-1 all-time at home in them.
The Sharks got a massive boost on Wednesday as captain Joe Pavelski played for the first time since Game 7 vs. the Golden Knights due to a concussion. Pavelski returned with a bang, scoring a goal and adding an assist. Pavelski’s 129 career playoff points are third-most in Sharks playoff history and his 47 playoff goals are No. 6 all-time among American-born NHL players. San Jose’s Tomas Hertl also had a goal and assist in Game 7 and his six multi-point games lead all players in these playoffs. His nine goals are tied with teammate Logan Couture for most.
San Jose is 3-2 in five all-time head-to-head postseason series with St. Louis. The Sharks also won two of three regular-season meetings this year, taking both in San Jose. Binnington, however, didn’t play in any of them. Two were before he was called up and the last, on March 9, saw Jake Allen in net for St. Louis. Sharks No. 1 Martin Jones played in just one of the three and won, allowing two goals.
We like the Sharks in six games to face the Bruins in the Stanley Cup Finals.