St. Louis Blues (+138) at San Jose Sharks (-153, 5 o/u)
The San Jose Sharks (11-6 SU, 7-2 Home) are one win away from getting to their first Stanley Cup finals in franchise history. The underachieving Sharks can punch their ticket tonight when they host the St. Louis Blues (10-9 SU, 6-3 Away) in Game 6 of the Western Conference finals at the SAP Center (9:00 PM Eastern).
After getting hammered 6-3 at home in Game 4, the Sharks returned the favor with a 6-3 win of their own in Game 5 in St. Louis, putting them on the cusp their first conference championship.
The team has been one of the best regular-season squads in the league for over a decade (according to Elias Sports Bureau, the Sharks have the second-most wins and have played in the second-most playoff series since 2003-04) but this is already unprecedented territory in terms of playoff success.
“It’s nice,” veteran center Patrick Marleau said Tuesday to the Associated Press. “[Reaching the finals is] not our final goal, but it’s as far as we’ve been so it’s good that way. There’s still a lot to go.”
Game 5 was a see-saw affair that the Sharks trailed 3-2 late in the second. But a pair of goals by Joe Pavelski – one in the last minute of the second, and another in the first minute of the third – put San Jose ahead to stay.
“Little Joe” now leads the playoffs with 12 goals and 21 points.
Looking for a spark after dropping two straight, the Blues turned to goalie Jake Allen for Games 4 and 5. Allen was solid in the Game 4 win, but surrendered four goals on just 25 shots in Game 5. Now, with their backs against the wall, Ken Hitchcock will send Brian Elliott back between the pipes.
Elliott had started the Blues’ first 17 postseason games this season before Allen got the Game 4 nod.
“We needed a jolt to get back in the series, and we got it,” Hitchcock told the AP. “Unfortunately we didn’t get the win [in Game 5], but this has been Brian’s playoffs and we’d like him to finish the job.”
Not only will the Blues need more from their tender, they’ll also need their leading scorer to emerge from his series-long slumber. Forty-goal man Vladimir Tarasenko has scored just once over the last eight games and hasn’t recorded a point all series against San Jose.
The line of Troy Brouwer, Paul Stastny, and Robbi Fabbri have done their best to carry the offensive load, but the team needs to find more scoring if they’re going to stave off elimination.
The Sharks were not a good home team this year, going 18-20-3 at the Shark Tank during the regular season. But the playoffs have seen a marked turnaround, with the team winning seven of nine in San Jose so far. They’ve been the better team all series and should be able to close it out tonight.
Pick: Sharks (-153).
(Photo Credit: mark6mauno (Flickr) [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/].)
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