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Five reasons why the Sharks advanced to the Stanley Cup Final

SAN JOSE, Calif. – The San Jose Sharks advanced to their first Stanley Cup Final in team history with a 5-2 Game 6 Western Conference Final win over the St. Louis Blues. 

With the exception of Game 4, the Sharks were the better team this series and deserved this victory. Throughout this postseason every element of San Jose’s game has clicked and the Western Conference Final was no different.

Their top line of Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski and Tomas Hertl was dynamic. Their power play was in top form. Marc-Edouard Vlasic shut down Blues sniper Vladimir Tarasenko. And goaltender Martin Jones bounced back from bad goals throughout the series to backstop his team to this point.

All these factors helped the Sharks get over this hurdle organizational hurdle. San Jose had lost in their three prior trips to this point including twice in the Thornton, Patrick Marleau era. 

“It hasn’t really sunk in. A lot of work still to be done. I think we need to appreciate how far we’ve come and the work that we’ve put in, and the way that we played, and the guys in here that have come a long ways that are well deserving of this opportunity,” defenseman Paul Martin said. “It’s a good feeling.”

Here are five reasons why the Sharks beat the Blues to advance to the Stanley Cup Final.

1. The first line

The Sharks’ first-line was unstoppable all series. Thornton had seven assists in the six games. Pavelski had nine points, including four goals. Hertl had three goals and two assists. In the playoffs, your top line needs to produce and San Jose’s best trio was a matchup nightmare for the Blues. The three have been together since January 9 and all three complement one another well. Thornton is one of the NHL’s best passers and both Pavelski and Hertl are lethal in-and-around the net. They showed how well they play together throughout the series. 

2. Marc-Edouard Vlasic

The Sharks’ blueliner is one of the top defenders in the NHL and did a number on St. Louis sniper Vladimir Tarasenko this series. The only goals scored by Tarasenko were late in the third period of Game 6 when the Sharks put the game away. Drawing the top matchups hasn’t taken away from Vlasic’s offense. He has 11 points and is a plus-13. Vlasic also has a 52.6 CF% and plus-5.2 CF% Rel 5-on-5. Without Vlasic’s ability to shut down Tarasenko and other top scorers faced this postseason the Sharks wouldn’t be at this point.

3. Martin Jones’ poise

Jones hasn’t let bad goals bother him. When you think the first-year starter is going to implode, he comes back with a stellar performance. In Game 1 Jori Lehtera’s game-winner seemed to get under Jones’ skin. But he then went the next two games without allowing a goal. Acquiring Jones from the Boston Bruins last summer and paying him just $3 million per-year over the next two seasons looks like a bargain for the Sharks. Jones has a 2.12 goal-against average and .919 save percentage in 18 games this postseason.

4. The power play

When the Sharks needed a big goal, their power play proved their biggest weapon. In Game 5 near the end of the second period, the Sharks were down 3-2. San Jose then went on a power play and scored a goal to tie the game at 3-3 at the 18:33 mark. If San Jose had gone into the locker room after two periods down a goal they may not have won Game 5 and not had the ability to clinch at home in front of the raucous SAP Center crowd. Going into a game knowing you’re probably going to get at least one power play goal is a huge advantage. The Sharks have hit on 27.0 percent of their power plays, which leads teams still left in the playoffs.   

5. Peter DeBoer

The Sharks’ first year coach has been exactly what they needed. All his messages to the Sharks have hit home with the team. Before he arrived in San Jose, the team was 0-for-5 in clinching scenarios from Game 7 against the Los Angeles Kings in the 2013 playoffs. The Sharks are 3-1 this postseason in clinching scenarios and much of that has to do with DeBoer, his systems and his direction. Hiring DeBoer last summer was arguably the best move by Sharks GM Doug Wilson for this season. 

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Josh Cooper is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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