The San Jose Sharks and St. Louis Blues each will continue the pursuit of their first Stanley Cup championship when they meet in Game 1 of the Western Conference Final at SAP Center on Saturday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS).
It's a rematch of the 2016 conference final, when the Sharks won the best-of-7 series in six games to qualify for the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since entering the NHL in 1991. The Blues haven't made the Cup Final since 1970, when they were swept by the Boston Bruins.
A Game 1 victory will give the winner a leg up; since the conference format was adopted for the 1981-82 season, teams that win Game 1 of the conference finals have a series record of 46-26 (63.9 percent).
San Jose is 3-2 all-time against St. Louis in the playoffs. The teams split the first four games three years ago before the Sharks won 6-3 in Game 5 at St. Louis and closed out the series by winning 5-2 at home in Game 6. San Jose forward Joe Pavelski led all scorers in the series with nine points (four goals, five assists), and had at least one point in all six games.
Video: SAP Stats: STL vs. SJS statistical analysis
Top players coming through for Sharks, Blues
The Sharks enter their fifth trip to the conference finals with three of the top-five scorers in the 2019 playoffs: centers Tomas Hertl and Logan Couture (nine goals, five assists each), and defenseman Brent Burns (five goals, nine assists) are tied with 14 points each. Bruins forward Brad Marchand leads all scorers with 15 points (five goals, 10 assists).
Couture and Hertl share the goal-scoring lead in the playoffs with nine, one more than Blues forward Jaden Schwartz, who has eight goals after scoring 11 during the regular season. The single-year record for St. Louis is 13, set by Brett Hull in 1990.
Three 1,000-game players seeking first championship
Two San Jose players and one St. Louis player are each trying for his first Stanley Cup title after playing at least 1,000 regular-season games: Sharks center Joe Thornton (1,566 games played) and defenseman Burns (1,043) and Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester (1,184).
Thornton (1,478 points; 413 goals, 1,065 assists) leads all active players in career assists and points. The 39-year-old is trying to become the third player in NHL history to win the Stanley Cup for the first time after appearing in at least 1,500 regular-season games; he would join Ray Bourque (1,612 games played) and Dave Andreychuk (1,597).
Four others -- defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic (965) and Pavelski (963) of the Sharks, as well as Blues forwards Alexander Steen (963) and Bruins forward David Backes (928) -- have each played at least 900 games without winning a championship.
Binnington tries to add to sensational rookie season
Rookie goalie Jordan Binnington has played a crucial role in St. Louis' playoff run since making his first NHL start on Jan. 7, when the Blues were last in the Western Conference, nine points out of a playoff berth. His 24-5-1 record helped St. Louis become the seventh team since 1967-68 to reach the playoffs after being last in the NHL standings at any point after New Year's Day (minimum 20 games played). He followed that by helping the Blues become the first of those seven teams to win a series.
Binnington, who has started all 13 games for St. Louis during the postseason, has never played against San Jose. Chad Johnson (1-1-0) and Jake Allen (0-0-1) played in the three regular-season games against the Sharks.
Binnington, the ninth rookie goalie in Blues history to start a playoff game, already owns St. Louis rookie records for playoff games played and started (13) and wins (eight). Twelve rookie goalies in NHL history have won at least nine games in a postseason; the only one in the past 12 years is Matt Murray, who was 15-6 for the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2016, tying the NHL rookie record for one playoff year.
Video: Jordan Binnington prepares to face the Sharks in WCF
Odds and ends
A California-based team has gotten as far as the Western Conference Final in 13 of the past 16 seasons, with San Jose accounting for five of those instances (also 2004, 2010, 2011 and 2016).
The Blues are trying to advance to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since qualifying in each of their first three seasons after entering the NHL in 1967-68. St. Louis and the Vancouver Canucks are the only teams that haven't won a championship despite reaching the Final on three occasions.
A total of 40 players among the Blues (13), Sharks (12), Bruins (11) and Carolina Hurricanes (4) have skated in the conference finals or Stanley Cup Final. Those 40 players have a combined 471 games played past the second round (San Jose 171, Boston 148, Carolina 80, St. Louis 72).
Of the 7,917 players to play in at least one NHL game, 2,695 (34.0 percent) have appeared in at least one game in the round prior to the Stanley Cup Final.
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