SAN JOSE -- It took them 25 years, but the San Jose Sharks have advanced to the Stanley Cup Final.
The Sharks defeated the St. Louis Blues 5-2 in Game 6 of the Western Conference Final at SAP Center on Wednesday, winning the best-of-7 series 4-2.
San Jose will face the winner of the Eastern Conference Final between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning, which will be decided in Game 7 at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh on Thursday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).
"We're just enjoying the ride right now," said Sharks forward Patrick Marleau, who has been with the team since 1997. "We've had some really good teams over the years. This team is a little bit different.
"The confidence we've built over the regular season and now in the [Stanley Cup] Playoffs, I think winning on the road helped us get close as a group during the regular season. It carried over into the playoffs so far. Just having each other's back out there, working for each other."
Here are 5 reasons why the Sharks advanced:
1. JOE PAVELSKI
The Sharks captain continued his torrid postseason. He had four goals and five assists in six games against the Blues. He leads the postseason with 13 goals and is second with 22 points. He continued showing why he's considered to be one of the NHL's most skilled players in terms of redirecting pucks past goaltenders.
"It's incredible," Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said. "You think back to some of the best scorers ever. His ability to get his stick on pucks in the offensive zone, in front of the net, different angles, is as good as anybody I've ever seen. But it's a great lesson. He works at it. He works at it every day."
Video: STL@SJS, Gm6: Pavelski jams in puck, opens scoring
The Sharks have had a knack throughout the second half of the regular season and the playoffs of bouncing back after tough losses. That served them well twice against the Blues. After losing 2-1 in Game 1, the Sharks responded with a 4-0 victory in Game 2. Then after losing 6-3 in Game 4, they defeated the Blues 6-3 in Game 5.
"They're a smart group," DeBoer said. "They're a veteran group. The most important thing is they understand our identity as a team. When we get away from it we get burnt. ... Every time we've reset. The guys have got back to our game. When we're playing that way, we're hard to beat."
3. SHUT-DOWN DEFENSEMEN
The Sharks held Blues forward Vladimir Tarasenko, who scored 40 goals in the regular season, without a point in the series until he scored two goals in the third period of Game 6 after San Jose built a 4-0 lead. Tarasenko's slump seemed mysterious throughout the playoffs, but DeBoer pointed to a logical reason.
"I think what's lost a little when they're talking about Tarasenko is Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Justin Braun are pretty good defensemen," DeBoer said. "So are Brent Burns and Paul Martin."
Tarasenko rarely had much time or space to operate during the series.
4. CHECK PLEASE
The Sharks defeated the Blues at their own game, rolling four lines and checking relentlessly in all three zones. They pressured the Blues into mistakes and were able to capitalize on them.
"Their ability to check won them the series," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "They were committed a little bit better than us. They did a great job. Their forwards really worked and put a lot of pressure on us from the backside. Constant pressure, and had the energy to play that way."
Video: NSH@SJS, Gm7: Thornton lays a big check on Ellis
5. BELIEF IN PETE
Two Sharks, goalie Martin Jones and forward Dainius Zubrus, had reached the Stanley Cup Final before Wednesday. But DeBoer led the New Jersey Devils to an Eastern Conference title in 2012.
"We all think he's the man," Sharks center Joe Thornton said before Game 6. "We want to play for him. He's so calm. We just trust him so much. He gives us a game plan and we follow it. That's how simple it is for us."