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Conference Final

Blues not looking beyond Game 6 against Sharks

Win would put St. Louis in Stanley Cup Final for first time since 1970

by Shawn P. Roarke @sroarke_nhl / NHL.com Senior Director of Editorial

ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Blues are on the verge of something that has been dreamed about in this city for nearly 50 years, but the players who can make it happen say they aren't dreaming about it at all.

That, they say, will be the key to prospering in Game 6 of the Western Conference Final against the San Jose Sharks at Enterprise Center on Tuesday (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC, TVAS).

Win, and the Blues play the Boston Bruins beginning May 27 in their first Stanley Cup Final since losing to the Bruins in 1970. Lose, and there will be a Game 7 at SAP Center on Thursday.

 

[RELATED: Complete Sharks vs. Blues series coverage]

 

St. Louis defeated San Jose 5-0 in Game 5 on Sunday to take a 3-2 lead in the best-of-7 series.

The Sharks are 4-0 in elimination games during the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Blues, who have never won the Cup, are 2-0 in games when they can advance. They defeated the Winnipeg Jets 3-2 in Game 6 of the first round and eliminated the Dallas Stars 2-1 in the second overtime of Game 7 in the second round.

"This is a group that treats every game the same way," St. Louis captain Alex Pietrangelo said Monday. "We have done that pretty much for the whole second half of the season leading up to this point. That's why we have been such a resilient group."

This is not just another game for the Blues or their players. This is the game that could put them in the Stanley Cup Final, uncharted territory for all but a few on the roster. It is a game that can erase 49 years of frustration and might-have-beens.

"Our fans are great here," coach Craig Berube said. "It's a great sports town, a passionate sports town, and it's very noticeable how excited everyone is about the team. That's great stuff. That's fun to watch."

Video: Pietrangelo, O'Reilly, Bozak before Game 6

But, as fun as it has been, the stakes are higher than ever for Blues, who lost the 2016 conference final to the Sharks in six games. This edition has won a St. Louis record 11 postseason games, but it needs a 12th to have a chance at making history.

"This franchise, we've come close before and there are a lot of people who have been around this organization for a long time," said Pietrangelo, who has been here since 2008-09. "You know what, you talk about it and those are the people that have invested a lot of time and energy into the organization. You talk to fans that have been fans for countless years and you talk to the guys you are playing with, guys like (Jay Bouwmeester) and (Alexander Steen) and (Tyler Bozak) … guys that have been playing for a long time and have been waiting for this opportunity.

"You want to push forward, and you want to give your best effort to give those guys the opportunity. I guess for someone like myself, the more you play and the older you get, you realize that these opportunities may not come all the time and you want to make sure you take advantage of them."

Pietrangelo has played 75 NHL playoff games without reaching the Cup Final. Bouwmeester has played 67 postseason games in his 16 NHL seasons. Bozak had never been out of the first round until this season. Pat Maroon, a St. Louis native in his first season with the Blues, has not been out of the second round since entering the NHL for the 2011-12 season. Another first-season player with the Blues, Ryan O'Reilly, had played in 13 playoff games since entering the NHL in 2009-10.

Even after several non-playoff seasons, O'Reilly said he won't think about what happens if the Blues can win another game.

"We have to take it one shift at a time," said O'Reilly, acquired in a trade from the Buffalo Sabres on July 1 for Patrik Berglund, Vladimir Sobotka, Tage Thompson and the Blues' first-round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft and their second-round pick in the 2021 NHL Draft. "We have to control what we can control and that is the preparation. These guys aren't going to go away easy. They're going put up a heck of a fight."

Berube knows what his players are going through. He was a rugged forward for the Washington Capitals during the 1997-98 season. The Capitals had never been to the Final but defeated the Bruins, Ottawa Senators and Sabres in the playoffs to face the Detroit Red Wings for the Cup. It was a magical time for those players and that city, even if it ended in a four-game sweep by the Red Wings.

He insists players stay in the moment and leave the implications of victory or defeat to others.

"I think players just think about the next game," Berube said. "We won yesterday afternoon and we talked immediately about (how) that game's over with, we've got to move on. Our team has done a good job with that in the playoffs."

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