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Series takeaways: The better team won, as Sharks beaten at own game

ST. LOUIS — Joe Thornton exited the handshake line with the St. Louis Blues before he made his way toward the bench. He handed his stick to a security guard right after he got off the ice and disappeared underneath the stands after a game for perhaps the final time in his Hall of Fame-worthy career.
There were many questions for the Sharks to comprehend after their 5-1 loss to the St. Louis Blues in Game 6 of the Western Conference Final on Tuesday night. How did the series turn so abruptly after their win in Game 3? Where would this team be if everyone had stayed relatively healthy? Why did the offense dry up for the final three games?
Invariably, though, questions turned to what the Sharks will look like next fall, and whether players like Erik Karlsson, Joe Pavelski and Thornton will be back with the team for another run at the franchise’s first Stanley Cup.
As one might expect, though, the pain was too fresh and the end had come too soon for anyone to fully be able to digest what the future holds.
Especially Thornton.
“No, nope,” Thornton said about if he’s given thought to his long-term future in the NHL and with the Sharks.
A season that began with Stanley Cup aspirations after a blockbuster trade to acquire Karlsson in September ended like all the ones before it — in disappointment. The Blues won the series four-games-to-two to advance to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1970, setting off a celebration among their long-suffering fans that was sure to last well into the night.
The Blues will meet the Boston Bruins in the Cup final, a series that starts May 27.

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They were full marks for this series victory, no doubt about it.
“My disappointment isn’t thinking about next year,” Sharks coach Pete DeBoer said. “Mine is in the group we had this year, the adversity we faced, the people we had and the work we put in. the number of times they were written for dead and buried and the number of times they kept getting off the mat, the things guys played through, that’s the disappointing part for me. That stuff you don’t see should get rewarded.
“But it’s a harsh league and it’s a hard trophy to win. So, my disappointment is there.”
A couple series takeaways:
1. Even before the injuries, Sharks weren’t getting enough contributions top-to-bottom: There’s no doubt that having to play another elimination game without Karlsson, Pavelski or Tomas Hertl crippled the Sharks’ chances to extend the series to a seventh game. Hertl and Karlsson, by themselves, had accounted for five goals and six assists in the Sharks’ previous four elimination games.
ST. LOUIS, MO – MAY 21: San Jose Sharks’ Logan Couture (39) can’t get the puck past St. Louis Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington (50) and St. Louis Blues’ Colton Parayko (55) in the second period in Game 6 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Western Conference finals at the Enterprise Center in St. Louis, Mo., on Tuesday, May 21, 2019. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group) 
But in the four games prior to Tuesday, Logan Couture, Joe Thornton and Karlsson accounted for all eight of the Sharks’ goals. Timo Meier and Kevin Labanc added two assists each, but Hertl, Pavelski, Brent Burns, Evander Kane and Gus Nyquist couldn’t dent the scoresheet on a regular basis.
Part of that had to do with the struggles of the power play, which went 1-for-9 after Game 1 of the series. Another part was the play of Jordan Binnington, who had a .933 save percentage for the final five games, including 25 on Tuesday.
The Blues after Game 1, by contrast, got goals from 10 players. The usual suspects are in that mix — Vladimir Tarasenko (seven points), David Perron (six points), Ryan O’Reilly, Jaden Schwartz and Colton Parayko (four points each). But the fourth line of Oskar Sundqvist, Ivan Barbashev and Alex Steen added a combined eight points, as the three of them averaged about 15 minutes of ice time per game between them.
“You have to give them credit,” DeBoer said. “You know, I thought they played with an identity, I thought they played the best team game as far as lines and defensemen, as any of the teams we’ve seen so far.
“We tried. We tried to get inside, we tried to create some more offense. I thought they stood out and the coaching staff for getting that team to play as hard as it did with the identity it did.”
2. The Sharks were beat at their own game: The talk before the series, and rightfully so, was about how similar the two teams were in terms of their identity. A hard, heavy forecheck, the desire to roll four lines and take away time and space all over the ice.
The Blues did that to a tee, and the Sharks too many times were chasing the puck around their own end. The Blues forecheck, led by Sammy Blais, Sundqvist, Barbashev and Pat Maroon, wreaked havoc on the Sharks’ defense.
ST. LOUIS, MO – MAY 21: The St. Louis Blues celebrate a goal by St. Louis Blues’ Tyler Bozak (21) against the San Jose Sharks in the third period in Game 6 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Western Conference finals at the Enterprise Center in St. Louis, Mo., on Tuesday, May 21, 2019. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group) 
“They’re a great team over there. They play hard. They play tight. They have a great goalie,” Brent Burns said. “It was just not a lot out there. We had to work for everything. When we were working it seemed like we couldn’t get that break. But I thought we had a lot of really good chances tonight, too. Missed opportunities.
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“That’s all it takes this time of year. The difference between winning and not winning is so close. You can’t take anything away from that team, they played great from top to bottom. That’s what it takes.”
DeBoer agreed.
“I think the two hardest, heaviest teams are in the Final,” DeBoer said of the Blues and Bruins. “And we talk, everybody talks about skill and speed and there’s room for all of these small players, there’s room for that, but I didn’t think it’s an accident.
“There’s no space, they’re heavy, they’re hard, they’re organized. There wasn’t any rom out there, and when there was, Binnington made saves. That’s why they’re the Western Conference champion.”

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