The hand pass by the Sharks in Game 3 of the Western Conference Final was a pivotal point in the series — and not just for the Sharks.
The effect of the controversial play cuts far deeper than just giving San Jose a 2-1 series lead. It served as a turning in the best-of-seven series, and put the Blues at a crossroad; do they falter under the frustration, or do they use it as fuel to power their first trip to the Stanley Cup Final since 1970?
It was the latter, and it comes at no surprise. This season, the Blues are no strangers to the harshest of adversity. From being in last place in the NHL on January 1st, to being down 3-2 in the series against the Stars and coming back and now, to their reaction following an atrocious call on one of hockey’s biggest stages.
If you thought this team was already playing with a fire under them, it turned into an inferno after a hard fought Game 3 was ripped away from them.
In the first 35 seconds of ice-time following the missed hand pass call, Ivan Barbashev scored his first career playoff-goal — igniting the crowd at Enterprise Center. That was just the beginning of what seems to be a team that is playing on a different level right now.
They dominated in the first period of Game 4, but Jordan Binnington held down the fort in the last two periods — with San Jose living in the Blues’ zone. Colton Parayko played one of the best games of his career, which was a big catalyst in the crucial series-tying win.
Game 5 was all Blues. They came right into the Sharks’ home rink and just bullied them from the commencement of the first period. Jaden Schwartz was the main aggressor, tallying his second hat-trick of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, to eclipse his goal total from the regular season (11) in these playoffs (12). He is the first Blue in history to record multiple hat-tricks in a single postseason. Incredible stuff.
Vladimir Tarasenko has also turned into a factor in this series, after publicly being challenged by head coach Craig Berube he has stepped up his play another notch — or two. He continued his strong play by tallying three points in the 5-0 win, including a penalty shot goal — the first in Blues’ playoff history.
Since Timo Meier’s hand pass, the Blues are 2-0, outscoring their opponent 7-1 in the process. There’s still work to be done, but maybe hand passes aren’t so bad after all. St. Louis is one win away from punching a ticket to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in 49 years — with a chance to end over half a century’s worth of pent up disappointment and frustration on the line.