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Through Tarasenko and Co., all is possible for Blues

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In terms of raw star power, the San Jose Sharks are much higher on the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram than the team that easily dispatched them from the Western Conference final on Tuesday.

The Blues were the underdog entering the series in large part because the Sharks, unlike the Jets or Stars or Blues themselves, had more than one legitimate, proven scoring line.

Not that it’s a one-man show in St. Louis. Far from it. But a lot of stuff was done by committee — a big night from Sammy Blais or Pat Maroon here, a great game out of David Perron or Ryan O’Reilly there — while their big line only sometimes rose to the occasion.

But as the west final wore on, the Blues’ top line not only became more apparent on a larger share of its shifts, it simply imposed its will on San Jose.

It obviously helps that the Sharks played Game 6, and a big percentage of Game 5, missing some really critical players. Name-brand All-Star talents like Tomas Hertl, Joe Pavelski and Erik Karlsson are hard to replace. Impossible when you add it all together. It’s not a coincidence the St. Louis forecheck, which had only scattered success early in the series, really gained traction when those guys and Karlsson in particular were on the shelf.

But plenty of teams have learned that you can do a good job of controlling the play and it doesn’t matter much if you don’t have top talent that can score reliably. The Blues have one such line, and if everyone else shows up only occasionally, that was plenty. In this series at least.

The stats are these: Vladimir Tarasenko had at least a point in every game of this series, including goals in Games 3, 5, and 6. The last being the eventual series-winner. He ended the six-game series with eight points, and that’s gonna take you places. Jaden Schwartz scored four times in these six games, including the big-time hat trick in less than 14 minutes of ice time in Game 5.

Perron pitched in with seven points against the Sharks as well, but this followed the first two rounds in which he went just 3-3-6 in 13 games.

And when your system is as good as the Blues’ has been under Craig Berube, and you have just three guys scoring every game, you don’t even need Jordan Binnington to be great. Which he wasn’t in this series, stopping just 145 of 159 (a fairly average .912). He did, however, lock it down for the back half of the six-game series, so it’s perhaps fairer to say he was just garbage in the first three appearances. Martin Jones, at the other end, was just .869 and struggled in just about every game. Which I guess we should have all seen coming.

They definitely benefited from the war of attrition that just crushed the Sharks, but staying healthy is a skill and they definitely exacted a toll with that heavy forecheck that the Sharks just couldn’t match. At the other end, Colton Parayko was massive (almost 63 percent xGF share) and was only on the ice for 20 high-danger chances from San Jose.

Meanwhile, Logan Couture and Karlsson were the only guys in teal who really showed up for this series. Even when he was healthy, Pavelski didn’t move the needle much at 5-on-5. Joe Thornton hit a wall. Justin Braun got ground into dust. Brent Burns looked pretty good but didn’t score much, and he makes as much as he does because he’s supposed to score a lot. Couture provided the usual offense but got scored on almost as much.

And all notes about the Sharks’ offense comes with the caveat that almost everything they did came in Games 1 through 3. In the last three games of the series, they got outscored 12-2.

So it really was a revelation — and a terrifying one, for the Sharks — to see Tarasenko’s line in particular heat up in this series. They didn’t have the best start to it, but combined he, Schwartz and Schenn put 47 shots on goal. The rest of the team combined had just 122. They also scored five of the Blues’ 12 goals in Games 4-6. Which, hey, you take that all day even if it comes with the acknowledgement that Jones made it real easy for them to score.

It really helps to have guys who can make a difference as you get farther down the lineup. That’s what separates, say, Stanley Cup finalists from playoff qualifiers, one-round winners, and conference finalists. But it doesn’t matter as much if you don’t have elite talent playing elite hockey at this time of year. The Sharks, for a number of reasons, didn’t get the kinds of performances they needed out of their big guns. The Blues, with a relative paucity of true high-end talent, struggled through it and got the big performances they needed exactly when they needed them.

The Blues played quite well throughout the series and on the balance deserved to win it. Maybe not this comfortably, but you can’t knock ‘em too badly for doing to San Jose what they’ve done to pretty much everyone else since Berube took over from Mike Yeo. If you do a good job of shutting down the other team’s big guns and getting yours to produce every single night, you deserve to win walking away.

Whether the same approach works against Boston in next week’s Cup Final obviously remains to be seen. Tuukka Rask, I think, is maybe a little better than Jones.

One thing they’ve talked about a lot in Boston is the idea of Rask and the rest of the team “staying sharp” with the off time. The Blues obviously have several fewer days of that, but they better hope Tarasenko and Schwartz can likewise maintain their dominance through to Monday and beyond.

Ryan Lambert is a Yahoo! Sports hockey columnist. His email is here and his Twitter is here.