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Playoff redemption awaits winner of Sharks-Blues series

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Martin Jones will be key if the Sharks make their first-ever Stanley Cup finals. (Ben Margot/AP)
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SAN JOSE — One of the playoff-success challenged franchises in St. Louis and San Jose will play for the Stanley Cup this season.

The two teams that have enjoyed loads of regular season success followed by annual playoff disappointment will meet in the Western Conference final starting Sunday with the winner advancing to the Stanley Cup final.

The Blues are looking to make the final for the first time since 1970 and win it all for the first time ever. The Sharks have never even played for the title since joining the NHL in 1991-92.

Each of the 56 previous playoff appearances for the two teams have ended with a loss — often times a crushing one.

“I don’t try and live in the past for this franchise or for the San Jose franchise,” Blues general manager Doug Armstrong. “I don’t think any of the young players on San Jose care about what happened five, six years ago for them and I know Troy Brouwer and [Kyle] Brodziak and these guys don’t care what happened here two years ago or in ’01-02. This is our team, this is their team, they’re going to chart their own destiny and they’re doing a great job.”

The Blues have made the playoffs 40 times in their 48-year history — more than any team outside the Original Six — but they have yet to win it all while much younger franchises like Tampa Bay, Carolina and Anaheim have won the Cup.

The Sharks are in the postseason for the 18th time and despite having the second most regular-season wins in the NHL since the start of the 2003-04 season, they have never made it past the conference final. In three trips to this round, San Jose has three wins and 12 losses.

A year after losing a seven-game series in the second round to rival Los Angeles, the Sharks broke out to a 3-0 series lead over the Kings in the first round in 2014. San Jose then lost four straight games to become the fourth NHL team ever to blow a 3-0 series lead. The pain from that defeat lasted and the Sharks didn’t completely recover until this season.

“These opportunities don’t come along every year,” forward Patrick Marleau said. “We want to win a Cup. We haven’t done that yet. There’s a lot of work left.”

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