[Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports]

St. Louis Blues Learn Difference Between Cup Favorite And Defending Champion


There’s no way to candy coat what happened in Chicago this afternoon. The St. Louis Blues were manhandled by the Chicago Blackhawks, and the gap between early-season Stanley Cup favorite and defending Stanley Cup champion was readily apparent in the third period of Game 6.

A Game 6 that the Blues needed to win to stay alive in the postseason, though you might not have known it as the wheels came off one by one in the closing frame—during the Championship rounds, if you will. In the UFC, that’s what they call the fourth and fifth rounds. You see, any fighter can hit the gym and get into decent enough shape to trade punches for 15 minutes.

It takes a special degree of dedication, talent and will to get through an extra 10 minutes though, and the Blues didn’t have what it took to take the belt from the champ. Through Games 1 and 2, it looked like St. Louis was going to be able to hang. Then the ‘Hawks hit a switch, and their all-world players made the difference.

Jonathan Toews scored three game-winning goals for Chicago. Patrick Kane had the other winner.

There were so many gaps and differences in this series that it’s almost dizzying. It’s tempting to point at Ryan Miller and blame him. Maybe you want to lean on Ken Hitchcock a bit and wonder where his adjustments were. Perhaps the power play is the scapegoat this time around.

There’s too much blame to go around at this point, with the dust still in the air and the likes of David Backes, T.J. Oshie and Alexander Steen all heading back to St. Louis to clean out their lockers instead of participating in a Game 7 at home. Games 3 through 6, the ‘Hawks slowly but surely pulled away.

[Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports]

The two teams barely looked like they belonged in the same league by the end of the series, let alone competing for the same trophy. That’s the lesson that the Blues need to take away from this embarrassing showing above all. Maybe Miller comes back, or maybe he’s allowed to leave. Perhaps Hitchcock is relieved of his duties, but more than anything, St. Louis saw firsthand what it takes to be a champion in the NHL.

It takes timely goal scoring, offense from the blue line, clutch saves from a steady goalie and a power play that can produce. The Blues didn’t have any of these things against the ‘Hawks, and they’re lucky that the history books read lost 4-2 instead of lost 4-0.

 

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  • James William Smith Sr.

    Unfortunately I completely agree.

  • Dashley R

    All that time spent watching and hoping the entire season and again at the end we
    are disappointed and heart broken. I don’t know how much more emotion I can invest in a team that’s success and improvement has become stagnant.
    What this team has proven is that an over paid defense first system just doesn’t cut it when you don’t have the players who can finish when it matters. You have to have more than two players that can handle the pressure. Tarasenko is good, but he cannot carry the entire team and score the game tying goal with 6 seconds left every game.
    As far as I’m concerned the rebuild the Blues organization started a
    decade ago hasn’t been a successful one. I’m not saying that all the players are all bad, but I am saying that there are way too many third line players expected to be first line stars and they call this depth. Obviously the system and the players being used in the system have seen success during the regular season, but that matters not once the playoffs start and the wins and losses column gets scrubbed clean. Come postseason is when you find out how many of your players have that extra gear.
    A presidents trophy means nothing if you cannot win it all and getting into the playoffs means nothing if you can’t get passed the first round. The excuses are getting old and the accountability is gone. After they lose they bring up too many positives, don’t want to acknowledge their mistakes, think they still played a “good” game even though it wasn’t enough and just keep talking like they are ultimate contenders when they need to be quiet and figure out how to play better or different.
    I love this team and want all the best for all the players on it, but there needs to be an attitude adjustment and the team needs to add a different element. Face it, the system or the combination of specific players is failing to achieve. The ingredient they are missing is a scoring touch. As of right now I believe they only have one player who has that when the game is on the line during the postseason Cup run in the spring.
    If they sign Miller and come back
    next year with the same team expecting to win, that is officially
    “crazy” as one popular definition defines the word as a redundant
    continuation to do the same thing over and over again expecting
    different results. Armstrong needs to start saving up them draft picks and hope we
    can get a couple Nathon MacKinnons. In my opinion, they need to cut their losses and do it quickly.

    My advice: Trade/Buyout Bouwmeester(we
    have Cole and Colaiacovo who both shoot left, what was the point of this
    trade in the first place?), do not sign Miller(I don’t think it was a smart trade, Halak could have possibly done as good or even better, but at least they got Ott out of it) ,
    instead bring in Allen, do not sign Morrow, do not sign Roy, possibly think about trading Berglund. Everybody keeps looking at his size thinking he is irreplaceable, but he had just as bad a year as Stewart, but is still looked at as this non tradable core player.
    The players to keep: Allen, Tarasenko, Sobotka, Reaves, Ott, Polak, Shattenkirk, Pietrangelo
    As for some of the the big names on the team, if some shuffles or trades help adjust some attitudes then maybe that is what this team needs.
    I guess we will all find out during the summer after the dust settles, but for now we get to watch the rest of the playoffs unfold minus the St. Louis team. This is going to sting for a while.

  • http://www.cnsqonline.com cesarnoel

    The real issue was scoring off Power PLay not Ryan Miller. There are several instances in game 4 and game 5 would have won the game for the Blues but in the end Blues end up 2-29 in PP.

  • Dashley R

    The power play was an issue, but you can’t rely on it to win games. 5 on 5 scoring is the way to win the Cup. Miller was okay, but he was expected to be better than just okay. He is definitely not the only person to blame, but he has his part in this just like the rest of the team has theirs. It is important to be able to stop teams from scoring, but it is more important to be able to make a play and finish when the game is on the line. If you can’t score, you don’t win.

  • T Meyer

    If that puck goes in and doesn’t roll across the goal line in the 2nd period, we’re talking about a game 7 today IMO. The differences are not as stark as you propose. These teams are evenly matched but the biggest area was goal tending. Crawford was amazing, Miller was not. We can point to poor defense (Shattenkirk was not good at all and gave up two game winners), but Crawford was just much better than Miller. If Miller makes the easy save on Toews in game 3, who know how that would have finished. So many little bounces and miner issues become huge in the playoffs. I think the Blues would have run the table on any other team in the NHL in the first round but it just happened to be the Hawks. Finally, the lack of adjustment on the PP is concerning. That falls on the coaching, period! Their PP has been futile since the Olympics and yet no changes were made, that can’t happen.

    • Dashley R

      Hmmm, I don’t think that one goal would have made the difference especially considering how the team melted down in the third period. These teams are not as evenly matched as you seem to think they are just as the Blackhawks proved over the last 4 games. If they were, the Blues would have taken the series just off chances alone. That is where they differ. The Hawks have the talent and poise to bury more of their chances when they get the opportunity and the Blues seem to fumble more often than not. The truth sucks, but it’s the truth.
      I do agree that Crawford was great and that Miller was okay which is a big difference in the series, but I disagree that Shattenkirk played as bad as you think. He might have had a -1, but compared to some of the other players with -5 or worse(-7) and a team leading 5 points, I think he wasn’t half bad. I like his offensive instincts, he just needs to polish his defensive skills and he will be a great asset to the team. I hope you don’t think he was a big reason why we lost.
      As for the powerplay, it is really quite simple, if you aren’t having any luck cycling and shooting from the blue line then mix it up and get the puck behind the net more often to scramble the defense. I also do not like that a lot of the players remain stationary during the power play(instead of moving and cycling themselves around) and they never seem to be positioned properly for rebounds and loose pucks. The hesitation to shoot was also hurting them a lot.

  • Dashley R

    Patrick Roy said it best and the Blues should emulate. They were never satisfied with how good their play was all season long and that is what I want to hear from the Blues instead of complimenting themselves after a losing game or series. Too much confidence in the dressing room and not enough on the ice for a team that can’t get passed the first round.
    I hope they can figure this out and have a better season next year.