The St. Louis Blues put themselves in a decent position to make the playoffs in their final regular season game. Despite only needing one point, the Blues could not muster enough to get the job done.
The St. Louis Blues had everything to play for in their final regular season game in 2017-18. They only needed one point in their final matchup against the Colorado Avalanche and they had fans sitting on pins and needles. Unfortunately, the bounces and the energy just did not go the Blues way.
The game started off evenly enough. The Blues managed to withstand the early home pressure and get back into the game in the first period. However, they let their foot off the gas just for a moment and allowed a goal in the final minute of the opening period. From there on it was playing catch-up and the Blues were never very good at that this season.
Colorado got a second goal in the second period on a reviewed play that should have been offside, but the league determined there was not enough evidence to be conclusive. That gave the Avalanche a 2-0 lead and forced the Blues to kill off an Avs power play immediately after, taking up precious energy and time.
The Blues made a game of it with a big time Jaden Schwartz goal, cutting the lead in half and giving the team some life. They just never really looked like they were going to score after that though.
St. Louis held in there with some spectacular saves from Jake Allen, but the defense spent a lot of energy scrambling and the offense was kept to the perimeter. Then, the Avalanche got the crushing goal late in the second. Nathan MacKinnon roofed a shot off the crossbar and in and gave the Avs a 3-1 lead.
From there on in, the Blues were in desperation mode, but never truly challenged enough. They got a late goal, but the game was already out of reach by then due to some empty net goals and the Blues season was ended.
St. Louis has plenty of big decisions to make during the offseason, but that will wait. For now, it was a disappointing end to a disappointing season.
The loss of Vladimir Tarasenko.
Whether you love the guy or have soured on him, his loss was gigantic for this game. Even if he was ineffective in the game, he would have drawn defensive attention. With him out, the Avs only had to focus on two players for much of the game.
If Tarasenko was out there, even if he had been silent the entire game, you could make the case that he might score a goal with the net empty. Instead, the Blues had to change entire lines and double shift players that were already likely fatigued.
St. Louis had little scoring depth as it was and then lost their top goal scorer. Regardless of how you feel about his season this year, they needed him out there.
Topping it all off is the NHL’s ridiculous insistence on sticking with upper or lower body injuries. The hit was so miniscule that fans would like to know what actually happened. Was it a dislocated elbow? That’s the only thing that makes sense to me, but given the small amount of contact, seems hard to imagine. We may never know.
Jake Allen gave a gutsy, gritty effort.
The haters are going to hate and they will always think Carter Hutton would have made the difference in this one. Who knows if they are right because it is all opinion based.
The facts are that Allen played his guts out. You can argue that he might have saved the first goal, but he did not see it at all.
Beyond that, I’m tired of this constant argument, but if you cannot realize that this game could easily have had eight or nine Avalanche goals if not for Allen then there is no reasoning. Allen was sharp and battled through an apparent injury as well, showing some intestinal fortitude.
Whether he should have remained in the game is another question. Even as an Allen fan, I wanted him out since he seemed to be laboring. He still managed to make some big saves and keep the Blues in the game for as long as he could.
The lack of defensive pressure.
St. Louis did a decent job defending overall, but there was just a clear difference between the Colorado offensive players and the Blues defensive guys.
Colorado just blazed a trail down the ice so many times and the Blues struggled to keep up. In addition to that, there was not enough physicality for a game of this importance.
St. Louis was credited with 29 hits, but that shows how odd that stat can be. Maybe they touched people 29 times, but I did not see what I would call 29 hits.
There was a lot of trailing the attacker and trying to just poke it away. Nathan MacKinnon is becoming an elite player, but he was just making our defenders look like they had blocks on their feet.
Credit goes to the Avalanche for their offensive pressure and getting the job done. You would just like to see the Blues keep the swarm away from their goaltender more than they did allowing 39 shots against in a season deciding game.
The Blues top line.
These guys were up against a wall once Tarasenko went down. The Blues only had two legitimate scorers and the Avalanche knew it. They keyed their defense on the top line. Even so, the Blues managed to get two goals from their best guys still on the ice.
Schwartz scored a nifty goal to cut the lead in half, deflecting in a long shot from the point.
The second, though meaningless, was a nice goal from Brayden Schenn. He wired it into the upper 90, not giving the goaltender any chance to stop it.
While it was not enough on this night, it continued to show how good those two – perhaps three if Tarasenko can be re-worked in – can be together. Hopefully the Blues can sign Schenn to an extension and get some solid cohesion there.
It was a huge moment in this game, but really it did not cost the Blues their season. The missed offside was just frustrating because there have been so many calls that did not go the Blues way this year.
Now, if we’re honest, that line seems a bit askew, but it still looks pretty offside to me. But, the goal against Chicago seemed like it was in. The goaltender interference calls never seemed to go the Blues way. The only one we benefited from was the offside against Colorado, which apparently should never have been reviewed, even though they made the right call.
I guess what is so frustrating is the fact that we have 4k technology everywhere. You can make a friggin puck glow back in the 90’s and you can have goal line technology in soccer that immediately alerts a referee’s watch.
However, we still cannot tell if a black puck crosses a blue or red line with any clarity. It has become as maddening and ridiculously without common sense as the NFL’s catch rule.
Just not good enough on the night or during the season.
This season will be remembered as a lost opportunity. While many of us thought the team would regress a little after their hot start, nobody could have predicted the ups and downs the team went through.
They battled injury in this game, just like they did all season long. In the end, there were just too many to overcome for this group.
That is not an excuse. The Blues opened up the season dealing with injury and found ways to get it done. However, they just broke down mentally as the season wore on and could not muster enough good vibes to ever overcome it. The same was true in this contest against Colorado.
St. Louis seemed somewhat defeated after going down 2-0, especially since they thought the goal was offside. However, they battled back and cut the lead in half.
Still, they could not manage that extra burst that would put them over the hump. As fans we sit there and yell and scratch our heads in frustration because all they needed was one point and they could not muster the energy for that.
Chances are, the way the season went and this game went, the Blues would have been crushed by Nashville in the playoffs. You’d still like them to get that chance though.
Ultimately, though this game was the clincher, there were so many lost opportunities throughout the year. Quite frankly, it should not have come down to this game alone.
Allen played well, but it was not enough. The offense battled, but there was not enough. The defense tried, but it was not enough.
Perhaps that is the motto of this season. It was just not enough for long enough.