The St. Louis Blues keep playing their best hockey against the NHL’s best teams. They proved they can hang with the big boys by defeating Tampa Bay.
The St. Louis Blues might want to finish in the eighth playoff spot the way they are going. They play their best hockey against the teams above them in the standings, so maybe if all the teams in the playoffs were above them, they could win a Stanley Cup.
While that is not a serious statement, you cannot deny that the Blues seem to play their best against the best teams in the league. They did just that, again, against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Blues knocked off Tampa for the second time in 2019, sweeping the season series. This one was not as neat and tidy as the 1-0 win in Florida, but it was just as impressive.
St. Louis jumped out to a big lead in the first period. The Blues put in three goals in under two minutes of game time, shocking the Presidents Trophy winners.
Unfortunately, the Blues would need all those goals. Tampa Bay would not go quietly into the night, scoring two goals in the second period themselves.
The Blues got the ultimate game winning goal somewhat late in the third. Then, it was all about defending and luck.
St. Louis did allow one more goal in the third period and it seemed as though the Lightning had tied it. However, the Blues were fortunate that a replay showed the tying goal was scored when offside, so the Blues challenged and won.
They withstood a furious onslaught by Tampa in the final minutes. In the end, the Blues would cling to a 4-3 win.
Pros: First Period Push
The Blues did not play a perfect period in the opening frame against the Lightning. In fact, it was anything but.
St. Louis allowed a bunch of quality chances to Tampa in the early going before they settled in and really found their game. Once St. Louis scored, it was all about the Blues for a short time.
The Blues scored their first goal of the game a little over halfway through the first period on the power play. Robert Thomas banged home a rebound goal, making sure the Tampa goaltender had no chance to get back over. The team’s power play has struggled at times, so getting on the board with that kind of goal was icing on the cake.
Then, the floodgates opened. Almost immediately, 38 seconds to be exact, the Blues put in another one. This time, Alexander Steen, fresh off joining the 600 point club jumped on a rebound of his own. He went flying through the air, though not quite as dramatically as Bobby Orr and knocked it in on the backhand.
After that, it was the top line’s turn. Vladimir Tarasenko slammed in a one-timer off a beautiful set up by Ryan O’Reilly. Not only did that one cap off a furious run of offense, but it got the top line going. The Blues best line had been silent lately, so having them aid in this win was very important.
Everything happened so fast, nobody knew what to think. Jon Cooper, the coach of Tampa Bay, had a disgruntled yet shocked look after Tarasenko’s goal since he is unaccustomed to anyone getting that many on his team, let alone that quickly.
Cons: Leaving The Door Open At All
When you are playing a team that has been almost unstoppable, an offensive Godzilla if you will, you take the wins how you can get them. You know that kind of team is going to make a push and you must withstand it.
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However, with that said, the Blues could not slam the door and bolt the locks before Tampa Bay figured some things out.
The Blues got caught napping after a faceoff loss just moments into the second period. Not only did you allow the Lightning some life, but you gave them the momentum of getting a shorthanded goal. You have to be sharper than that, especially in your second shift of the period.
St. Louis made another silly mistake that cost them for the Lightning’s second goal. A foolhardy cross-ice pass was intercepted in the neutral zone. Tampa Bay caught the Blues in transition and finished off a nifty one-timer.
Credit goes to the Lightning for finishing off those chances, but those chances should never have come about. The Blues needed to be cleaner in those situations, because you know Tampa Bay can make you pay for every mistake, which they did in those situations.
Still, in the overall sense, the Blues could have won this one comfortably, if they had been a little cleaner. You can’t argue the win, as a whole, but those same mistakes can cost you in the playoffs where everything is magnified.
Pros: Jordan Binnington
Jordan Binnington has had better games, but this one was huge for the team overall. As any goaltender would, he won’t be happy giving up three goals.
Any night you can make 39 saves, you have had a good night though. There are some nights where the shot totals are high but not quality. This was not one of those. Tampa Bay was peppering the St. Louis goaltender and getting some good looks.
Binnington had to be sharp early on. His right pad save just a minute or so before the Blues scored their first goal was gigantic. The game turns on its ear if that one goes in before the Blues got going.
In that same period, Binnington made a glove save look simple on a partial break. He did the same thing in the third period too.
Binnington was not perfect at all. The goal he gave up that would have tied it at 4-4 was one he needed to stop, going in just under the blocker. He was fortunate it was offside.
Binnginton also handed the puck over to the Lightning with another questionable bit of puck handling. His passing ability and decisions on when to leave the net have increased in questionability lately and this did nothing to change that.
Still, in the grand scheme, he made a lot of good saves on one of the most efficient offensive teams we have seen. There was nothing to be done about the three that did go in, so BinnNasty was a big reason the Blues pulled off this win.
Pros: Vladimir Tarasenko
Maybe the Blues need to find a way to convince Vladimir Tarasenko there is a Russian on the other team for every squad in the NHL. He does his best, it seems, when going against his own countrymen.
You could tell Vlady was going to have a good game right off the hop. Though he was denied, he had a quality scoring opportunity from the right circle early in the game.
Tarasenko was moving his skates and finding open ice. It was just a matter of time before he would find a reward if he kept it up, which he did.
He got the fabulous goal to put the team up 3-0. Tarasenko doesn’t take many slap shots, but he still scored on a one-timer with that well timed push shot.
Tarasenko would also pick up an assist on what would prove to be the game winner. It came off a shot instead of a pass, but they all count the same. Tarasenko had the wisdom to whip a shot in from the slot, forcing a difficult save. Brayden Schenn pounced on the rebound and put it between his legs. Still, if Tarasenko shrinks into his pass-first mentality, that goal likely does not happen.
The Blues need this Tarasenko out there. Maybe you don’t get points every game, but he can create so much more space for his teammates when he is driving and shooting because defenses have to worry about him.
What a big win for the Blues. It might have been an interconference win, but given the situation and who it was against, it could not have meant much more.
Focusing on the game, itself, the Blues proved they can hang with anyone again. For the second time in as many months, the Blues scratch out a one-goal win over the NHL’s dominant team.
This time, they did it with offense. St. Louis did not need to smother the entire time and try to get to overtime. Their offense was humming, even when the goals were not flowing.
The Blues kept the league’s best power play off the board too. Maybe they took too many silly penalties, but they were still perfect on the PK.
The Blues were not stellar defensively, but Binnington bailed them out when needed. The offense missed on a few chances, but they buries plenty and kept their sticks hot.
It’s always big to get a win over the top team in the league, but this was important given the timing. Nashville got spanked by Winnipeg, so the Blues’ win put them within two points of the Predators and the Note still have a game in hand.