The St. Louis Blues went into their last game against the New York Rangers knowing what they had to do to clinch a playoff spot. They played like they knew they had a safety net too.
Before the St. Louis Blues dropped the puck on their second game of 2018-19 against the New York Rangers, they knew the scenarios that would clinch them a playoff spot. All the Blues had to do, regardless of other results, was pick up one point out of this contest.
Unfortunately, they looked like a team that knew all they needed was a point and played like it too. The Blues were slow out of the gates again, which is something they cannot do once the playoffs start.
The Blues were extremely sloppy in the first period in Madison Square Garden. They failed to clear out several pucks that should have been simple and also managed to turnover several pucks as well.
Going against the flow of play, the Blues managed to score two goals in under 30 seconds. After St. Louis got their goals, they seemed to gain a lot of confidence. They were not playing perfectly, but it was a lot cleaner.
That went out the window in the first intermission. The Blues returned to their inexplicable sloppiness in the second period.
They were falling down at random times. They continually turned the puck over, either by not being aware of where the Rangers were or being weak on the clearances.
Ultimately, all that slopiness cost them. The Blues would fall to a pretty weak team by a final of 4-2.
You can argue that 4-2 was not a just final and you would not be completely wrong. The Blues did not deserve to win though and beat themselves.
Pros: Goal Glut
If you look at the first period as a whole, the Blues would probably have considered themselves fortunate to be tied. As sports are never really fair, St. Louis ended up ahead by two goals despite getting schooled most of the period.
The Blues were not the worse team. It was not as though the Rangers were out there cooking with gas. Much of what the Blues were doing or not doing was making the Rangers look good.
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Despite that, the Blues ended up with two goals. The Blues were lucky on the first one, but sometimes that works just as well.
The Blues managed to keep up some pressure and forced the Rangers to scramble a little. Then, somehow, Vladimir Tarasenko managed to slam one in off the goaltender’s skate. It defied the laws of physics, since there seemed to be no room at all to sneak in, but you will take it.
After that, the Blues seemed to find a little groove. Jaden Schwartz fired the puck in front from the corner to a waiting David Perron. Perron neatly angled his stick to deflect in the team’s second goal.
After that, the Blues had a couple chances here or there, but did not come as close as they did on those scoring plays. Ultimately, the Blues made the most out of what they had since the chances were not that numerous.
Cons: Sloppy Passes
The Blues have looked worse overall this season, especially early in the season. However, we have not seen sloppiness of this level in quite some time.
The Blues looked much more like the team that dug itself that early season hole than the one that vaulted itself into a divisional race. It was just so puzzling what was going on.
If nothing else, rest actually seems to hurt this team. The Blues had not played a game between Monday and Friday and they looked like they took that entire mid-week off.
The Blues came out slow and did not have the energy to match the Rangers in the first couple minutes. Even as they got their skates underneath them, the passing was just not there at all.
The biggest issue was how the bad passes and turnovers cost the team. The Rangers first goal was the direct result of a turnover.
Pat Maroon, who has played well of late, only had eyes for the intended target of his pass across the ice. If he looked a little closer, he would have seen a blue shirt in between. He did not and the Rangers slipped a shot in and the rebound was knocked in.
The reality is that Jordan Binnington had no business letting that shot trickle through his body. It has to be saved cleanly and was not. However, in his defense, there should have never been a shot. The Blues needed to take better care of the puck.
Another turnover led to the Rangers second goal too. The Blues gave up the puck, Colton Parayko got twisted up on the boards and fell down, allowing New York an easy one-timer that nobody was going to stop.
This was all uncharacteristic of the Blues we have seen lately. They did manage to get themselves back in control by the end of the second, but the damage had been done with those two goals allowed.
Pros: Good Luck For Once
As fans, we see things through tinted windows. That is where all these theories of league bias and crooked referees comes from. The reality is far less sinister.
Regardless of reality, we always feel like we and thus the Blues get the short end of the stick when it comes to things like replays and reviews. So, I never thought the Blues had a prayer to get the Rangers first score wiped off the board. That shows what I know.
Looking at the replay, there was contact with Binnington’s glove but it did not seem like enough to say he could not have got back into position. However, upon further views, we saw some contact with the skate. Personally, I still did not believe it would be enough since we have seen goalies get taken for a ride and goals counted.
However, Darren Pang made a strong case that a goaltender’s edges are how they make all their lateral movements. So, by altering the positioning of a skate, you eliminate Binnington’s chances to get back over.
In the end, the Blues won their challenge. The goal came off the board and thank goodness for that.
The Rangers still ended up tying the game later. We don’t know how that counting might have changed things, but you’d rather take your chances and end up with the benefit of not having three against you.
Cons: Continually Losing To Crap Teams
No offense, but the Rangers are not a good team. The Blues had no business losing to them.
For whatever reason, with the exception of those last two home wins against non-playoff teams, the Blues just play down to their competition. They did that again against the Rangers.
The television announcers went on and on about how many shots the Blues had. That’s all well and good, but despite the fact the Fox Sports gave Alexandar Georgiev the first star, the Blues just did not do that much offensively.
They continually passed the puck way too much, dangling and stick handling for too long instead of just making a decision and doing it. The shots were numerous, but the Blues did not have near enough rebounds.
Georgiev made some good saves, but it never felt like he was under siege. You never got the feeling like the goaltender was truly stealing the game, despite what Panger would have you believe.
The announcers try to paint it as a nice picture of just being unlucky, but the Blues did not make their luck. They allowed a bad team far too much and even though the Rangers did not muster a ton, they managed to take advantage.
Of course, when the playoffs start, you don’t have to worry about this stuff. The Blues will be playing good teams. Still, it is maddening to lose to these teams time after time.
Normally I am biased for goaltenders. I think they take far too much blame for goals and losses and sometimes not enough for wins.
That said, I must have watched a different game than the TV crew for Fox Sports Midwest. Georgiev was good and stopping over 40 pucks is not easy.
How many times did he have to make several saves in succession? Very few. How many times did he have to range across the crease and make a sprawling save on an odd man rush? I do not remember any.
The Blues kept trying to go up high. They kept missing shots, having almost twice as many shot attempts as the ones that hit the actual goal.
Additionally, the announcers kept focusing on shot totals, but so many were from in tight and bad angles. Also, the Blues kept trying to stuff one in on the short side instead of firing one off the pad and looking for rebounds out front.
What is so infuriating about these losses is that they go completely against everything that got the Blues into the third spot in the division in the first place. There was not enough driving the net, not enough decisiveness and too much getting in your own way.
The final couple minutes were emblematic of everything the Blues did wrong. Just like when their power play struggles, they could not decide what to do with the puck quickly enough. They hesitated on passes, hemming themselves along the boards. It looked like they were the team with one fewer player the way New York trapped them into their zone and eventually scored the empty net goal.
By the time the Blues got control of the puck, just before that fourth goal, they had no energy to go forward offensively.
The Blues are still going to make the playoffs. Hopefully, they will rebound tomorrow and defeat New Jersey (another non-playoff team, sadly). They have to get back on a roll though. If you consider yourself a good team, you have to prove it every night, not just when the chip is on your shoulder against the top teams.