The St. Louis Blues already had their burdens lifted by clinching the playoffs over the weekend. Wins now have to do with pride and playoff seeding.
The St. Louis Blues took on the Colorado Avalanche for the final time in the regular season in 2018-19. I say final time for the regular season because there are still ways those two could face one another in the playoffs.
It is very unlikely it would be a first round matchup. Still, nothing is out of the realm of possibility after the Blues have gone from worst in the league to battling for Central Division supremacy.
The Blues wasted little time in getting things rolling in this game. Just minutes into the game, the Blues took a 1-0 lead on a Tyler Bozak goal.
Unfortunately for Bozak, he won’t get any bump in his stats since the goal was taken away. The Avalanche challenged the play for offside and it was an easy decision for the refs.
Still, the Blues had seized early momentum and never let it go. They would get their reward with a goal that could not be taken away about five minutes afterward.
The Blues dominated the Avs potent offense too. The Blues were smothering them at every turn early in the game.
Both teams went a bit silent in the second period. Despite the lack of offense, the physicality and rivalry toward this game picked up in intensity.
The odd thing was that the Blues played pretty well in the third period. They created some chances and had a good deal of the puck possession.
As sports tend to do, things turned the other way, however. The Avalanche tied the game up with two unanswered after the Blues had taken a two goal lead early in the period.
Thankfully, lady luck, was not done with the Blues. After a few posts kept the Avs off the board, the game went to overtime and eventually a shootout.
The Blues kept Colorado off the board and their one goal was all they needed. The game finished 3-2 and the Blues climbed one more rung on the ladder.
Pros: Dominating Defense
The goals against notwithstanding, the Blues had one of their best defensive games we have seen all season long. They were playing against a desperate team and kept them at bay almost the entire game.
The first period was beyond impressive. St. Louis held Colorado to only two shots on goal in the opening frame.
Those two in particular were instrumental in slowing him down and shutting him out. If one was beaten, the other would step in and fill the gap.
Everyone was joining in to stop these high flyers. Vladimir Tarasenko threw a big check on McKinnon to keep him away from the net. Vince Dunn and Alex Pietrangelo picked up the slack when they had to be out there against the Avs’ stars.
The Avalanche came with force in the second and third periods. Even so, you felt the Blues were in control the entire time.
Colorado’s goals were really good. That has not been the case for much of the year against the Blues. Most nights, you felt like they could have done something different to keep them out.
This game was a very solid effort by all those in the defensive zone. It is a kick in the pants to surrender a point when you play that well, but sometimes the puck bounces the other way.
Cons: Unstoppable Goals
I joke with family members about goaltenders all the time. The running joke is that whatever player I am for would have made the save on all the goals that go in when my guy is not in there.
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I do not care which goaltender you prefer this season or any. There was no stopping either of the Avalanche’s goals in this one.
Both goals were deflections, which completely alters the path the goaltender was tracking. Jordan Binnington had a fantastic night in this game, but he was not going to keep the clean sheet with these ones.
NBC’s studio team made a brief comment about Binnington being slightly out of position on the first goal. Admittedly, he was quite far out of his crease, but I do not see that altering much.
Gabriel Landeskog just made a fantastic play on the tip. Instead of an easy pad save, the puck ended up deflecting to Binnington’s left before he could even react.
The second one was similar, except it went to Binnington’s right. This time, when the Avs were pressing with their net empty, they tossed one toward goal from the left point. Seemingly from nowhere, a stick reached out and just tapped it past the goalie who was moving the other way.
Some might say it’s a good thing that you couldn’t do anything about the goals. It would mean nobody made any mistakes.
I disagree because you would rather your goaltender have some sort of chance to make the save. Yeah, it stings less and there is nobody to be mad at, but you are robbed of the opportunity to keep them off the board.
Big Players In Big Moments
In these articles, I try not to focus simply on this guy scoring that goal. However, the Blues got some of their best guys to come up big in the right moments.
Of course, Binnington had another solid game. Sometimes he is so cool in the crease that you overlook his play. He made several quality stops even though he was not incredibly busy.
Then, in terms of the goals, you had almost all the guys you would want to pick up some steam toward the end of the year. Jaden Schwartz ended a five-game goalless drought and gave the Blues an important 1-0 lead.
Vladimir Tarasenko kept up his hot streak, scoring his fourth goal in his last five games. Just as important, Tarasenko’s goal was another drive the net, dirty goal that he needs to be scoring more of. He just fired it in from the left almost on the end line and managed to pop it in.
Last, but not least, you get Ryan O’Reilly coming up huge in the shootout. Sadly for him it does not count toward his stats. Still, he kept it simple with a couple quick feints and then firing it low on the blocker side. I am not a fan of those slow, methodical approaches, but when it works it works.
Brayden Schenn did not get a goal in this one, but he also had a really strong game. He was denied on the doorstep several times, but his effort kept the puck alive for Tarasenko to knock in.
More nights than not, you want your best players to be your best players. That was the case here.
The Blues made this one a little harder than it needed to be, but when you’re going against desperate teams, you have to expect the unexpected.
It is hard to get on the Blues too much for the two goals given up. Each one was so good, you have to marvel at the hand-eye coordination.
Still, the Blues are near the top of the league in two-goal leads given up. That is not a category you want to be in the lead. I don’t know if they get too loose or tighten up or what (it changes game to game). The Blues just seem to lack that ability to get that third and fourth goal before the other team gets on the board. It is frustrating as anything.
It has to be said that this game was incredibly entertaining though. If it was between neutral teams, it would have been really fun to watch since both teams were going for it.
Even during the dull periods where no goals came, the offensive chances just seemed to flow back and forth. Then, both teams started getting physical and chippy.
As long as you are smart about it, that is incredibly energizing. If you are throwing hits and getting mixed up in altercations, but not taking penalties, that gets the heart pumping. A total of 42 hits were thrown between the two teams and plenty of them were board rattlers.
Of course, this game remains fun since the Blues managed to get the win. It might not have had a positive feel if they had not.
Even better is the fact the Blues made the most of their game in hand. Now, they are in second place in the division and only trail Winnipeg for first by two points.
That puts a lot of pressure on Nashville to win their next one or two since the Blues have the tie breaker.