The St. Louis Blues finished the regular season against a team that had dominated them in the regular season. They finished on a high note, despite some struggles on the way.
The St. Louis Blues had to take their fans on one final roller coaster ride in the last game of the 2018-19 season. Their journey through 60 minutes against the Vancouver Canucks was quite similar to the entire journey of this year.
The Blues had a lackluster start with enough good to it to get the team in the lead. Then, they let the Canucks have far too much room to create some momentum of their own.
Just like the season, the Blues found a way to to battle back toward the end. Then, after plenty of bumps and bruises, the Blues finished on top.
Now, we do not yet know if the Blues will finish on top of the division, but at least for a few hours they saw their name as the top team in the Central Division.
Focusing on the game, the Blues top line was what got them rolling in the first. It was some fine passing that led to a snap shot goal and a 1-0 lead.
The second period went by with no major issues, but the third started quickly for the Canucks. They tied the game on the power play twice, even after the Blues regained a 2-1 lead.
Both teams traded opportunities in overtime, but no goals. Then, the Blues dominated the shootout, which is something we never see.
St. Louis scored on both of their chances. The Blues kept out two of Vancouver’s chances and it was a big win for the Note.
Pros: Coming Out Quickly
The Blues have made a terrible habit of starting their games slowly, if not sluggishly. Sometimes they play just well enough to keep themselves in it, but other times they appear to not even be in the game.
This was not one of those times. St. Louis came out and looked sharp right from the drop of the puck, which was one of the few differences between this game and the overall season.
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The passing was there, there was jump and energy and they looked like a team that planned to win, not just hoping to win. The first goal of the game was something pretty as well.
The team’s top line, which was rolling all night, connected on some nice passes. Vladimir Tarasenko sniped a pass right to Brayden Schenn and then Schenn finished it off with a hard wrist shot, giving the goalie no chance.
The Blues were using their passing to create speed and they were getting good chances on net. St. Louis had 10 shots on goal in the first period.
Their defense was on their toes right from the start too. The Blues only allowed seven first period shots against.
St. Louis did not play a perfect period, but this was the one you want most nights. If the Blues play like this out of the gate in the playoffs, they will be fine.
This was an odd category. The penalty kill was not bad and the penalties taken were not as terrible as we have seen so much in the past.
The problem was timing. You take an early penalty in the third and then another one not long after you retake the lead.
Vancouver ended up scoring on two out of three power plays given to them. You don’t know these things going in, but you just cannot give a team chances like that.
The Canucks are not a great overall team, but they are still very talented offensively. Giving them so many opportunities to have long zone time and extra space to work is not how you want to work.
As mentioned, you cannot take penalties when the Blues did either. The first one came within the first three minutes of the third period. The Canucks scored almost immediately.
Then, you take a late penalty, giving the Canucks an opportunity to basically end the third period on the power play. Again, it did not take them long to score, not only draining the air from the building but giving you little time to look for a late game winner.
We can argue about the validity of the calls in the first place. Plenty of the penalties in this game were weak. Even so, you have to be situationally smart and the Blues were not in this area.
Pros: Blues Top Line
You never really know how well things carry from game to game or week to week. Still, I’ll take getting the team’s best line on a roll right before the playoffs over not.
They were just humming in this game, making it the second one in a row. The top line combined for five points in the last game. They had another five points in this game.
That gives them 10 combined points in two games. This one was even more impressive, getting those five points on just two regulation goals.
We talked about the finish by Schenn and the set up by Tarasenko on the first. Ryan O’Reilly‘s effort was a key part of that goal too.
Then, we got another beauty of a goal by Tarasenko to give the Blues a 2-1 lead. He snapped it over the glove hand from the left circle, which is becoming a favorite spot.
Beyond that, it was effort that created the goal again. Schenn won a board battle on the near side, which allowed the Blues to keep the puck in the zone and hit Tarasenko with the pass.
O’Reilly only got the one point, but he’s just a workhorse and might be the team’s best acquisition in years. That is saying something since Schenn just arrived and has been fantastic too. He flipped in a picturesque goal in the shootout.
The bottom line is this is one of the best trios in the entire NHL and they showed it here.
Now, we sit and wait. Unlike in 2017-18, the Blues did what they needed to do at the end of the year. All the players and fans can do now is see how the other teams results go.
The Blues might still finish in third place. Nashville is playing Chicago and Winnipeg is playing Arizona. Both of those are winnable for the teams the Blues want to lose.
Regardless, the Blues kept fighting until the very end. This game was emblematic of that.
The Blues made things harder on themselves than it needed to be, as they did all year. However, when the final whistle went, they came out on top.
It was not the way any of us envisioned it, but you can’t argue with the results. You get a win to end the season and 99 points overall.
We can look back and lament things here or there. If you don’t choke in New York, you have 100 points. We can look at dozens of games and say that.
The Blues picked it up right when they needed to and now we get the joy of playoff hockey coming up.