The St. Louis Blues took on the Winnipeg Jets in Game 2 of their series. It was another tightly contested affair, doing nothing for the nerves, other than fraying them even more.
The St. Louis Blues were playing with a little bit of house money after getting the win in Game 1 in Winnipeg. You knew the Jets were going to come out strong.
Knowing that, the Blues came out and matched them in the early going. The Blues seemed to carry much of their momentum over from the first game in the early portion.
St. Louis was rewarded with an early goal, taking a 1-0 lead in the first period. It seemed like things were going very well as you got the lead and silenced the building.
The Blues got extremely sloppy after that though. The Jets finished the first with great pressure and kept that going to start the second.
The Jets had tied things up midway through the first, leaving a Jets forward open in the slot. Then, St. Louis got careless with a penalty and the Jets scored right away, taking a 2-1 lead.
Somehow, with the crowd at its loudest, the Blues actually seemed to calm down. The Blues would answer with two of their own goals, regaining the lead that was long lost.
St. Louis never seems to flourish with success though. They gave up the lead after the referees handed the Jets a power play immediately after Dustin Byfuglien got away with a slash to the ankle. That made it 3-3 and put it all on the line in the third period.
Cons: Power Play Again
Apparently, I am going to be able to copy and past this one in for cons this entire series. The Blues are doing themselves absolutely no favors by sucking on the power play so much.
I hate to sound unprofessional, but it is just so frustrating. They refuse to even shoot.
The Blues went 0-3 on the man advantage in Game 1. In Game 2, they were 0-3 after one period.
How is that even possible? How could a team be worse in one period than they were in an entire game.
Obviously that has to do with Winnipeg taking some dumb penalties and not doing anything to make us think they are not trying to be dirty by going after Ryan O’Reilly near the boards. The Blues will not be stopping that any time soon.
As Bernie Federko pointed out in the intermission, the way to stop those kinds of plays by the opponent is to score. If the Blues do not even threaten, Winnipeg has no reason to stay away from those questionable hits. They are going to keep doing it, regardless of going to the box, as long as St. Louis just passes the puck around or worse, gives up shorthanded chances.
Making matters worse, the Blues got destroyed in the special teams battle. They gave up two power play goals. You can argue the validity of the calls, especially the second one, but Winnipeg is showing the Blues how to do it. They actually fire quick shots while St. Louis just plays toss.
Pros: The Big Boys
This game was all about the big guys for the Blues. Unfortunately, I do not mean the big names as far as star power go.
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Sundqvist was the one to get the ball rolling in the first. The big Swede suckered the goalie in on a two-on-one, thinking there was going to be a pass and Sunny snapped the shot in instead.
Later, with the Blues trailing by a goal, it was Maroon to come up big for his hometown team. After the Blues had failed to shoot or drive the net on several power plays, Maroon showed them how it was done. He saw the puck was loose and drove in there and jabbed it home. He got shoved and paid somewhat of a price, but that is what it takes.
Sundqvist got his second goal in the second period. That one was huge because it gave the Blues a 3-2 lead. Despite the fact the team would not hold it, it was an important goal for momentum.
This time, Sundqvist settled into the soft area of the slot after the Blues went coast to coast. He slipped it five-hole for another goal.
While it is WAY too early to start dreaming too hard, what is happening in goal is why Blues fans are daring to wonder what might happen after this series. For once, the Blues are getting the best in net while their opponent is asking questions of their goalie.
For the second game in a row, Jordan Binnington was fantastic. I would argue he had to be much better in this game even though he allowed more goals.
Like the previous game, there was little he could do about most of the ones that got in. The one one he probably should have stopped was a power play goal that beat him to the blocker side.
Other than that, they were all rockets and unguarded shots. Binnington saved the Blues so many times, especially late in the game, it is hard to keep track of them all.
On the flip side, the Blues scored plenty of goals due to their effort, but Connor Hellebuyck was shaky. You could argue that, if he was on, he should have stopped three of the four goals St. Louis got past him. That takes no credit away from the shooters, but they should have been saved and were not.
Those are the breaks you take all year long. The Blues are winning due to their goaltender and their opponent is down because of theirs.
Cons: Holding On For Dear Life
Even more than the regular season, a win is a win in the playoffs, no matter how you got it. That said, I am tired of having heart attack hockey for long periods of time to end these games.
This time it was even worse than Game 1. The Blues looked like they were killing off a penalty for the last five-plus minutes. That just takes so much energy out of you.
St. Louis just could not get any kind of possession. They could not even exit the zone with the puck. It was nothing but flipping the thing out time after time.
What makes that even worse is you know things will get even worse once Winnipeg pulls their goaltender. The Blues have a bad habit of just trying to defend when it is six-on-five, so when you’ve done nothing but defend prior to that, your anxiety goes through the roof later on.
St. Louis has found a way to get it done, but it would just be nice if they could actually look like a solid team instead of one just desperately trying to hang on.
I don’t care how much of a homer you are, if you thought the Blues would go into Winnipeg and take both games, you must have super powers.
I did think there was a chance the Blues could sweep, but it was mostly a passing thought just that it would be so sweet to shove it in all the people’s throats that said this would end in six or seven. It was never a true belief.
Now, we all know better. St. Louis went into the lion’s den, poked it and made it out alive. Not only did they make it out alive, but they put the lion in a cage.
What is more, the Blues have all done this without much production from their top line. Ryan O’Reilly got the game-winning goal, but outside of that it has been the secondary scoring, which was so absent down the stretch at times.
St. Louis is getting everyone stepping up at the right time and it is fun to watch. I am not sure my stomach is happy with how it happens, but the brain sure is about the win.