The St. Louis Blues faced their first chance to knock the Winnipeg Jets out of the playoffs in Game 6. It was about as tight as you would expect.
The St. Louis Blues and Winnipeg Jets certainly have a flair for the dramatic. While both of these teams have been tight defensively throughout the series, they got off to quick starts.
The Jets scored just 12 seconds into the game in Game 5. It only took 23 seconds for St. Louis to put one on the board in Game 6.
You almost felt that might have been too early for St. Louis to strike given the way this series has gone. Still, you have to take the mentality that it is better to be ahead than not and let the rest play out as it will.
St. Louis had a solid first period overall. They were a little sloppy on their line changes, but really, they had the better of the chances.
The Jets got more and more of a foothold in the second period, but the Blues managed to hold their ground. There was a controversial play that led to the Blues second goal, but we will cover that in a bit. Ultimately, the Blues had some luck there but deservedly so.
Then, even though the Jets managed to score two goals in the third period, you still felt confident. Games earlier in the series had similar incidents, but you were sweating bullets.
For some reason, this game felt different and there was more confidence. St. Louis made it more nervy than it needed to be, but when 60 minutes elapsed, the Blues were on top, which is all that mattered.
Pros: First Period
It has been a rare thing that you could say the Blues had the better of the play for a full 20 minutes. That was the case in the opening frame for the Blues.
Of course, they did not dominate things. The Jets had their pushes up the ice and generated some scary moments. The main thing St. Louis was able to do was disrupt passes and take away space.
On the offensive side, you have to say that there were plenty of mistakes made on the Blues goal, but St. Louis took advantage of them. That has not always been the case in this series or this year.
Jaden Schwartz got the goal after realizing the puck was loose and swatted it in. Schwartz had to be on his toed because Connor Hellebuyck was about to sit on the puck. That gave him two goals in the span of 38 seconds, if you combine the two games.
The Blues generated several solid drives through the offensive side too. Robby Fabbri had two of the best. On his first, he sliced through two defenders and shoveled a backhander into the glove of Hellebuyck. The second was a clear breakaway that barely got enough of the goalie’s shoulder to stay out.
We can cry about missing another breakaway, but at least there was a quality shot taken and they forced a save. I will take that any day over missing the net.
It would have been great to get a second goal, or even a third, before the first period ended. However, knowing you earned the lead by hard work and drives to the net and did not have to hang on by your fingernails was as good a start as we have seen.
Pros: Some Good Luck With Challenges
During the Blues run to the Western Conference Finals in 2015-16, it seemed as though every time there was a review, it went against the Note. This game saw a rare reversal of that.
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On the Blues first goal, there did not seem to be any contact by someone in blue. However, Jets coach Paul Maruice decided to roll the dice since his goaltender was off balance.
The only contact made was on the part of Dustin Byfuglien. So, it was a clean goal and little time was wasted. The Jets lost their timeout.
That decision would have a huge impact. St. Louis’ second goal was more controversial.
Hellebuyck seemed to initiate contact with Pat Maroon. In the meantime, his glove got caught on Maroon’s stick.
The key to the play, live, was Maroon did nothing to exacerbate the problem. He held his ground and held his stick still.
Nevertheless, the fracas put Hellebuyck out of position and the Blues scored right after. That is where the loss of the timeout came into play.
With no timeout, the Jets could not challenge the play. Thus a goal that could have and maybe would have been wiped out got to stand because Maurice took the challenge early and came up empty. Those are the things that rarely seem to go the Blues way and finally did in this game.
Pros: Jaden Schwartz
Ok, who figured this one? Anyone that put money on Jaden Schwartz being the hero of this series after the awful year he had is now a rich man or woman.
I’m not going to hide. I wanted him benched in this series. I knew it would never happen, but Schwartz was just useless through four games.
He was passing up easy shots to make terrible saucer passes or cross-ice passes through half a team. He was not even very effective in the defensive zone, so it felt like he was taking up space. Schwartz was working hard, but that just was not enough.
He turned things around rather quickly. After scoring the game winning goal in Game 5, Schwartz got right back to it in Game 6.
He scored the first goal of the game, which was already described. That was the third fastest the Blues ever scored in the playoffs.
He doubled up the lead in the second period by pouncing on the loose puck on the power play. It was another gritty goal earned by jumping into the play and driving the net looking for rebounds.
The third goal was vintage Schwartz. He used his teammate as a decoy, just slid into the slot and then fired a wrister over the glovehand shoulder.
Schwartz was just all over the ice in this game. He scored three goals on four shots.
Schwartz never stopped skating, even late in the game, while a few of his teammates started to slow down a little. He was solid in all three zones, which was crucial.
Before we get too deep into this part, for anyone that could not see the game, let’s not pretend like this was a perfect game. Though I did not separate any bad things into their own category, the Blues still had their moments.
They allowed two goals against when they were up 3-0. That is bad enough.
It was worse allowing the Jets second goal with 37 seconds left. That came shorthanded too since the Blues were on the power play.
Beyond that, the Blues took their foot off the gas just a little. It is easy for someone at home or in their seat in the arena to say they need to keep the foot on the gas, but it is still true. Any little let up could have let the Jets back into this one.
Nevertheless, the Blues held strong enough to get the win and that is all that matters. We can nitpick this game or this series until we are blue in the face (beyond any facepaint), but the Blues are still playing and the Jets are not.
This series was never comfortable, but we knew that going in. The Jets were always the team that the Blues probably wanted the least. The next team under that category might be their next opponent, but we will worry about that later.
The Blues got everything they needed. They got fantastic goaltending in this game and all throughout the series.
They got timely goals, skillful goals, power play goals and gritty goals. Their offense was not dominating, but it got the job done.
The defense was spotty at times, but also got the job done. In Game 6 especially, the defense was spot on.
All the guys made big plays in this one. Sometimes it can be overkill, but as the announcers said, this truly was a team win. On to round two!