The St. Louis Blues went into Game 6 with their playoff lives on the line. They came out with their lives still in their own hands.
The St. Louis Blues knew what had to be done as they entered Game 6 of their series against the Dallas Stars. They had to play their best game of the series and get a little luck to keep themselves alive.
That is basically just what they got. St. Louis had their best effort out of all the games they have played against Dallas and also got a few bounces to go their way.
The Blues first 10 minutes of the first period was about as good as we have seen them against Dallas. They were fast, decisive, quick on their passes and zone exits and strong on the puck – basically everything that was missing from the previous game.
Beyond that, they earned themselves a goal to get things kick started. St. Louis finally got some sustained pressure along with net front presence and they were able to score from the point.
Things got a little crazy at the end of the first. For some reason, despite the temperature of the game feeling just right for the playoffs, the referees decided to start calling anything and everything.
In typical Blues fashion a bad penalty call led to a power play goal for the Stars. It was a bit of a squeaker that Jordan Binnington would like to have back, but those things happen. At the time, you just worried it was going to be a killer.
St. Louis buckled down after that. The second period was mostly lackluster, but the Blues finally caught a break at the end of the frame.
St. Louis took the puck on an odd-man rush and managed to connect on a back door play to silence the crowd. St. Louis took control from there.
The Stars never played poorly, but they did not get their customary push when they were behind. The Blues caught another break by scoring two goals in under 30 seconds midway through the second.
While the Blues could not get an empty net goal, they were finally in control of the game for almost the entire time. That has been missing for most of this series and finally showed up at the most opportune time.
Pros: Big Guys Stepping Up
The Blues still did not get goals from Vladimir Tarasenko or Ryan O’Reilly, but their big lines came to play in this game. Both of those players were utilizing the space given to them and taking a lot of pressure off their teammates.
The Blues had not been getting a ton of offensive pressure from their blue line despite being one of the league leaders in defensive goals. That changed today, starting with Alex Pietrangelo getting the opening goal of the game. Petro just bombed one from the point and the Blues had bodies in front.
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Another player that had all but disappeared was David Perron. He was still a little weak along the boards, but finally got himself on the scoresheet. Oskar Sundqvist broke loose on the left wing, drove into the zone and fed one across the slot for Perron to tap in on the backhand.
Sundqvist has looked like a liability for much of this series after getting bruised up against Winnipeg and finally looked like what we saw during the season. Perron has been a no show and got the goal that proved to be the game winner.
The only goal not scored by a “star” was Sammy Blais on the breakaway. Even so, that one was set up by a great defensive play at the blue line by O’Reilly.
It was about time for the Blues to have some big guys step up to the plate.
Cons: Early Officiating
We have seen some pretty bad officiating throughout the playoffs, but sadly that is the nature of refereeing. It is an inconsistent beast due to all humans seeing the exact same situation with different views and different thoughts.
However, this game got off to a bad start. After the Blues scored (that has nothing to do with the calls, but just setting up a time frame), the officials started calling every little ticky tack thing they could.
They called tripping calls against both teams on consecutive plays and neither one would be a tripping call in most playoff games we have seen before. Dallas ended up scoring off the first call and while I might be one of the only ones that thinks Jordan Binnington should have made the save, it was still a dangerous chance given up.
Then the refs took away a Blues power play before it could even get started. Brayden Schenn got tripped right after a faceoff and as he fell down he tripped a Stars player. The only thing called was the trip by Schenn.
The problem was, even if you thought those actually were penalties, it created a slippery slope. Every time someone fell down after those initial weak calls, players and fans alike were whining for penalty calls.
When you set the standard like that, it makes it harder to not call things later in the game. While things did calm down later in the game, it was a frustrating way for the game to start for all involved, including the Stars.
Pros: Finish Him!
One of the biggest issues the Blues have had this postseason run, regardless of opponent, is their failure to finish off teams. If they win, it always seems to be close. When they lose, they are in it until the end, but allow teams to pull away.
This game, the Blues were not about to let that happen. The Stars had their chances here and there, but the Blues held onto this game like a python.
For once, they were not holding on for dear life. They were choking the life out of the Stars and their fans alike with their strong play.
For once, the Blues did not sit back and absorb pressure. They stayed in the game and played their style for almost the entire 60 minutes.
In previous games, the Blues would have never gotten the Blais goal because O’Reilly or whoever was in his position would not have been close enough to poke the puck away. The Schwartz goal may have never happened either because the Blues would not have had enough sustained pressure to get the shot or would not have had enough guys around the net to scoop the puck up for the score.
St. Louis took a page out of Mortal Kombat and finished off their opponent and it was glorious to watch.
Pros: A Little Luck
No matter how good or how dominant you are, you need some luck on your side. The Blues got some of that in this game.
If you look at the Schwartz goal alone, there’s plenty of good fortune for the Blues there. First, Bishop gets knocked down. That shows you how hard Parayko’s shot is to knock a goalie off their feet.
After that, most expected the play to be blown dead for an apparent injury. Apparently, the rule is that if Dallas had touched the puck, it would have been blown dead. The Blues managed to keep the puck away from the Stars and score off that.
St. Louis also had a little luck in the stuff that did not happen. There was a huge opportunity for Jamie Benn in the second period that could have changed the complexion of the game. Instead, the puck hopped on him and the Stars came up empty.
Those are the kinds of things you need to have happen. If you feel you are a great team, that’s all well and good, but you still need a little luck. The Blues finally had those chips fall into place.
This was absolutely the game the Blues needed at this point in time. This was not a game you could pussyfoot around with and hope to get a positive result.
The Blues had to come out of the gates hot and never let up. We might not have gotten that to the letter, but it was pretty close.
St. Louis looked solid for 75% of the first period. They looked good for about the same of the second and third too. So, while it was not a complete 60 minutes from minute one to the final horn, it was good enough.
The Blues finally played Blues hockey. That does not mean they were lightyears better than Dallas. The Stars are a good team and have earned plenty of what they got through this series so far.
However, we have seen throughout the year and in this playoff run, the Blues can beat anyone and everyone if they are playing their best. The Blues were pretty close to their best here. It was definitely the best we have seen this postseason.
Now, it all comes down to Game 7 and that’s all we could ask for with how this has all played out. One more game to take them all.
Coming into this game, we were all thinking the immortal words of Lloyd Christmas – “so you’re telling me there’s a chance…” Now, we know we’ve got more than just a chance and it’s much better than the odds he had.