The St. Louis Blues went into Game 7 knowing it would be tough but having the momentum of crushing the Dallas Stars the previous game. The ending was fitting of a final game in this series.
I’m not going to pretend to be Nostradamus since many of my predictions in sports have been spotty, at best, over the years. However, the day before the St. Louis Blues played Game 6, I felt if they could win Game 6, they would win the series.
Here we are, ladies and gentlemen and non-descript space beings. The Blues took the game and the series.
It was never easy. The entire thing was an emotional grind, from start to finish, but the Blues found a way to get it done.
St. Louis came out just as they needed to. They absorbed what pressure Dallas had to bring in the early going, but got the first goal of the game.
That was huge and seemed even more huge when you think the Blues could, and perhaps should, have been up a goal at the first intermission.
Dallas made the most of the chance, but it likely never should have happened. There was a turnover early in the play and then David Perron had the puck go off the referee’s skate, the side of the net and then popped in.
However, instead of letting that deflate them, as would have happened in the early part of the season, the Blues kept their foot on the gas.
St. Louis kept funneling pucks toward the net. They had over 50 shots on goal and over 100 attempts. The only problem was the inability to get the puck into the back of the net.
The Blues just kept shooting and shooting and seemed to wear down through the third period and the overtimes. It felt as though they were either getting discouraged or drained due to having no offensive success.
Through it all, they kept chugging forward. Even when the Blues were tired, they still found the focus and energy to get the puck out in smart ways and try to get the forecheck as well.
The Blues were finally rewarded for all their efforts with a faceoff win in the second overtime. After that, it was all about the second effort as they scored on a rebound to punch their ticket to the Western Conference Finals.
Pros: Getting The First Goal
It always seems like a cliche, but scoring first is incredibly important in hockey. There are lots of teams that find a way to overcome that, but you put them in a scenario where scoring only ties things and you can settle into your gameplan even further.
The Blues accomplished that when they scored the first goal of the game. It took over 13 minutes for it to come, but it was worth the wait.
Alex Pietrangelo got it all started. He kept the puck alive along the wall on the near side and gave it off to Robert Thomas, who made a nice move.
The puck went back to the point and was filtered through to Vince Dunn. Dunn fired it from the left point and the dipping shot went just over the goaltender’s shoulder.
Beyond just the goal, the shot was important. The Blues have excelled at not shooting the puck when they do not see success. This time, they got success on a long shot that was just hopeful and having pressure in front of goal.
Dunn has been one of the few defenders that never seemed to lose the nerve for some offense. The goal was even sweater given how bad he was in Game 5, so getting himself and the team on a positive vibe was so important.
Dunn was huge in this game. He played over 20 minutes and had five shots on goal. The only player with more was Brayden Schenn.
Dunn will be important going forward for this team. He came up big in this game scoring that first goal by just putting the puck on net.
Cons: Life Sucking Power Play
The Blues ended up with only two power plays in this game, but they came at a key time in this game. The Blues got them about halfway through second period and needed to get something going.
The Blues had allowed that tying goal just minutes after taking the lead and then generated little to energize the crowd in the second period. St. Louis had some offense, but things were just on the edge of stagnating.
All you needed was one power play goal. Dallas gave the Blues two chances in the span of under 10 minutes.
Instead of finding a way to score and crushing the hopes of the Stars, the Blues did absolutely nothing. St. Louis had a little bit of offensive zone time, but generated so few shots that you wonder if they even got pucks on the net.
In four minutes of ice time on the power play only had 55 seconds in the offensive zone. The Blues failed to win faceoffs, leading to several quick clearances by the Stars.
Even when the Blues kept the puck in the zone, they could not do much other than cycle the puck. The Stars were putting on a clinic about when to pressure and when to back off and closing down every, single gap.
Credit goes to Dallas for smothering everything the Blues did, but it is unbelievable that you can have single digit shots on the power play when you had over 100 attempts in the entire game. For whatever reason, they fail to carry their five-on-five mentality to the special teams unit.
Pros: Robert Thomas
We are seeing this kid grow right before our eyes. I may be at the age where almost all of the team is kids compared to my age, but this guy literally still is one. We forget that he is still only 19 years old.
Despite his age, Robert Thomas has played beyond his years, especially in this game. He was cool under pressure and calm in tight corners, finding ways to generate space when it seemed like there was absolutely none there.
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Right now, Thomas is everything we wanted Perron to be, minus the goals. Thomas dangles as well, if not better than Perron, but he manages to keep it much better.
This is not a Perron bash-fest, but he developed a habit of losing the puck after so many dangles early in his Blues career. Thomas seems to know just when to reverse and when to stay pat and when to put the puck through someone’s legs. It’s unbelievable how he wiggles away from opponents when you think he’s dead in the water.
Thomas was playing so well that he got double-shifted at several key points in the game. In the old days or under someone like Ken Hitchcock (I love ya Hitch, but it’s true), that would have never happened. Thomas earned the trust and was rewarded with over 22 minutes on the ice.
He gave that reward back by assisting on both Blues goals. On the first one, Thomas generated some space along the wing and then gave a hard pass back to the point. We know where it went from there, but it was a solid set up to follow a good faceoff win.
The second was even better. Thomas made a fantastic move to slip by the stick of John Klingberg and found some space at the circle. He fired a shot off the post and the rebound was there to be had.
This guy is going to be a huge impact player for years to come. The fact he is already doing it at this stage of his career is a testament to how good he already is.
Cons: So Many Chances, So Little Offense
This one is a little nit-picky, but when you have as much offense as the Blues had in this game, you expect a little more scoring.
The Blues had 54 shots on goal. They almost doubled that with 103 total attempts toward goal.
That is an insane amount. Yes, there were almost two extra periods, but the Blues still would have outshot the Stars total shots if you only included their shots through three periods.
However, only scoring one goal on that many attempts is a little discouraging. Credit has to go to the coaching staff and the players for not letting that get into their heads.
Ben Bishop played another fantastic game, but it also never felt like he was making game stealing saves. For all the rubber he saw, similar to other game for him, there were only a handful of really spectacular saves. That does not take away from his efforts, but you feel the Blues could have done just a tiny bit more.
That said, given the result, you will take it all. I will certainly take a game like this and the effort level that went into those 50-plus shots and 100-plus attempts.
Pros: Hometown Hero
Of course, you cannot talk about this game without mentioning the biggest story of them all. In a scenario that every kid dreams of, no matter what sport they play, Pat Maroon was able to win a playoff game and a series with a sudden-death victory goal. The only thing that would have made it sweeter was if it came a couple rounds later. Such is life.
Like with Thomas, his linemate, Maroon’s goal was the culmination of so much work in this game. Maroon saw over 20 minutes of ice time and even 90 seconds on the power play.
He was instrumental in the Blues keeping possession in the zone with his size and strength to keep poke checks away. He also bought a lot of time for the team to change as well, which kept legs fresher.
Maroon has consistently been one of the few Blues to plan themselves in front of the net. I’d be interested in how bruised his legs are with all the chopping Bishop was doing.
It was that net-front presence that also helped with the first goal. It did not end with a tip in for Big Rig, but his screen still helped that goal.
Then, the game winner was just so fitting. Maroon muscled his way through the defenders to push home the game winning goal.
He was exactly where he had been almost all series, in front of the net. The fact that it happened in his home town, on May 7 while wearing number seven just makes it feel so meant to be that it is hard to keep calm.
Maroon deserved this after all the frustrations and effort he has put into making a come back this year. Hopefully there are more hometown heroics to come.
If I was a neutral watching this game, this is exactly what a Game 7 should be. Both teams in it until the very end and then a good, but fortunate goal ends up winning it.
This series was so emotional and back and forth. Win or lose, it felt like the Blues never had a great game until Game 6.
Thankfully, they did not waste that by reverting to type in Game 7. Instead, they found a way to slip the knife in, as Doug Armstrong once said, and finish them off.
It was so up and down that I am still buzzing. The Blues dominated so much of regulation that it would have been that much more heart breaking if Dallas snuck one in.
The Blues only gave up four shots on goal in the final two periods of regulation. Despite that defensive domination, the Stars turned it up in OT.
After sitting on ice, pun intended, Jordan Binnington was suddenly thrust back into the action. Binner made tons of key saves, but they were all so spread out that the fear was he would fall asleep in the interim.
He kept his focus laser pointed and spurred his team onto victory with 13 saves in the overtimes.
There will be plenty of time to talk about that soon, but it feels like this team still has something left. The last time they were in the conference finals, you could tell there was almost nothing left. You get the feel they are energized and ready now, no matter who the opponent is.
It’s a great time to be a Blues fan.