The St. Louis Blues needed a big response after laying an egg in their first game in San Jose. Instead of ending up like the Carolina Hurricanes, they got that solid game in Game 2.
The St. Louis Blues knew they had to find a response in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals. After having one of their worst games of the postseason in Game 1, the Blues had a great bounce-back effort.
St. Louis came out and found their game, not to use a cliche, early in the game. They were earning time in the offensive zone and finding the solid plays to make.
Due to that, they got the first goal of the night. St. Louis managed to turn a play that was almost broken into a score.
The Blues started getting a little loose toward the end of the first period, but they made that lead last the rest of the opening 20. It was just the opening period the Blues needed, even if they allowed some shorthanded chances against.
The second period also got off to a great start. Not even four minutes in, St. Louis scored from the blue line because they won the faceoff and got net front presence.
After all that built up good will, St. Louis sent it all back in short order. A turnover on the Blues power play led to a shorthanded goal for the Sharks.
Not a full two minutes later, another turnover, this time at the attacking blue line, led to a partial breakaway for San Jose. The Sharks capitalized and tied the game.
Fortunately, instead of crumbling under the pressure, the Blues sacked up and got their way back into the game. It was an unlikely hero that got the game winning goal, but it was solid teamwork again that led to the goal.
The Blues would double the lead late in the third and hold on for a 4-2 win. It was more nervous at the end than it needed to be, but it would not be a Blues win if they made it easy.
Pros: The Top Line Coming Through
We knew they needed their big guns to do something in this game if they were going to have their best opportunity for success. That is exactly what they got early on.
St. Louis got some solid zone time and started getting shots from the point. From there, it was a nice cycle around the near wing.
Vladimir Tarasenko finally broke out of his shell, slipping by one defender and then attempting a shot. While the shot was blocked, it was good to see him taking initiative.
After that, it was Schwartz to finish it off. Schwartz continued his hot play, scoring his ninth of the playoffs and getting the team off on the right foot.
They might not figured in the scoring later in the game, but this was huge for the Blues. They needed their top line to start producing and to get the first goal of the game really set the tone.
Suddenly, the Sharks know they have to focus on that line more if they know the Blues top line will shoot and can score. They can’t just focus on flying forward.
It was just a total tone setter.
Cons: The Power Play
I really tried not putting this one in here. There is so little to add to this portion anymore that it is beyond ridiculous.
St. Louis has now gone six games without a power play goal and only has one goal in their last eight games. That is just not going to get it done if you want to win a championship.
St. Louis brought their percentage down even further after this game. The Blues went 0-5 with the man-advantage in Game 2.
The weird thing is the Blues actually looked better on the power play, at least compared to Game 1. They had more zone time than we’ve grown used to and got set up quicker/easier as well.
The problem was they did nothing with it. They were sloppy around the blue line again, giving up shorthanded opportunities on their very first attempt.
They do not even attempt shots too. On the first two power plays, they had one shot and maybe three attempts. They are not even really forcing saves any more.
Giving up a shorthanded goal was the icing on the cake. Chris Kerber made the point, and maybe he’s not wrong, that the Blues should just try to kill off their own power plays at this point. Just make sure not to turn the puck over and just cycle the puck around. If you’re not even attempting shots, at least don’t give the other team any chances.
Pros: Oskar Sundqvist
The amazing turnaround of this player continues to amaze. Oskar Sundqvist has taken a “demotion” to the fourth line in stride and continues to make the most of any playing time he gets.
The big Swede had just over 14 minutes of ice time and seemed to make the most out of every shift. His stats show it too.
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Of course, getting the goal was fantastic. It was the culmination of a solid night where Sundqvist was constantly crashing the net.
The Blues were driving the net again on his goal and it was a nice backhander that got shoveled over the glove side. Even then, Sundqvist was just solid in the offensive zone, creating pressure and getting the puck to the net with his four shots.
He was in position defensively too. Sundqvist blocked four shots, including a couple at the end of the game when the Sharks were throwing the kitchen sink at the Blues.
He used his size too. Sundqvist had four hits, which was second on the team trailing only two players (tied with five).
Sundqvist’s versatility has given Craig Berube much more confidence to use his fourth line even more. When you do not feel you have to shorten your bench, that allows everyone to stay fresh and work even harder.
I saw a funny meme on Facebook during the game. It was an advertisement for pastry turnovers with Alex Pietrangelo‘s face on the box. It was only funny because the Blues still managed to win.
Captain dog poo, as he has been dubbed by some, just can’t seem to get his game right in this series, handing the Sharks yet another goal for their first. I have been challenged on some of my points against Pietrangelo, but even if you spread the blame, it cannot be denied he has not played up to his potential.
Somehow, Pietrangelo was not credited with any giveaways in this game. That further proves that stat makes no sense since his attempt at a cross-ice pass went right to Logan Couture‘s stick and a shorthanded goal.
You can argue he was put in a bad spot after a useless pass from David Perron and would not be completely wrong. When Petro is on top of his game, those things just don’t happen though.
It was another turnover that caused the second Sharks goal. This time it was an awkward collision at the attacking blue line and a failure to get the puck deeper into the zone that led to another Couture break. You’d like to see Jordan Binnington save that particular one, but he had enough on his plate and stopped a lot.
Turnovers happen in sports. It is inevitable.
However, if you could give San Jose credit for simply being in the right spot at the right time, it would be one thing. Instead, you feel the Blues are just setting them up.
For the second game in a row, the majority of the Sharks offense was set up by the Blues. This time, it was 100%.
If St. Louis could manage the puck better, they might win this game 3 or 4-0. Instead, they continually give the Sharks chances that they don’t need.
San Jose can generate enough offense to keep the Blues occupied. They don’t need any help in that area.
Pros: Robert Bortuzzo
Put this man on the wing of the top line, am I right? Ok, please do not actually do that, but what a goal Robert Bortuzzo managed to score to put this game in the Blues hand.
Bortuzzo has had a really good series so far after taking over for an injured Carl Gunnarsson. He has been in good defensive position, which is a huge thing in the playoffs.
Bortuzzo had the second fewest minutes on the ice but led the team in hits with five. He was also a key part of the penalty kill, playing almost two minutes on the PK that kept the Sharks pretty silent.
However, something nobody would ever accuse Bortuzzo of is being an offensive power house. His job is normally to stay at the blue line and get back as soon as it looks like the puck might go the other way.
Instead of following through on that, he jumped into the play at the perfect time. Joel Edmundson did a great job to hold the line and Bortuzzo saw that Joe Thornton had overcommitted, so he slid into the slot.
Edmundson found Bortz with a nice pass and Bortuzzo did the rest. He went from the forehand to the backhand and roofed a shot for a 3-2 lead.
It was the kind of goal you would expect from your best goal scorers. To get it from a stay at home defenseman was a nice break for a team that needed something big to happen for them after coughing up the lead.
Getting that goal, late in the second period instead of going into intermission tied, was instrumental in the outcome of this game.
Some fans are still nervous after this game since the Blues did not dominate the way they did in Game 7 against the Dallas Stars. This is a different opponent and a different scenario. The Sharks are not going to give in until you force them to.
That said, the Blues earned this win. They were not fortunate and they did not back into a victory. They went out and took the game.
St. Louis still made some mistakes. They basically handed the Sharks two goals by giving up the puck at the blue line, which is a cardinal sin.
Even though they made mistakes, they made sure they were not game killers. The Blues found that bulldog mentality and kept their nose to the grindstone instead of hanging their head.
St. Louis still needs to clean up the faceoff circle. They still lost the faceoff battle 57% to 43%.
On the positive side, the Blues managed to win key faceoffs. There were games earlier in the year where St. Louis dominated the faceoff battle, but failed to win them at key times to set up the power play or get an offensive chance off a draw.
The opposite was true here. The Blues lost the overall battle, but Ryan O’Reilly won several key draws to set up the power play or just in the offensive zone. It is not his fault if someone messes up the attack after that.
Tyler Bozak won 58% of his draws. That was gigantic on the penalty kill. Turnabout was fair play as the Blues managed to get the puck out before the Sharks could even set up, which is what normally happens to St. Louis.
It was a good win and one the Blues were the better team in. That said, there is no carryover for this one.
It is one win to get the Blues back into the series. They still need to do better and get better to take the series lead once they come back to St. Louis. Nobody is going to complain about being tied as opposed to down 2-0 though.