The St. Louis Blues worried some of their fans the way they finished off Game 4. It looked like they were running out of gas. They had more than enough in the tank for Game 5 in San Jose though.
Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water, the St. Louis Blues road dominance returned. St. Louis has been one of the best road teams in the league most of the season and that team showed up for Game 5 in San Jose.
St. Louis had some nervy moments right after the faceoff. San Jose hit the post 10 seconds in and got some good looks at the net early on.
However, it was the Blues that scored the opening goal of the game, continuing their habit of finding the back of the net early. Instead of hanging on for dear life, though, St. Louis finally took their general manager’s advice and jammed in the knife.
St. Louis held onto their one goal lead through the first 20 minutes, but unlike previous games, you did not get the feeling they were just holding on. The Blues transition game was off the charts, almost taking a page out of their rival the Chicago Blackhawks, the way they were connecting on stretch passes and getting out of the zone.
Once the second period rolled around, it was all Blues. St. Louis tripled their lead before seven minutes had been played in the second period.
The Blues would add two more goals in the third period, leaving absolutely no doubt how this game was going to end. This might have been the most complete game, all around if you include the scoreline, St. Louis has played all postseason long.
It is hard to compare it with Game 7 against Dallas, but it was another game that showed the Blues are hard to beat when they are on point in every aspect.
Pros: Early Scoring
Let’s be honest here. The game could have been completely different if a certain shot by the Sharks had been one inch to the left.
If that first attempt on goal ends up in the back of the net, we are talking about a much different game. That is not to say the Blues could not have won, but it would have changed the dynamic.
Instead, we got what we all saw. The Blues managed to soak up all the San Jose pressure for those first five minutes and then went to work.
By the time St. Louis scored, they were already being outshot 5-1. However, as we have seen throughout the playoffs, it is not about the number of shots, it is about the quality and about capitalizing. St. Louis did that.
Oskar Sundqvist capitalized on a San Jose turnover, with Erik Karlsson handcuffing a teammate near the left boards. The puck came out to the top of the circle and Sundqvist absolutely ripped a slapshot just inside the far post.
Getting the first goal at any time is incredibly important, but for the Blues it seems best to get it early. St. Louis was 7-1 when scoring a goal in the first six minutes in the postseason and now have eight wins in that category.
Cons: Slightly Slow Start
Bouncing off the last topic, if we are going to be picky – why not, given we know the result – then the Blues slow start could have been a killer.
The Sharks were a little fortunate how the puck came off the boards and into the zone in the first 10 seconds, but the play was exactly what San Jose likes to build their offense around. The Sharks love to have the double option where they can go across the ice or have a drop pass back near the slot.
This time, they used the drop pass and Evander Kane barely missed getting the first goal of the game. Who knows how things would have changed if that went in.
Beyond that, the Sharks were getting pucks to the net in the early portion of the game. St. Louis got outshot 11-4 in the first period and the bulk of those chances came early in the game.
St. Louis actually had some great energy to start the game, but they were still on their heels a bit. While it was successful, it seemed as though the plan was to let the Sharks use up their energy and then hit them on the counter. It was a good game plan how it worked, but dangerous since that is not the Blues strong suit.
Pros: The Blues Top Line
What a game for the Blues top line. What a performance for Jaden Schwartz.
We will get to Schwartz in a second, but the entire trio accounted for seven points in Game 5. They were all on top of their games in every way.
Brayden Schenn had a fantastic offensive game in this one. He answered Kane’s post shot with one of his own, almost giving St. Louis a lead earlier than they ultimately got it.
The entire game, he was flying around. He calmed himself down, only picking up two hits, but doing everything else.
Schenn won 77% of his faceoffs. He did pick up a point, assisting on the fifth goal, but also had two takeaways as well, showcasing his defensive side, which has been a weak point in the playoffs.
More from Analysis
- St. Louis Blues and Cardinals Similar In All The Wrong Ways
- St. Louis Blues Pros/Cons From 2022-23 Game 82 At Dallas
- St. Louis Blues Pros/Cons From 2022-23 Game 81 Vs Dallas
- St. Louis Blues Pros/Cons From 2022-23 Game 80 At Minnesota
- St. Louis Blues Pros/Cons From 2022-23 Game 79 Vs NY Rangers
Vladimir Tarasenko was also good in all facets. Tarasenko scored on a fantastic penalty shot goal, utilizing the advice Jamie Rivers and myself have implored of the Blues, going high to the glove hand of Martin Jones.
He finished with two assists, giving him three points for the night. Tarasenko was also good elsewhere, backchecking strongly, blocking a shot and also throwing a hit or two (only one statistic hit given) and picking up a steal.
Last, but not least we have Schwartz. This guy has been unbelievable. He still defers far too much for a guy with his skill and hot streak, but what a game.
Schwartz ended up with his second hat trick of the season. That is the first time a player has had two hat tricks in the playoffs since 2008 and the first time anyone has done it for the Blues. In fact, St. Louis had never had two hat tricks as a team in one postseason before.
The goals were nice, but they were the culmination of hard work each time. Two of the scores were on backdoor plays. The first one, Tarasenko took the shot from the left point and Schwartz finished off the blocked puck that had been paddled away by Jones.
The second one was simply Schwartz getting to the dirty areas. After the puck came in from the endline, Schwartz was able to swat at it and it managed to rainbow up and over the goalie for the team’s fourth goal and a rare five-on-three power play goal.
Schwartz now has 12 goals in the playoffs, matching and then passing his entire total for the regular season. There were several, including myself, that wanted him benched because he was playing with so little confidence during the year, but we could not have been more wrong with how he has turned it around when the lights were bright.
Cons and Pros: Special Teams
When you look at how the team actually played, the main con for the power play was on their first attempt. Much the same as the rest of the playoffs, the Blues were not sharp.
Their passes were a bit too slow and predictable. They allowed San Jose to create too many chances the other way because of that. Unlike other games, there were no true breakaways or odd-man rushes, but San Jose still had the better of the opportunities there.
After that, things turned around. The Blues were not always great on the power play, but they were good enough.
Statistically, it was awful. The Blues went 1-8 on the man advantage.
That said, St. Louis was so in control of the game that all they needed to do was control the puck and kill off the time, which they accomplished. In addition to that, the Blues finally connected on several cycles and even got some shots off, killing off what remained of San Jose’s energy in this game.
In addition, the penalty kill was superb. When the game was still in doubt, 1-0, the Blues would have shot themselves in the foot had they given up a goal to San Jose’s power play. Instead, we saw feet moving like crazy and pressure like you read about.
The Blues were not going to sit back in their defensive box. They were fluid, filled in the gaps behind and put the pressure on, making each pass difficult and each shot attempt an innocuous one.
The Sharks only had two power plays, but the Blues were solid on the kill each time out.
Pros: Jordan Binnington
I admit I have not given Jordan Binnington his due with his own section much this postseason, but he gets his here. Oddly enough, this might have been the game he had the least to do in quite awhile.
That is actually why Binnington gets the nod here. As a goaltender, I know that having little action can actually be a bad thing.
It is harder to keep your focus and composure when the puck is down at the other end more than not. Despite that, Binnington was cool, calm and sharp the entire way.
He had to be on top of his game right off the hop. He made several good saves in the first five minutes, including a right pad save on a deflected shot and a lunging save on the doorstep.
When San Jose did get pressure, there was almost always someone in Binnington’s kitchen. He battled through that every time, found the puck every tie.
Binnington only faced 21 shots, but plenty of them were of high quality. Binnington turned aside two power play shots and one shorthanded as well.
What was just as impressive about Binnington was his return to rebound control. It is something we often hear and it is not as easy as it sounds, but Binnington’s main issues of late have been rebounds and oversliding his posts. He did neither in this game.
If the puck was not in his glove, he steered it where nobody was likely to get it. That’s what you need from your goaltender at this time of year.
Binnington continues to impress, picking up his 11th win, setting a new franchise best with each W. He also posted his first ever postseason shutout.
Pros: Enterprise Center Crowd
A quick shoutout to all the people who came to Enterprise Center for the Game 5 watch party. Of course, it was not quite the atmosphere of a real playoff game, but it was darn close.
Winning helps, but there was just an awesome atmosphere and vibe in the arena for the entire thing. People were high fiving one another and celebrating and just having an overall good time.
After the game, I don’t think I have ever seen more people high five total strangers as they did in this event. Kudos to the Blues for putting this on and the fans for showing up.
They drowned out NBC’s sometimes questionable analysis during the breaks and intermissions with organ music or games. They had in-house crowd reactions and goal celebrations. It was just what it needed to be and I had a blast with my family.
It is hard to fathom that the Blues are one win away from playing for the Stanley Cup. Not counting those potential games, this next one might be the hardest one yet.
That said, the Blues were so good in this game, it almost defies logic. They were far from perfect, still picking up many unnecessary icing and taking a couple silly penalties, but they finally dominated a team the way we knew they could and the way so many said the Sharks were going to dominate the Blues.
The fourth line continues to be amazing, amassing another key goal and playing a smothering style that is impossible for their opponent to do anything against.
The top line came to life, scoring every goal except one. The other two lines were less effective in the offensive zone, but got the job done in all the other ways.
Now, it is all about the next one. St. Louis needs to finish it off at home. They might be one of the best road teams in the league, but you don’t want to HAVE to win three games in San Jose. That last step is sometimes the hardest, but if they play like they did in Game 5, this team could be playing in June.