The long road reached culmination for the St. Louis Blues as their final regular season game was played. Unfortunately, it was only in the computer memory banks and allowed us to watch.
The St. Louis Blues reached the final game of their virtual regular season on a roll, having matched their season record of eight wins in a row.. Still, beating Colorado in the Mile High City would be a mountain to climb, pun intended.
Despite the intensity and what was on the line for both teams, the referees got involved early. They called two weak penalties, one on each team, in the first few minutes.
Neither team managed to break the deadlock with the man advantage. However, it was the Blues that would get on the board first.
St. Louis found their way into the zone with solid passing by their top line. Then, with 13:44 left, they set up Jaden Schwartz on the right side of the slot and he blasted a slapshot home.
Colorado opened up the second period on fire. They controlled the puck in the offensive zone for almost the first four minutes.
Eventually, even Binnington had to crack. Reacting to an initial shot that was partially knocked down, Binnington was suddenly out of position. The puck went to the side of the goal to Gabriel Landeskog, who shoveled it into a partially empty net.
St. Louis got right back on the horse though. Colton Parayko drove up the wing towards the endline, taking defenders with him. He cycled a pass to Marco Scandella out front and the newcomer made short work of it by restoring the lead at 2-1.
The Blues barely made that last as they had to kill off another penalty late in the second. Fortunately, they got a little breathing room early in the third.
5:11 in, the Blues went wing to slot again. This time it was right to left, finding Perron for the ripper of a wrister and a 3-1 lead.
Colorado refused to give up. They cut into the lead late, making it 3-2 with around 30 seconds left.
Still, the only way they could beat Binnington was off a skate, at least initially. The Avs would somehow tie it up on a backhand goal with just three seconds left and the Blues lead had fully evaporated with the game going to overtime.
St. Louis needed some more heroics from their goaltender. Fortunately, Binnington obliged.
Then, the Blues sprang an attack off a defensive zone faceoff. St. Louis found a cross-ice feed and Parayko finished it off with a one-timer to the near post and a 4-3 win.
There is absolutely no doubt that the St. Louis Blues goaltender was the star of the night in this game for either team, but especially his own. Without Binnington, the Blues simply do not win. There was not enough elsewhere to think otherwise.
The Blues got outshot 10-3 in the first, 19-6 after 2, 29-8 after 3 and 30-10 total. These were not just run of the mill shots either. Colorado was coming hard and fast.
Binnington had to be the team’s best penalty killer as well. He made a fantastic save on the doorstep in the final seconds of the Avalanche’s third power play, in addition to several key stops on all the power plays.
It has to be said that Binnington was aided by two posts. However, they do not call them a goaltender’s best friend for no reason.
Binnington was ultra sharp in this game. Some of the only goals that beat him were a deflected puck where he reacted to the initial shot and then a puck off a skate. The third goal was a great backhander, but Binnington was still on point enough to deserve a shutout even if he allowed three.
Cons: Lack of defense or offensive pressure
If you cannot blame the goaltender, as many fans like to do, how do you explain watching two leads evaporate. A lack of anything else besides goaltending is how you explain it.
The Blues had close to zero defensive pressure going. They were in enough right spots to intercept some passes or make key hits, but they were also like Swiss cheese.
Binnington made 27 saves and at least 20 of those were prime scoring opportunities. The defense had little to nothing to do with keeping the puck out of the net.
Offensively, it really is a wonder the Blues managed to win. They got four goals off 10 shots and, at times, it was surprising they even had that many.
They did not force themselves into the offensive zone enough or sustain any possession. Basically, like a defensive team in football, they made the most out of each turnover and turned it into points.
Pros: Getting the W
Ultimately, even if you’re a little sour with how you got it, and that your closest rival in points got a point, you cannot be unhappy with any win. That is especially true at the end of a season.
St. Louis had a history of not coming up with wins in Colorado at the end of a season. They missed the 2018 playoffs because they lost the final game of the season in Colorado – technically they missed the playoffs by losing five out of six, but the final game clinched it.
Things worked out differently this time. The Blues would simply not be denied.
In a microcosm, this game was wildly entertaining. It was back and forth, even though Colorado technically dominated the proceedings.
It was everything you would want out of a rivalry matchup with teams battling it out for first place in the standings. The fact the Blues pulled out the win makes it even sweeter.
What is bitter sweet is the fact the season now ends. The ending of any season is always filled with mixed emotions, but this one in particular.
Much of that has to do with the fact that we will not be able to actually end the season. Of course, nothing is official and we all still cling to hope.
The reality is that with the final game of the regular season, or the day it was supposed to have happened, come and gone, it really has hit home that the end of 2019-20 will always be an unknown. Even if by some chance they come to a decision on a playoff or tournament, there will always be a gigantic black cloud of what if hanging over this season.
Of course real world problems are more important at this juncture. Even so, it weighs on my heart to have to finish the season as a video game.
In the coming days, we will decide whether or not to simulate the playoffs as well. Let us know on social media if that is something you would like to continue reading about.
For now, stay safe Blues fans.