The St. Louis Blues managed to show up to start a game for once in this Edmonton bubble. Finishing it would be the next part.
The St. Louis Blues came out strong in the first period of Game 3 against the Vancouver Canucks. It was the first time we had seen them really play their style of hockey to start the game.
The Blues had given us flashes here and there, but most of it was late in a contest when they were trying to come from behind. In this game, they came out hard and took it to the Canucks.
Unfortunately, the first 20 minutes of play went by much as other periods had. The Blues could not manage to beat Jacob Markstrom and the opening frame went by at 0-0.
Still, the offensive pressure was impressive given the fact the Blues were without Vladimir Tarasenko and Alex Steen, as well as Troy Brouwer. The changes gave the team a different dynamic, putting the speed of Jordan Kryou on the fourth line and swapping Jaden Schwartz to the second line with Ryan O’Reilly and David Perron.
That second line was the team’s best in the first period. They generated several quality chances. A couple good saves and some blocks were the only thing that denied that trio a score.
In the second period, the Blues came out humming again, but shot themselves in the foot. Sammy Blais jumped onto the ice for a man that was not his to replace and St. Louis got a too-many-men penalty. Of course, Vancouver would score on the power play, because that’s what they do.
Fortunately, the Blues do what they do, which is not give up. They had their moment to sulk after the goal and Vancouver came achingly close to scoring a second goal.
The Blues weathered that storm and kept their nose in the work. They were rewarded shortly before the period was half over when Justin Faulk scored his first goal of the playoffs to tie things up.
Despite gaining some momentum, the Blues started getting far too loose. The defenders were flying around, joining the offensive play, but they were also missing defensive spots and running into one another.
St. Louis would score a late goal in the second period. David Perron would snipe one over the glove-hand shoulder to take a 2-1 lead.
That lasted all of 37 seconds. The Blues defenders got mixed up, which allowed Vancouver space on the left wing, where they snapped a goal past Jake Allen to tie it 2-2.
The third period was nerve racking, scrotum tightening hockey. It was not for the feint of heart.
Both teams generated chances and the Blues still looked solid. However, they could not crack Markstrom in that frame.
Both goalies were good, but the Blues also passed up some chances too. That was never more evident than the end of regulation.
The Blues got their first power play of the game with exactly two minutes left. They did not get one shot on net and might not have even had an attempt.
They barely kept the puck in the zone, dusted the puck off too much when they did get across the blue line and then passed up shots. Robert Thomas had a good shooting lane to the net with 30 seconds left and instead passed it into the mixer where the Canucks could swat it away.
So, to overtime we went for the second game in a row.
The frustration continued in the extra period. The Blues had chances, but passed up so many opportunities as well.
Another power play went by with nothing generated. St. Louis had good zone pressure, but they refuse to shoot the blasted puck.
Just when you thought the game might go into a second overtime, the Blues got some good fortune. A Canucks turnover in the Blues zone actually sprang a breakaway.
Brayden Schenn scored the overtime winner with a fluttering shot over the left shoulder. Whether he intended to shoot it like that or not, it counts and the Blues are back in the series, though still down 2-1.
Pros: Blues energy/speed
Right from the start, the Blues just looked like a completely different team than we had seen so far in Edmonton. They looked like the Blues team we saw in the 2019 playoffs, or at least close to it.
Right from the start, they were flying around. Guys were throwing hits, but being smart about it.
Brayden Schenn was continuing his mission to make a literal dent in the boards with an opponent’s body. He has yet to succeed, but not for lack of trying with his physicality.
On top of the normal physical play the Blues displayed, their makeshift lineup gave them a different wrinkle to their game. While Jacob de La Rose was pretty bad when he played in Game 1, he was quite solid in this game.
Playing with Jordan Kyrou injected him with some life. Kyrou was dynamic enough in his first few shifts to get moved up the lineup.
The defense was flying around too. It made for some nervy moments if/when the puck switched hands, but the Blues were playing enough of a team game to make up for that.
What was enjoyable about it all was the fact that the legs were churning for everyone. There were moments, such as after the first Canucks goal, that the Blues stood around, but for the most part, they kept their skates moving.
Cons: Dumb penalties
As fans, we rarely see any penalty as a smart one. While it’s virtually impossible, we all wish a team could stay out of the box completely.
That said, if the Blues were taking penalties based on hitting a guy, sticking up for a teammate or thwarting a breakaway chance, you could stomach that. Those are not the penalties the Blues take.
They were a lot more disciplined in this game, but when they went in the box, it was still for dumb stuff.
Brayden Schenn was called for a slash that was not necessary. The Blues were buzzing with their best pressure of the series and then that penalty negated it all.
Later in the game, the Blues got called for too many men. While that is their go-to penalty, it just touches all the wrong nerves.
I get that everyone is engaged and wanting to help, but you have to know your assignments. How Blais thinks it is his turn to go on when the man coming off the ice plays the opposite wing is anyone’s guess.
For the third game in this series and who knows how many if you count the round-robin games, David Perron was the Blues best offensive player. This game actually had some other guys stepping up and chipping in, but Perron was still on it.
He has never had blinding speed, but he’s using his veteran savvy to make himself look faster. Perron was solid on his edges, cutting away from defenders almost as well as the young guys like Thomas and Kyrou.
He showed his sick hands with his goal too. To be able to roof that shot from a good angle while somewhat off balance was a little lucky, but also showed how good he is when he is on his game.
In addition to all the things you expect from Perron, he continued to play with an edge, getting in Canucks faces and causing tempers to flair. It may seem blasphemous, but he almost reminded me of a certain Boston Bruin, who we do not name.
Pros: Haters eat it
Two of the most maligned players on the Blues have been Justin Faulk and Jake Allen. The Blues do not win this game if both of them were not stellar in this contest.
Faulk was solid in all aspects of the game. Yes, he did still have his moments that make you cringe, but he was good.
The haters were still out, talking about how he flubbed the shot that actually went in. Sometimes you need luck to get you going, just the same as a hitter sometimes needs a little squib for a single and then they break out.
Faulk was also very good defensively, which is where he has really struggled. He was good positionally and when he was not, he managed to get back and make a play.
If he can play that way all the time, the Blues will really be in good shape on the blue line.
For Allen, it was a bit of redemption. Many fans had pretty much given up on him, but he wanted to show he can still play and win in this league.
Maybe it was playing for the team, maybe it was playing for the scouts. At this point, we should not care because the Blues were the beneficiary.
Allen made several key saves, including a couple in overtime. There was still one, loud fool blaming Allen for the shot that hit the upper 90 of the goal to tie it 2-2, but you’ll never please someone like that.
This was a St. Louis Blues win. They did not make it easy on themselves, but after last postseason why would we expect them to make it easy on themselves?
@MatthewDHall85 on Twitter made a good point – if not for the too many men call and the defenders running into one another, this game could have been a shutout and ended in regulation. But, those things did happen and the Blues managed to overcome it.
St. Louis is never going to play an absolutely perfect game. It’s just not in their nature for some reason.
The power play is reaching epic levels of awfulness. In this bubble situation, there is not time to practice it, but the guys are forgetting things that should be second nature. You know things are bad when Darren Pang is getting frustrated by the lack of shots and too much passing.
But, this was the way the Blues needed to win. They needed to outwork the Canucks, punish them along the walls and just grind it out.
It would have been nice to see it end at 2-0 or 3-1 or something, but a win is a win when you’ve yet to win in Edmonton.
Schenn was just a man on a mission. Faulk probably had his best game in a Blues uniform.
Kyrou might have earned a spot for the next game and maybe this series (hopeful). Allen had a great game and gave the coaching staff something to think about for the next game too.
Now, the Blues have to rest up and refocus. It’s a short turnaround with the next game at 9:30 on Monday.