The St. Louis Blues had an opportunity to really crush the spirits of the Vancouver Canucks with a Game 5 win.
The St. Louis Blues knew they had the Vancouver Canucks on the ropes with a chance to really score a knockout blow. Things did not get off to the best of starts.
Just 21 seconds into the game, Jake Allen, who has played spectacularly in Games 3 and 4, made a blunder. He fanned on a pass around the net and the puck trickled into the trapezoid.
Allen had to play it or else Vancouver would have gained possession with him out of the crease. Thankfully, the Canucks only got three shots on goal and nothing incredibly dangerous on the ensuing power play.
Nevertheless, that gave Vancouver some momentum to start the game. The Blues slowly crept back into the game in the first period, but the Canucks would strike first.
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He put the puck through Petro and sniped one under the blocker of Jake Allen. It was not a shot that absolutely had to be saved, but you had to be frustrated at the lack of luck for Blues goaltenders on these breakout attempts.
St. Louis wouldn’t waste too much time tying the game up. A little over two minutes later, Brayden Schenn sniped one from just outside the slot.
The Blues really went to work after that. They had a lot of sustained pressure and got rewarded.
Ryan O’Reilly scored the late-period, backbreaker goal. He swung around the net and deflected the puck off Jordy Benn’s stick for a 2-1 lead with just 26 seconds left in the period.
Just minutes later, it seemed like the Blues would get another goal. During a power play, David Perron had the goal in his sights, but he was robbed too.
On the next rush, Zach Sanford would pick up the Blues third goal. He fired the shot off the right post and past Markstrom’s glove.
St. Louis kept their foot on the gas as the second period went on. They could have easily been up 6-1 halfway through the second, but Markstrom kept making huge saves.
As the period wore on, St. Louis seemed to get a tad comfortable. The Canucks found a way to take advantage.
On a scramble play, they jammed away at the puck and as Allen went to do a snow angel to cover it, the puck slipped in. It was mostly just a lucky play and the only gripe is the refs having a quick whistle all series until the moment it would have benefited the Blues.
Instead of waking the Blues up, they stayed status quo. Vancouver kept pressing and tied the game up at 16:10 of the third. Jake Virtanen caught Allen playing the pass and banked it off him to make it 3-3.
The wheels kept falling off in the second period. A givewaway at the blue line led to another breakaway for Vancouver and Motte scored his second by slipping one past Allen’s blocker for a 4-3 lead.
St. Louis continued to look disjointed as the third period started. Ivan Barbashev took a bad penalty for elbowing, but the Blues managed to kill it off, but just barely.
For a team that normally rebounds very well, this was a reminder of the Blues teams of a few years ago. They seemed to not know how to answer and make mistakes instead of smart plays.
More penalties resulted in killed power plays, but no offensive zone time for St. Louis. The Blues just looked lost as the game progressed.
Credit to Vancouver for being smart about getting pucks away and everything, but this was a game the Blues lost, pure and simple. They were up 3-1 and stopped.
Adding insult to injury, the Blues scored at the buzzer, but it clearly crossed the line after time expired. So, there would be no heroics and the Blues must win two straight to win the series.
Pros: First period
The first period was St. Louis Blues hockey. Other than the early mistake by Allen that gave up a power play, the Blues got to their game and had this contest in a strangle hold – except for the score.
That would become a problem later on. However, St. Louis had gained their dominance and looked like they were going to win this one easily by the time the horn sounded on the first 20 minutes.
The Schenn goal was an absolute snipe. It came off a turnover, but he made them pay.
You can argue the O’Reilly goal was lucky, and it was. It was good effort on his part to put the puck toward the net, especially when you have all the defenders out of position and reaching.
St. Louis was skating, they were hitting and looked poised to take this series, even if they would have only been up 3-2 in the series. Perhaps they got a little too full of themselves.
Cons: Second period
The second period was one of the worst team periods we have seen from this team in several games. This was more reminiscent of what we saw from the round-robin Blues.
The weird thing was it didn’t seem it would go this way. The Blues got the Sanford goal to go up 3-1.
After that, they should have had a 6-1 lead halfway through the second period. They were buzzing all over.
Markstrom came up with some great saves, that seemed like it would just keep the game close in the third period. Instead, the Blues got way too comfortable and bad things started to happen.
Colton Parayko was all kinds of out of sorts in this game and in this period. He got outmuscled by the Canucks twice on the play that led to their second goal and then just kind of stood there on the jam play.
In retrospect, I’m not sure what Allen would do differently on the tying goal. We all agree you simply cannot let them score from that angle, but given how goaltenders go down so early now, he’s actually in the position any other goalie would have taken. It’s just a very bad look, especially when your counterpart is making acrobatic stops on the other end.
All of them just loafed around as the puck got taken away from them. Sanford lost it initially, Thomas had a chance to regain it and let it get taken away again and Dunn seemed to think all those other guys would take care of business, so he did not even bother skating back.
You would like Allen to make the save on the shot. However, in these breakaway scenarios, the shooter always has the advantage.
It was just clumsy and boneheaded, all around.
Cons: Third period
I realize I’m being generic by labeling the periods, but it really is how you can break it down. You would have thought the Blues would come charging out of the gates in the third and all that came out of the locker room was air.
The Barbashev penalty might have taken some wind out of the sails. Even prior to that, the Blues did not look crisp.
We did not see a return to something even resembling Blues hockey until around 7 minutes left in the third. Again, you do need to credit the Canucks for being smart in preserving the lead, but where was the urgency on St. Louis’ part?
You could say a positive was not allowing another goal, but Vancouver did not really push much. It was just a sloppy period that felt like it was bogged down in the neutral zone way too much.
This one stings a lot. The Blues are more than capable of overcoming this, as they proved against the Dallas Stars last season.
However, the stats are not on their side. Teams that win Game 5 win the series close to 75% of the time.
What really stings is that Vancouver did not deserve to win this game. They won it and they kept pressing and pushing, so it’s not as though the Blues handed it to them. However, when you have an opponent on the ropes, up by two goals and having all the opportunities to be up by as much as five goals, you cannot let the game slip away.
The Blues have too much experience for this sort of thing to happen. If Vancouver had just thrown the kitchen sink and all the appliances and manged to win, so be it. St. Louis just let them have too much ground.
The worrying thing is there was an air about this game of the Blues feeling like it was over. We have seen it in the regular season, where St. Louis will act like it’s all wrapped up and stop playing. Then, they get taken to school.
You would think they would realize you cannot do that. Even the worst NHL teams have enough talent to do this sort of thing if you stop playing and the Blues stopped playing against a team that is fully capable of going on a run in this playoff format.
They needed to bury the Canucks and instead find themselves on the brink of elimination.
Instead of being up in the series and talking about another solid team performance, we have devolved to the usual goaltender controversy. There is little doubt Jordan Binnington will return to the pipes for Game 6, but this was a bad team game.
Allen let in some poor goals, but Binnington would have fared no better in this game with as poorly as the Blues played from about halfway through the second through the midway point of the third.
St. Louis cannot win on talent alone. They have talent, for sure, but they are a system team. As soon as they strayed from their system, the wheels came off.
Get back to work, punish this team along the boards and be the blue-collar team they are and the Blues can still win this series. Another performance like this game or Games 1 and 2 and the Blues will be joining Vladimir Tarasenko back in St. Louis instead of playing in the second round.