The St. Louis Blues have been more comfortable on the road the last few seasons. Perhaps it was fitting they wore their white jerseys for Game 6 against the Vancouver Canucks.
The St. Louis Blues came into Game 6 against the Vancouver Canucks with a lot going for them. They had already battled back from a 3-2 series deficit against the Dallas Stars in 2019, they had won all their games as the “road” team and had all the experience on their side.
St. Louis had no energy to start the game and looked discombobulated. There was no jump in the legs and Vancouver would get the first goal of the game.
St. Louis would not really get into the game until the final four minutes of the first. Everything prior to that was Vancouver all but putting a stranglehold on this game.
The Blues could not get any offense going, their passing was terrible and the power play was useless. While the Blues had flashes, here or there, they were fortunate to get out of the period only down a goal.
The second period started off just as poorly. There was just something wrong with the Blues, whether mentally or physically.
Things fell off the rails as the period went on. The defense went into scramble mode and there were two guys open on the back side, leading to a goal for a 3-0 lead.
Then, Binnington got beat under the blocker again – that is definitely a soft spot in his armor, at least for Vancouver. That gave Vancouver a 4-0 lead off just 18 shots and led to a goaltending change.
The Blues found a little bit of jump, but it was not nearly enough. They could not get rebound opportunities and Jacob Markstrom got some timely saves because he could see most of the shots.
The third period was just a mess. The Blues got their first goal by Jaden Schwartz to make it 4-1.
It stayed that way for awhile, but Vancouver would score on a two-on-one break to make it 5-1. Schwartz would get his second late in the game to make it 5-2, but an empty net goal would put the final nail in the coffin for a 6-2 loss and a 4-2 series loss.
I rarely do this, but the only real positive from this game was the opponent. Did they play a pretty game? Not really.
Do I think they will win the next round? Probably not.
However, like the Blues did in 2019, they found a way. The Canucks were on the ropes and they got back at it.
The Blues were dominating the series after their two wins and were up 3-1 in Game 5. Vancouver was physically spent, like the San Jose Sharks.
Unlike the Sharks, Vancouver got some big saves when needed. Markstrom was huge in Game 5 and made a few key saves in this game. He gave the team life and they got themselves off life support.
If Vancouver plays against a fully loaded, fully prepared Blues team, I don’t think they win. But, we will not know and what we do know is they took the game to the Blues and came out the winner.
They were faster than St. Louis and played smarter than St. Louis. You could almost say they beat the Blues at their own game.
No, the Canucks did not physically bash the Blues, but they outwilled them. Their young guys played with composure they were not meant to have and they just found ways.
Vancouver came out determined to put the knife in and did. That was something young Blues teams always failed to do, so this Vancouver team showed they already learned a valuable lesson without having to lose to learn it.
There were a handful of bright spots in this game and series. Schwartz got a couple more goals and Justin Faulk was one of the few defenders that looked like they did not have their head down.
All that said, as a team, they were just bad. We all thought we would see a true Blues experience in this game and use Game 5 as fuel to their fire.
Instead, the Blues entered this game almost knowing it was not going to be their year. They had no legs at all from the start and seemed defeated, either by the opponent or the injuries.
St. Louis always had a next man up mentality during the season and it served them well. In this game, there was just too much upheaval for them to get a flow.
The goaltending was not good either. Jordan Binnington is not fully to blame for this loss when the team was non-existent in front of him, but soft goals are deflating. When you’re already playing poorly, seeing a goal you don’t expect to go in actually go in, it doesn’t fill you with the spirit of a furious comeback.
There was no line cohesion. Regardless of the injuries, the lines would be completely different shift to shift.
The turnovers were horrid. The passing was just awful the entire game and you could tell this kind of score would happen based on the passing effort.
St. Louis was hoping a puck would get through or find the right spot, regardless of defense in front of it or lack of a teammate in the right spot.
Guys you count on to be steady were buffoonish. Colton Parayko was one of the team’s best pure defenders in 2019. In the 2020 playoffs, especially in this game, he looked lost. He was either rooted to the ground like an oak tree, stumbling over his own feet or not having a clue where to put the puck on a pass.
All Blues fans went into this playoff restart knowing there was a decent chance they would not repeat as champions. To lose in this manner was not what anyone would have dreamed of.
Binnington was not good in this series and now, right or wrong, it throws his status as the clear number one into question. The problem with him was not just the goals going in, but his body language being so poor too. We have not seen that from Binnington before.
The offense just could not generate enough. They hit a couple posts and made a couple hard saves for Markstrom, but they just were not challenging enough.
Don’t tell me about shot totals or any of that stuff. There were not enough rebound chances or sustained pressure with actual shots.
The Blues were either one and done if they got a shot or they would hold the puck in the zone and do nothing with it. They had the puck in the offensive zone for almost two full minutes and wore out the Canucks, but never managed to create a scoring opportunity.
Just the lack of energy was shocking. Blame injuries, blame the bubble or blame whoever. It doesn’t matter.
You expect more from an elimination game and you did not get it. There was never a moment in this game where you felt the Blues were bouncing back and going to empty the tank.
The legs never came around. The will never materialized.
Other than a few minutes here or there, the Blues just never really showed up.
In the end, it was a fitting end. The Blues treated the round-robin like an exhibition and were a regular season team playing against playoff opponents once they got to the Canucks.
This was a regular season performance, but there is no tomorrow to push the reset button. Now, there are a lot of question marks for the offseason and not as much time as normal to figure them out.
It will be a quick turnaround. That will be good for fans, but Doug Armstrong has a lot of hard decisions to make. Good luck to him and the team.