St. Louis Blues Injuries Cost Them Series, But Not The Way You’d Think

EDMONTON, ALBERTA - AUGUST 17: Sammy Blais #9 of the St. Louis Blues (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images)
EDMONTON, ALBERTA - AUGUST 17: Sammy Blais #9 of the St. Louis Blues (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images) /

The St. Louis Blues had a good amount of key injuries that cost them the series against the Vancouver Canucks. It was not the typical way to cost a team, however.

The St. Louis Blues losing their first round series to the Vancouver Canucks was somewhat of a surprise. The Blues were the better team on paper and seemed to have all the momentum after tying the series and looking like they had found their style of game.

While Vancouver was deserving of the series win with how they played, it must be said that injuries cost the Blues this series. However, the injuries are not quite the excuse they normally would be.

Normally, you might say well they did not have this guy or that guy, but if they did they would have won for sure. That is not automatically the case based on talent alone.

It was not as though St. Louis lost their starting goalie to a groin pull or were missing two of the three players from their top line. The guys the Blues were missing were not stars, except for Vladimir Tarasenko.

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Losing Tarasenko was definitely a blow. Any team not having their best scorer would hinder them.

The Blues had played almost the entire season without him, however. They were the top team in the Western Conference without Tarasenko. Getting him back was supposed to just be equivalent to a blockbuster trade at the deadline.

The Blues still had the talent to win. The reason the injuries cost them was not because they lost a lot of scoring or were missing a goaltender or their top defender.

The reason injuries cost the Blues the series was because the Blues are a system team that is based on the whole, not just the parts. They need everyone pulling in the same direction, at the same time, or it kind of falls apart and we saw that happen.

When the Blues won the Stanley Cup in 2019, it was not because they were the better team on paper. If you based it on what fans would perceive as natural talent, Boston would have won easily.

The Blues won because they could roll four lines out, without hesitation in any situation. The injuries in the 2020 playoffs denied them that opportunity.

If you look at the average ice time for the Blues in the 2019 playoffs, it is surprisingly even. Everyone averaged double digit minutes if they played the majority of the playoff games.

The fourth line was all very steady. Ivan Barbashev was just under 13 minutes per game, Alex Steen was just over 13 minutes and Oskar Sundqvist earned himself over 16 minutes per game, split between the fourth line, special teams and sometimes playing higher in the lineup.

Compare that with the 2020 playoffs and it’s a different story.

Mackenzie MacEachern averaged just over 6 minutes a game. Jacob de La Rose played about nine and a half minutes per game.

Jordan Kyrou, even playing higher up in the lineup, averaged over eight minutes per game. Troy Brouwer, who was very steady, still only averaged 8:21 in the playoffs.

It should be said that having to kill so many penalties does affect those minutes. The fourth line the Blues were using were not all penalty killers, so that will restrict their ice time further.

The main point is that these guys had not earned trust in crucial moments, thus Craig Berube could not put them on the ice as much. The fourth line in 2019 was a crucial part of the Blues run. The fourth line in 2020 was barely out there as the Blues had to shorten their bench, like so many other teams do.

That took away what made the Blues the Blues. They could not roll out four lines relentlessly and wear down an opponent.

St. Louis was double shifting forwards and defenders. Even defensively they got affected. Robert Bortuzzo only played an average of 10 minutes per game, which is quite a drop from the average of 16-plus from Carl Gunnarsson.

The Blues had a next-man-up mentality all throughout the regular season. When you look at the names missing from Game 6, when they were eliminated, it is hard to overcome, even if they are depth guys.

The Blues were without Gunnarsson, Steen, Brouwer, Tarasenko and Tyler Bozak. Except for Tarasenko, you’re not missning a lot of stats without those guys, but you are missing key components.

Bozak featured a lot on special teams units. He was also a key faceoff taker.

Steen, while limited by age, is still a motor guy. He plays solid defense as a forward, can give you some physicality and still has some offensive production to punch up that fourth line’s ability.

Gunnarsson gets a lot of flack, if for no other reason than seemingly disappearing. Yet, the guy is still a solid defender who usually ends up in the right position to make a play.

In addition to those names, while Sammy Blais played, he was a shell of himself. He wasn’t as explosive and not nearly as physical as we were accustomed to seeing.

That is a lot of playoff experience gone. It is a lot of dependable minutes gone.

Berube excels at putting guys in positions to succeed and he still found the right spots for the players would replace those names. Nevertheless, it completely altered the chemistry of a championship team.

The Blues went from having a roster that was truly going to defend their championship, minus one or two pieces, to a totally different team than the one that won. Suddenly, the Blues were not the Blues just minus Pat Maroon and Joel Edmundson.

Suddenly, you were missing six players that had played in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final instead of two. You were playing three players that had not played an NHL playoff game in their lives.

As fans, we can sit there and say they needed to step up, but that’s a huge difference. Over the span of nine games, you went from a team defending their Cup to a team where almost a third of it had not played for the Cup last season.

The Blues still had their big guns, minus Tarasenko, so the lack of goals is still worrying. However, this was not the same Blues team.

Next. Blues goaltending debate as pointless as ever. dark

When a team is built on being more than the sum of its parts, you need that entire unit. The Blues just did not have that this time around.

St. Louis was very lucky with the lack of injuries in 2019. That luck ran out in 2020.