The St. Louis Blues never got going during the 2020 playoffs in the bubble. Despite that, they still could have advanced if they did not allow two specific goals.
The St. Louis Blues can point to any number of moments in the 2020 NHL bubble playoffs and say it had a large impact on their outcome. Every moment, no matter how insignificant plays a part in whether a team wins or loses.
The Blues could look at injuries and say that doomed them. While the Blues were either missing players in their bottom six or players they barely had during the regular season, it still disrupted their rhythm to have that many guys out at once.
St. Louis could point to a lack of scoring. The Blues were not getting timely goals anyway, but they were also not getting scoring from their bottom six. Those lines contributing was one of the main reasons the Blues made it so far in 2019.
St. Louis did not play stellar defense either. Turnovers in poor positions and guys not recovering was a huge downfall in their series against Vancouver.
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However, all of that might have been avoided if the Blues did not allow two goals. No, we are not going to focus on any soft goals given up by Jordan Binnington against the Vancouver Canucks.
Even those might have been avoided. There were two specific goals that ended up derailing the Blues entire postseason.
Despite what we thought during the game, the Blues were actually doing a decent job in their first round-robin game against the Colorado Avalanche. Yes, there was no jump and little offensive production to speak of, but for your first game back against a high-powered offense, the Blues were defensively sound.
Additionally, Binnington was playing quite well. He kept the Avs at bay, turning away 26 shots just in the first two periods alone.
The Blues had scored a goal in the first period, despite being outplayed overall. It was looking good.
Colorado scored fairly early in the third period. That was disappointing, but given the amount of offense they had generated, it was always unlikely the Blues were going to shutout the Avs.
Then, disaster struck at the death of the third period. With literally less than a second to go, Colorado scored the game-winning goal.
This was one of the few goals the Blues allowed where there was not a clear defensive breakdown. You might blame them for allowing Nazem Kadri to get in behind, but they were defending the initial shot that happened to bounce off the post and come right to him.
The fact that Alex Steen took a foolish penalty did not help matters either. If the Blues are not shorthanded, that goal likely does not happen.
If that goal is not scored, the Blues get at least a point from their first game in the Edmonton bubble. If the game goes to overtime, maybe the Blues get a win and set themselves up better for the rest of the opening portion of the tournament.
Even if they lose in overtime, they get a point in the standings. That single point might change how they play in any of the other games.
Instead, they lose in one of the most heart breaking fashions imaginable. Mentally, that’s not a great way to start a tournament, even if the games “didn’t count”.
Dallas shanks the Blues
Sorry for the disturbing prison movie imagery, but that’s what the Dallas goal late in the third round-robin felt like. Things were going reasonably well and then, out of nowhere, the Stars snuck up on them and stabbed them just under the rib cage a few times.
Like the game against Colorado, the Blues got an early goal and relied far too much on goaltending after that. Jake Allen was solid, but he was getting no help at all.
No matter how great a goaltender is in their career, or just in one game, they cannot stop what they cannot see. Allen had no chance to make a save with two of the biggest guys on either team standing directly in front of him.
Colton Parayko was trying to block the shot, so you might forgive him for being directly in the goaltender’s view. While it is easy for someone not standing in front of an NHL shot to say, Parayko actually made himself smaller with his blocking attempt.
By going out to cover the shot, Parayko also let Jamie Benn stand unopposed directly in front of Allen. There was only two feet or so between Allen and Benn, giving the Blues goaltender absolutely no chance to make a save and likely making it so Allen did not even know the shot was taken.
It was another late goal too. The Blues had held the lead until the final 32 seconds of the contest.
Only needing a win to finish as the higher seed, the Blues would end up leaving everything to chance as the game progressed to a shootout. The Blues would lose, because that’s what they do in shootouts most of the time.
If that goal does not go in, the Blues get a win and play Calgary instead of Vancouver.
If that goal goes in, but the Colorado one does not, the Blues have two points and tie Dallas. If my understanding of the tie breaker is correct, the Blues still would have finished in third because the tie breaker was regular season performance.
The fact that the goals came so late is just an extra push on the knife. If St. Louis could have held on for a mere 33 combined seconds, they would have been in a far different situation.
Of course, we don’t fully know what might have happened with any other opponent.
The Blues might have struggled just as much against the Arizona Coyotes. Darcy Kuemper has had their number in the past.
The Coyotes are not nearly as dynamic on the offensive end and their power play is not nearly as potent as Vancouver’s. The Blues likely find a way to win a defensive battle.
No offense, because there is a good amount of talent there, but if the Blues play the Calgary Flames, they win. Cam Talbot is not as good a goaltender as Jacob Markstrom, so the Blues offense is not nearly as impotent.
If you look at Game 5 alone, the Blues win that game easily if not for Markstrom standing on his head when the game was 3-1. Same situation, with Talbot in net, the Blues score those extra couple goals and it is game and series over.
The Flames were not the same team once they lost Matthew Tkachuk. If the Blues play that same Calgary team, and maybe even a Calgary squad with Tkachuk, they just flat out win it.
Going into the series, I felt Vancouver just presented too many match up problems. Markstrom always worried me as well.
You can point to any number of moments that happened in Edmonton that could have gone differently. Those two goals were the tipping point, however.
If both, or even perhaps just one, of those two goals are not scored, the St. Louis Blues are still playing in the second round. Instead, they are at home, answering questions about what went wrong. Those two goals are the answer.