The St. Louis Blues have not had everything run smoothly at all in the Edmonton bubble. They are still finding ways to not only get by, but possibly thrive
When the St. Louis Blues arrived in Edmonton to start the 2020 NHL Playoffs, they seemed to be in a much better position than any other team. They played a style that did not require a lot of offensive timing, they had literally everyone healthy and they were one of the only teams not entering the playoffs with a dual goalie system.
My, how things changed in a couple weeks. Suddenly, that was no longer true.
The Blues were suddenly missing key components from their 2019 run. It took a lot longer than we had hoped for the team to re-gel and click and play their game. The goaltending situation was rock solid going into the 2020 playoffs. Now, it looks like there might be a small goalie controversy going on for The Note.
If you had told most fans that the Blues would be without Vladimir Tarasenko and Alex Steen for multiple games, most people would have figured St. Louis was in a lot of trouble. Both players have their detractors, but they are vital cogs in the Blues machine.
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Tarasenko, surprisingly, gets a lot of flack from Blues fans. I get it. He does give off a vibe of not being hungry enough at times, but the production is still there.
In the 2019 playoffs, Tarasenko was a beast prior to the Final. He gets more flack for not scoring against Boston, but the Bruins were focusing their defense on him. He still managed 11 goals and 17 points in 26 playoff games.
In the bubble playoff scenario, everyone expected the old Vlady right away. Let’s forget that he hadn’t played a game in basically 10 months. He was also trying to comeback during a pandemic, so on top of the rust he would have had anyway, Tarasenko could not even skate for around five or six months.
Then, we find out his shoulder surgery never quite took. Missing two games, after playing in four, Tarasenko then returned to St. Louis for another surgery.
Since the Blues won those games, fans immediately jump on the age-old “oh, we don’t really even need that guy” nonsense.
St. Louis had picked up their pace and found their style for two games against the Canucks. That has little to do with Tarasenko not being in the lineup.
Concurently, if you had said Steen would miss multiple games, you might be worried for the depth and defense of the team. While Ryan O’Reilly has overtaken Steen as the team’s best two-way player and defensive forward, they still utilize Steen’s talents very well.
Even at an older age, Steen can still score and play a top-six role on occasion. His defensive abilities, as well as offensive, give him a unique perspective to bring to the fourth line too.
That’s not a style or leadership ability that is easily replaced. Yet, in the two or three games Steen was out of the lineup, the Blues did not miss a beat.
Clearly, the Blues could not complete the comeback against Vancouver. The fact that those players were not there never felt like the main reason though.
St. Louis still had enough there to win, but things just kept going against them. In 2019, they had so much go their way and the pendulum swung the other direction in 2020.
If Game 5 does not see the Blues blow a lead and lose in devastating fashion, they win that series. You could also make a case that if the Blues beat Dallas, they advance past the first round since they matched up better against Calgary.
We will never know. The injuries played their part, but the Blues just never overcame the empty arena or the other things that made this playoff scenario so strange.