Nobody quite knew what to expect from the St. Louis Blues in their second to last game. With a playoff spot already locked up and a lackluster game against the L.A. Kings in their rearview mirror, it was a possibility to have another clunker.
A good performance was needed, however, because it was a chance to gain some momentum, positivity and a late test against a fellow playoff team. The Blues were inconsistent, but got a decent enough start.
St. Louis relied far too heavily on their goaltending, which is something they’ve done a lot in recent years. Ville Husso had a fantastic first period.
If not for the Finn, the Blues could easily have been trailing 3 or 4-0 after one. Instead, St. Louis went into the break with the lead.
They did so by getting to the dirty areas too. The first goal was the kind we’ve seen score on the Blues so many times.
After a rush up the ice, the puck was just put on net and then, somehow, Ivan Barbashev banged it through the goaltender. It actually snuck between the elbow and the body, but it looked like it went through the man at first.
Husso had to see the period out as the Blues continued to allow prime shots against. Still, after 20, the Blues had a 2-0 lead.
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Although the score would change in the second period, the game was actually somewhat of a goaltender’s duel. Both members of the crease police came up with huge stops in the middle frame.
Despite this, the Blues still snuck two more goals in. The first one of the period, third overall, was another solid effort goal. This time, it was Torey Krug banging it home after driving the net and scoring his first goal since January.
The last goal of the period was another one the Minnesota goalie should have had, but still a good shot. David Perron just let one loose from just outside the high slot and scored in the top shelf.
The third period was oddly entertaining, in spite of the fact there were no goals. Both teams still generated chances, though the Blues spent a little less time in the offensive zone.
Husso kept showcasing his rubberband groin, but made save after save.
When the final horn sounded, the goose egg was kept in tact and the Blues picked up an impressive 4-0 win.
When you’ve gone 54 games without a shutout as a team, fans keep expecting something bad to happen. Even up 4-0 and the result well in hand, there was always some, small part that whispered the shutout would get spoiled.
Ville Husso either didn’t hear that voice or ignored it. He just kept flashing those pads left and right and up and down like the flippers on a pinball machine.
Husso finished the night with 30 saves, which isn’t an unbelievable number. However, the quality of shots against him and the close proximity made at least 20-25 of those saves high-danger chances that were not easy.
The best of the bunch was an unbelievable left pad save in the second period.
Husso’s teammates knew he bailed them out too.
It was amazing how active he was all night. Husso hasn’t had much action all season, despite a hanful of games to keep his partner fresh.
Nevertheless, that one pad save was only one of many Husso flashed throughout the night.
It was his first career NHL shutout and also the first shutout of the season for the Blues.
Cons: Too reliant on goaltending
For all the credit given to Husso, and he deserved it, there does remain the fact the Blues allowed all those chances. It was such an odd game in that respect.
As mentioned, of the 30 shots allowed, 20-25 were grade-A chances against. Many of them came right on the doorstep, meaning there were multiple Minnesota Wild players within a couple feet of the net.
What made all that odd was it never felt like the defense was playing all that poorly. It wasn’t like they were standing around while Minnesota was flying.
However, there just wasn’t enough done to thwart the shots. Maybe it was taking their eye off the ball, so to speak, given that this game’s end result didn’t have much to do beyond how the team played for 60 minutes.
Or, perhaps it’s just credit to Minnesota. They also had nothing to play for outside of a faint prayer at overcoming Colorado in the standings if everything fell right (it didn’t).
But, they pressured and drove the net, just like the Blues. They just ran into a hot goaltender.
We’ll keep this one short and sweet. Husso won the game for the Blues, or at the very least allowed the team to get themselves going.
The Blues weren’t lackluster and had some jump, but you could also tell this was not an impactful game. Craig Berube played his players because injury/sickness/salary cap issues gave them no other option.
Berube managed the minutes within the game, since he couldn’t just sit guys. That still worked because the guys that played the most minutes all year had near season lows in ice time and the Blues still got it done.
St. Louis got back to what this franchise has done best the last few years. They funneled pucks to the net, drove to the paint and won puck battles.
Though Krug’s goal was pretty nice, none of these goals were true highlight reel stuff. It was all about effort and instincts.
That’s how the Blues can win in the playoffs. They’re not going to get these pretty, cross-ice passes for one timers. They need performances like they got in this game as well as upping the physicality.
It’s a meaningless win in the standings, but this was a positive step toward any potential success in the 2021 postseason.