The St. Louis Blues knew they had a tough challenge in the opening round of the 2021 NHL Playoffs, facing the team with the best regular season record in the Colorado Avalanche. Based on the opening few minutes, it looked as though the Blues came to play.
St. Louis had jump, energy and focus in the first five minutes of the game. In fact, the Blues were hard done not to be up by one or two goals.
Vladimir Tarasenko hit the post once and couldn’t convert on a breakaway minutes after that. However, the Blues were buzzing in all the right ways.
They got spectacular goaltending. The Blues were riding high and seemed poised to take control.
Then, the Avalanche woke up. They took the Blues best figurative punch – because their best physical punch was lackluster – and then took over.
After getting outshot 4-1, the Avalanche outshot the Blues 17-1 the rest of the period. The Blues were basically holding on, but doing a good job until Nathan MacKinnon drew a weak penalty by falling over.
The Avalanche have obliterated the Blues with their power play and continued to do so. Their zone time before the goal was impressive and then they scored on a long shot with a screen in front.
The Blues were fortunate to only be down 1-0 after one. Colorado had an open net tap-in that they somehow hit across the crease and off the post.
The second period was a little bit of hit and a lot of miss for the Blues. They gave the Avs two power plays in the first 12 minutes of the frame and somehow managed to kill both off.
On the flip side, the Blues power play actually looked pretty good, including a doorstep chance for Mike Hoffman that was turned away. Except for that flurry, the Blues spend much of the period defending.
Their other best opportunity was Hoffman’s wraparound with the net mainly empty. Unfortunately for the Blues, a defenseman slid over and made a stick save to keep it 1-0.
It’s amazing how quickly things can change, though. St. Louis found their game a little more consistently late in the second.
After a good defensive stand, the Blues broke out with purpose. They worked it through the neutral zone and then Jordan Kyrou scored to make it 1-1.
More from Analysis
- St. Louis Blues and Cardinals Similar In All The Wrong Ways
- St. Louis Blues Pros/Cons From 2022-23 Game 82 At Dallas
- St. Louis Blues Pros/Cons From 2022-23 Game 81 Vs Dallas
- St. Louis Blues Pros/Cons From 2022-23 Game 80 At Minnesota
- St. Louis Blues Pros/Cons From 2022-23 Game 79 Vs NY Rangers
All that momentum gained by hard work disappeared in the first minute of the third. The Blues got overzealous going for hits, came up empty and that allowed Nathan MacKinnon to be nearly uncontested for a one-timer from about five feet out and a 2-1 lead.
St. Louis started chipping into the game again. They had another decent power play attack, but failed to get a goal or force a hard save either.
Almost immediately, the Avs threw out their top line and scored 3-1. Initially, it looked like a shot that needed to be saved, but it was a deflection in front and Binnington stood no chance.
Unfortunately, though the Blues tried, the Avalanche really put the clamps down. St. Louis couldn’t generate offense because they couldn’t get the puck. It almost became as bad as a soccer game where the winning team just passes it around. Colorado just kept coming and pressing, not allowing the Blues an inch.
Colorado finished this one off 4-1 with an empty net goal. St. Louis really never stood a chance in the third period, but it’s just one game.
Honestly, after that game, what more can I say about this guy that has not already been said? While it’s a little worrying the Blues needed this kind of performance in their very first playoff game, this was vintage 2019 Game 7 Binnington.
The only thing Binnington was not doing in order to give his team a chance to win was score a goal. As focused and tuned in as he was, he might have scored if it wasn’t a rule to not cross the red line.
Binnington made saves in just about every way possible. Perhaps he didn’t use his mask to make a save, but just about every other part of the body got hit.
We can throw in all the superlatives and adjectives and flowery language we want, but the bottom line is this was only a game because Binnington willed it be so. If not for him, this final is probably 8-1.
Hopefully, going forward, the Blues do not need a similar performance. It’s nice to know they can get it though.
The weird thing about this game is we have seen far worse defensive performances from the Blues in the regular season. You cannot have a mediocre regular season defensive performance in the playoffs though.
The Blues were not caught out of position much and they actually kept their foolish penalties to a minimum. However, they either were not prepared for the Avalanche’s speed or will not be able to withstand it.
Throughout the game, there were far too many guys that looked like statues. It’s one thing to respect their speed, but to look like beer leaguers going against pros is a bit much.
Additionally, the Blues backed off way too much. It’s human nature to not want to get beat, but you leave far too much room for them to make plays when you bottle all your defenders in a nice little box within 10 feet of the net.
Going forward, the Blues will have to find a way to pressure more. That is far easier said than done and I’m not the one out there having to do it, but even the coaching staff will likely say the same.
Again, you respect them, but don’t kowtow to them. You cannot surrender that many shots either.
Binnington played spectacularly, but no goaltender should have to make 45 saves or more.
It’s ok to be frustrated at this game. It’s ok to be scared about this performance.
It’s one game, though. Unless your job is to go in some form of media and make predictions, don’t think this one game really has much bearing on how this series will play out.
All it takes is a win in Game 2 and then everything is back on. This is a different Blues team, but so many fans gave up on them after Game 1 of the 2019 Conference Final and Stanley Cup Final.
It all looked so terrible after those games too. The Blues took that first shot to the mouth, came out for round two having learned some lessons and got back into it.
Win or lose, I fully expect that to happen in Game 2 of this series. To quote Dennis Green, “If you wanna crown them, then crown their ass”, but this series will not end in a sweep.
Colorado has to prove themselves before they get that benefit of the doubt, regardless of the talent on paper. The Blues can play better and will.
Everyone focuses on the fact it might have been 6,7 or 8-1 without Binnington, but we forget that the Blues could have buried those Tarasenko chances early and then it’s a different story. This was not the right foot to get off on, but it’s not over.
Keep the faith Blues fans. It’s one poor game.