The St. Louis Blues needed more than their goaltender to show up if they were to even their series with the Colorado Avalanche. While the score in Game 1 was relatively close until the end, the debate raged on with Blues fans as to whether it was an actual game or whether the Avalanche were going to just run away with the series and make St. Louis look like fools.
Well, it didn’t take long for the latter option to seem like the most probably scenario. After all the talk and hype about correcting mistakes, the Blues backed off and did not clear the front of their net, allowing a deflection goal just 35 seconds into the period.
After that, the Blues seemed to calm down a bit, but they could not establish anything. Despite a couple rushes up the ice, the Blues came up empty almost every time into the zone and only had two shots midway through and six for the first period as a whole. That’s not going to get it done.
Late in the first period, Robert Thomas took a really stupid delay of game penalty. There was nobody pressuring him, but he tried to chip it high off the glass and missed everything. Of course, the Avalanche scored on the power play and Jordan Binnington saw nothing as their was an untouched player right in front of him.
Fans hoped for a strong push by St. Louis in the second period, similar to what we saw in Game 1. Instead, we got more of the same.
Colorado was gifted another power play after Nathan MacKinnon channeled his inner soccer player and took another dive. The Avs, who have used the Blues penalty kill as their own personal practice dummies, scored again to make it 3-0. AGAIN, there was a screen in front and nobody putting a body on a man.
The Blues looked quite terrible and social media was aflame with people calling out just about any player under the moonlight. St. Louis finally began to pull their heads out of you know where with about 10 minutes left.
They still had problems, but at least there was some positivity. The Blues finally got a few legitimate looks at goal and also had actual zone time.
While it came on a broken play, St. Louis finally got on the board late in the period. Sammy Blais raced down a loose puck after Torey Krug‘s shot was knocked down and the feisty forward just ripped it toward goal, banking it off the trail pad and in to make the game 3-1.
The third period was just a roller coaster of emotion. After failing to break through on anything, including over three minutes of a five-minute power play, the Blues finally got one in when Brayden Schenn scored on a power play rebound to make it 3-2.
The Blues lost Justin Faulk due to a dirty hit, which likely made matters worse five minutes after the goal. St. Louis was down to four defenseman and Nathan MacKinnon scored on another disgustingly seeing-eye shot from the point to make it 4-2.
Mike Hoffman gave fans hope when he scored just 15 seconds later. Sadly, the Blues just could not get it done.
A 4-3 game became 6-3 after two empty net goals. The Blues proved they could play with the Avs when they played hard, but it was too little too late. Now they have to win four of five, which is not likely.
We’ll get this one out of the way. As much as I, like anyone, overreacts on Twitter, I pride myself on not actually thinking a player is truly dirty or out to purposely hurt someone.
Nazem Kadri is putting that to the test.
Seeing the initial replay from that corner angle, I tried to give Kadri the benefit of the doubt. The puck was not long gone, so the hit seemed well timed.
Seeing it from the endzone replay, I lost all respect for the attempt. It was a clear shoulder to the head and, while you could argue whether the skates left the ice, to these eyes he launched himself into the head.
The sad thing is Blues fans have no faith in the department of player safety. More people will be shocked if Kadri actually faces suspension than not.
We’ll see how it plays out. Unfortunately, I will also be surprised if Faulk returns for the next game and possibly the series. He looked quite wobbly.
Pros: Last 10 of the 2nd period
With Colorado up 3-0 at that point, you can have a discussion as to whether the Blues got back in it or the Avalanche took their focus away. Whatever the thought, the bottom line is that the Blues woke up and took advantage.
Ideally, they would have scored more goals. Nevertheless, the Blues finally looked like the team we know they are capable of being.
Yes, they still allowed some pressure against, but they didn’t look like a lost puppy wandering around searching for a family that abandoned it (sorry, that was graphic, but necessary). They looked like the Blues.
There’s no way St. Louis can hang with the speed of the Avalanche, but Colorado isn’t as good as the Blues have allowed them to look. That’s not a knock on the Avs, who are legitimate Cup contenders, but this series should not be the laugher it has become if the Blues play an entire game the way they did in the final 10 minutes of the second period and onward.
You cannot expect to flip a switch. You need this intensity all the time.
Hopefully the Blues now realize they have it in them and do something positive in Game 3.
Cons: First half of the game
Apologies for the generalizations of some of these, but really for the entire first half of the game, the Blues looked horrendous. Anything and everything they could do poorly, they were doing poorly.
There was no physicality at all. The Blues went after hits, but either came up empty or the attempt was so half-hearted that it was barely worth it.
Every bit of pregame advice was ignored. St. Louis needed to not back in and over-respect the Avs and also not take dumb penalties.
They did both of those things. Both of those things cost them as the Avs scored.
We can gush over the talent the Avalanche possess, but the Blues are not doing enough to negate that. They can slow them down if they get pressure on the forecheck and play smart defense.
Whether it’s fatigue or worry, the Blues just look lost. Someone like Robert Bortuzzo is usually in everyone’s grill. Instead, he didn’t even engage in scrums other than putting a glove on the shoulder of someone on the periphery.
Another solid goaltending performance was wasted due to the Blues looking afraid for about 30-35 minutes.
Pros: Sticking to it
There was every reason for the Blues to just pack it in and forget about this game. They were down 3-0, had been dominated in every facet and gave no indication anything might change.
The Blues refused to do that and stuck with it. It took far longer than needed, but eventually we saw something resembling the real Blues.
They started actually hitting people instead of just going through the motions. They were smarter with their passes instead of panicking and flinging the puck into any open area.
Shots actually got through and challenged a goaltender that has not proven much yet. Nobody would have believed the Blues would actually tie up the shot total when they had seven shots almost midway through the game.
Anybody who tells you the end of this game will provide momentum is blowing smoke up your backside, but it does prove to the players they can do good things when they stick with the plan. In the second half of the game, the Blues stopped talking about it and were about it.
They’re never going to be an offensive juggernaut, but you have to get pucks on net. St. Louis’ goals came from effort, not skill, so they need to abandon this incessant need to go cross ice or drop it off.
This was an incredibly frustrating game. The Blues did so much wrong and still had a chance to win the game.
The Avs deserve credit for utilizing everything they do well, but St. Louis just didn’t do enough to counteract it. Colorado has dominated the Blues on the power play, but that means during the playoffs, you have to find a way to kill them off.
The penalties were questionable, but if you kill off at least one of those penalties or score an extra goal on the five-minute power play, the outcome might be different.
However, let’s not overstate things. The loss is still a fair result because the Blues played like someone was holding their significant other hostage in the first part of the game.
They simply have to find a way to put together a solid performance for an entire game. Nobody will think less of them if the Avs actually beat them, but the Blues have beaten themselves as much as the Avs have, so it’s hard to tell which portions of these games are real.
At 4-1, Game 1 was probably closer than it really was, but the flip side of that coin is that the Blues could have been up 2-0 if Vladimir Tarasenko scored on both his early-game chances. Conversely, Game 2 was far closer than 6-3, but the Blues waited so long to care about this game that you have to question whether St. Louis woke up or if the Avs took their foot off the gas.
Now, the game shifts to St. Louis where the Blues have been mediocre all year until the end of the season. They need their best performance of the year, regardless of who they end up putting on the ice.
Hopefully, they can get a good start to the game at the very least. We’ll see Friday.