The St. Louis Blues came into this Saturday matinee game knowing it would be the final time they would see the Minnesota Wild. The final time in the regular season that is.
These teams seem destined to face one another in the postseason. The only difference is who would get home ice and this game would, potentially, be a deciding factor.
St. Louis came out reasonably well, but the first period was a lot of back and forth. The Blues would have some looks here and there and then Minnesota would counter.
One could argue the Wild had the better period. They did outshoot the Blues 14-9 and St. Louis gave them two power plays.
However, the Blues actually generated the better chances on those power plays. St. Louis also came out of the first 20 minutes with a 1-0 lead.
The Blues came down the ice with a three-on-two. While that play, in and of itself, did not materialize, it was the crashing of the net by Nathan Walker that helped set up the goal.
Walker got pushed into the goaltender, so Wild fans were undoubtedly complaining about interference. Nevertheless, Ivan Barbashev was Johnny on the Spot and knocked in the loose puck.
Minnesota would tie the game early in the second. Ryan Hartman was able to literally just stand about three feet from the net, eye up his shot and pick his spot with nobody challenging him.
The Blues dug in right after that. Not even two minutes later, Vladimir Tarasenko netted his 32nd of the year to restore the St. Louis lead.
The Blues were still too loose to start the period. They allowed a two-on-one and a partial break for Kirill Kaprisov and were fortunate to not allow anything on those.
St. Louis would get themselves even more involved with some feisty play. Even the cool, calm Ryan O’Reilly was mixing it up and getting in people’s faces, as was Tarasenko again.
The Blues drew a penalty and stayed hot on the power play. After Minnesota failed to get the puck out, the Blues worked it around, tired them out and eventually found David Perron near the goal line for another one-timer goal and a 3-1 lead with 13 minutes left in the second. Officially, it was not a power play goal as it had just expired, but it was set up with great power play passing.
Even though the Blues had the lead, it felt like Minnesota was building, but they also didn’t get many second opportunities. Midway through the period, they were leading the shots 22-15, but it was a lot of one and dones other than those Kaprisov plays earlier.
The Blues just seemed to capitalize on almost everything they got. Brandon Saad got a great pass from O’Reilly, fought off the defender and tucked it through the five hole for a 4-1 game.
Just after that, the Blues kept peppering the net. They forced a good save on the next play and then Justin Faulk pounded one off the post.
What was good to see was the Blues keeping up the physical play. Pavel Buchnevich threw a cross-body just after the puck was gone.
The Wild had enough of that and guys started squaring off. The Blues were already on the power play, so they ended up with a two-man advantage going into the third period.
St. Louis never really got anything going on that particular power play. That would prove somewhat costly.
Minnesota would rattle off two, unanswered goals before the period had seen five minutes played. The first one was a failure to clear the puck and then it deflected off Marco Scandella.
The second one was a bomb from the right. It was 4-3 with a ton of time left.
The Blues came down shortly after the third Wild goal and almost got it back to two. Jordan Kyrou had a slightly open net on the right side, but a sprawling glove save put the puck out of play.
Just when it seemed like the Wild would find an equalizer, the Blues got one back. Buchnevich took a pass from just outside the zone and then unleashed a shot off the goalie’s shoulder for a 5-3 lead.
The Blues took a penalty later in the period – a rare penalty called on the captain. It seemed to be going the Blues way on the penalty kill, but a shot from the point came back out of the glove and the Wild scored on the rebound.
Minnesota scored right after that too. Kaprisov scored after a terrible Blues turnover and it was 5-5 with five minute left.
Just like the last time these teams met, the game went to overtime. That game saw the Blues come back from a 3-1 deficit.
St. Louis made sure the Wild could not complete the mirror image outcome. The Blues found a way to win in overtime for the second time in a row.
Despite the Wild starting the period with their best line, they never got much possession. The Blues were methodical, even taking the puck back out into the neutral zone.
After a strong charge by Buchnevich, he wrapped it around the net and tried to feed Faulk. Faulk missed in tight, but Brayden Schenn slung it in from the left hashmark and a 6-5 win.
Pros: Goals galore
Craig Berube won’t be happy with the defensive focus. You never want to allow five goals if you’re on top of your game.
However, this game was a continuation of a record setting run by the Blues. Their six goals now gives them 280 on the season.
To put that into context, that trails only Colorado in the Western Conference. The vaunted Avs offense has 287, i.e. just seven more goals than the Blues in the same amount of games played.
Only Florida and Toronto have more goals in the Eastern Conference. Think about that. As much as we all complain, the Blues are fifth in the NHL in goals scored.
They’ve also set a franchise record for the most consecutive games with four or more goals. Scoring six against Minnesota gave them 11 games in a row with four goals or more.
St. Louis has seven guys with 20-plus goals. They have a chance to get nine by the time the season ends.
Clearly they needed each and every one in this game. Thankfully, they’ve got the guys capable of doing it.
I’m not sure what was going on with Colton Parayko in this game. He had a rough one.
Parayko was on the ice for at least three goals. He was somewhat responsible for those three too.
He just looked lost on the ice at times. He was the one that did not clear prior to it ultimately getting shot off Scandella.
Parayko was the one that gave the puck up so Minnesota could tie it. I get what he was trying to do and where he wanted to put that pass, but you just don’t do that.
Wrap it around the wall and either clear it or let your winger race after it. Instead, he tried to take the angle and put it right into the opponent’s stick.
He couldn’t get back into position to do anything about it either.
On the Hartman goal, he looked equally confused. Things happen faster than we think in real time, but he needed to charge Hartman. Instead, Parayko took some weird angle across the front of the net in an attempt to block the shot.
Charge the shooter and you might force a mistake. Instead, Hartman was always looking high glove, so Parayko took away nothing.
I don’t know if he’s banged up or what. This wasn’t a one game thing either as we’ve seen him revert to the weaker defender of last year in a few games of late.
Parayko did make plays, such as getting back on a Kaprisov breakout. Still, the Blues need him to snap out of it.
Pros: Top line again
The Maple Leafs get all the press, as do the Avs. NHL Network finally mentioned the Blues line as being one of the best, but more as a sleeper.
Perhaps not on a pure talent level, but I’d put this current top line for St. Louis against any top line. They are that hot.
Tarasenko scored another huge goal. Robert Thomas was a little more quiet, but he still picked up an assist.
Buchnevich was a man on a mission. He threw that gigantic check that got Minnesota off their game at the end of the second period. He also scored a goal and picked up two helpers.
That’s another five points for this trio. Buchnevich’s goal should have been the game winner, but the fact it was not takes nothing away from this fantastic line’s efforts.
It stinks that the Perron goal was not classified as a power play. The Blues went 0/4 since that was not counted.
They had some good looks in their first couple, but missing out on that five-on-three hurt. Bury that one and the Wild probably go away.
Of course, sports talk radio and social media will point out the shots against. The Blues almost gave up another 40 with the Wild hitting the net 36 times.
We all want the Blues to be better defensively, and this style will not hold up against a team like Colorado very well. Even so, this St. Louis team is just built different and we have to accept that.
St. Louis is going to need their goalie to save their butts several times in the playoffs. That’s not that different than 2019. The Blues just have a different way to play in front of the goalie.
They’re more than capable of putting the puck in the net. As fans, we are too far inside the forest to see the trees. We remember the cold snaps, not realizing that the Blues have one of the top scoring teams in the league.
All due credit to the Wild, but if St. Louis plays like they have against Minnesota in the regular season, the Blues are advancing to the second round. The main worry is what difference Marc-Andre Fleury might make.
We got a taste of the playoff atmosphere in this game. The Blues don’t have much time to ice themselves though with Nashville waiting for them just 24 hours later.