The St. Louis Blues came into Game 2 against the Minnesota Wild with confidence, knowing they won their first game and didn’t even play their best. However, they needed to know that their opponent was going to come out hard to start the second contest.
While that was true in terms of some physical play and throwing the puck at the net, the Wild weren’t as sharp as you would have thought. They created some good looks at the net, but failed to get a shot on goal in the first nine minutes. Their best chance actually would not have counted since it was knocked toward goal with a high stick.
Conversely, the Blues were sort of ho-hum overall, but still got things done. They had the first two shots on goal, hit a crossbar and also threw a couple big hits, one of which was Brayden Schenn practically launching himself into Kevin Fiala.
All of that didn’t amount to anything as the Wild scored the first goal of the game with 10:27 left in the first. Robert Bortuzzo’s stick snapped right as he was going to clear the puck. With everyone leaving the zone, the Wild hit a backdoor play since there was only two defenders back and Bortz had no twig.
It was the first time the Wild scored first against the Blues all season. It also ended a streak of 69 minutes-plus without allowing a goal.
Minnesota got a power play not long after with a questionable high stick call. In a reversal from Game 1, the Wild made the Blues pay, scoring both on a power play and on a rebound.
St. Louis got their first power play with about five minutes left. The Blues had one good shot that resulted in a rebound, but nobody could get there.
Faulk took another penalty with 2:05 left. The Blues had more bad luck as Bortuzzo took a puck to the ear and then the Wild scored after a scramble play to make it 3-0.
You can argue the penalties if you want and would not be wrong. The bottom line is Minnesota made the Blues pay.
That continued in the first minute of the second period. Vladimir Tarasenko fanned on a clearing pass and the Wild scored directly off that.
Husso was not great, but these were not really his fault either. Minnesota had four goals off nine shots, so it was just them taking advantage of the breaks.
Minnesota got another power play after a tripping call. They failed to capitalize on that one and a few minutes later, the Blues went a man up after an interference penalty.
St. Louis got another power play minutes later, but it just seemed like everything was going to be a reverse of Game 1. After a broken play that seemed like an easy clear, Tarasenko kept the puck in the zone and eventually Jordan Kyrou put one in to make it 4-1.
The questionable officiating crew missed a clear delay of game call. The Blues got stoned on an odd man rush, but did draw a penalty and then failed to get a shot off on that power play.
The Blues needed an early one in the third to have any kind of a chance. They didn’t even get a shot in the first four minutes but then Tarasenko connected on a one-timer to make it 4-2 with 15:46 left in the period.
St. Louis had a great push after that and were unlucky to not bring the game within one. Unfortunately, a break the other way led to a Kirill Kaprisov goal and then the Wild knocked in another one seconds later to make the game 6-2.
The sixth goal was taken away due to an offside. It was put back on the board less than a minute later as the Wild put it into an empty net.
The Blues ended up falling by that final of 6-2. It wasn’t the worst game we’ve seen, but there just weren’t enough plays to capitalize on.
Cons: Unlucky first
You had to know the Wild would eventually score, eventually score the first goal and also come out with some fire and get their crowd into the game. What stunk, from the Blues perspective, is it all felt so unearned.
That’s not to say the Wild players didn’t do enough to earn those goals, but they didn’t earn the power plays. Twice, the trail referee called something he thought he saw, not what actually happened.
On the first goal, it was going to be an easy exit from Bortuzzo to spring a push up the ice. Instead, because of faulty equipment, the Wild are gifted a goal when they hadn’t been playing their best.
On top of all that, Marc-Andre Fleury got unearned momentum. I saw lots of tweets about him standing on his head, but none of the saves in the first period were that great.
His biggest test was that left pad save where there was a big rebound. St. Louis simply did not have anyone close enough to cash in.
Bortuzzo taking a puck to the head was bad enough, but the Wild scored on the ensuing play. Minnesota did the dirty work and picked up the rebounds, but that was about as bad a result as you could get for the Blues through 20 minutes when they actually outworked the Wild in most aspects.
Cons: Overpraise of Fleury
As this game went along and the Blues found themselves, that’s when Fleury started actually making good or great saves. However, if you listen to the pundits and social media people, the only reason the Blues didn’t win this game is because of the Wild goaltender.
People were kissing Fleury’s rear end even in the first period. The saves he made were pedestrian.
St. Louis hit him with the puck more often than not. However, what this did was give him confidence and a chance for the crowd to get behind him.
He still looked shaky on some shots because of his unorthodox style. If St. Louis had more second opportunities, they’d probably have scored more goals. Instead, there was not as much traffic or rebound looks.
Fleury made some decent saves, but even then if the Blues had someone in his grill, they’d have scored.
This is not to take anything away from the proven playoff performer. His performance, over an entire 60 minutes, was on par with Husso in Game 1.
However, this overpraise for saves made when the puck hits you and you had no clue what was going on is a bit much.
For the second game in a row, the Blues could have been better. In this game, they got behind early and the game could have easily gotten out of reach far before it did.
St. Louis could have used a late goal in the second period, but they still got an early one in the third. They had a fantastic push after that too.
It was the third period where Fleury was actually tested and stood up to that test. Credit to the Blues for keeping their composure and making a valiant comeback attempt even when their luck was awful.
For a game that the Blues got blown out in, it really wasn’t all that worrying. You’d like Husso and the defense to have played a little better and you’d like the offense to have done a little more, but they were trying.
Nobody had a horrendous game. It was just one of those nights.
The worrying thing is the injuries. You’re already without Nick Leddy and now Bortuzzo did not return to this game. Whether he just needed repairs to his ear or whether he had a concussion is anyone’s guess.
Rebound control was a worry for Husso at the end of the year and again in this game. Still, you can’t fully blame him for most of the goals.
The first goal was off a fluke broken stick. The power play goals came off calls that either shouldn’t have been made or didn’t need to be made.
The Blues hit a couple crossbars and a post. Fleury was great in the third, but the Blues also didn’t get the puck luck with the rebounds coming right to them the way they did in Game 1.
Overall, I’m fine with this game. It was basically a mirror image of the first game where the teams were more even than the score would indicate, but one got timely saves and capitalized on power plays.
St. Louis simply needs to come out and dominate on their home ice. Clean up a couple things and get some good bounces and this series can easily be 3-1 Blues when they travel back to Minnesota.