The St. Louis Blues knew the Minnesota Wild were not going to go quietly into that good night. With their season on the line, the Wild came out strong in St. Louis for Game 6.
The Wild had the first four shots on goal before the Blues got theirs. While all the offense for either team was sparse at first – just five total shots in the first eight minutes – St. Louis still had to be on their toes.
Jordan Binnington had to be sharp too. Something as simple as a failed clearance led to a point blank shot, but Binnington was confidently out on top of his crease to make the glove save.
It seemed as though the Blues were going to play for the scoreless first period. They had opportunities into the zone, but there just was not a lot to show for it. For the longest time, the team’s best shot was a Vladimir Tarasenko rocket that went right into Cam Talbot’s glove.
But, you never know what to expect in the playoffs. Somewhat out of nowhere, Nick Leddy took the puck from zone to zone and then used the defender as a screen and a wrister slipped by Talbot on the near-post side for a 1-0 lead that the Blues made last through the rest of the first.
It definitely was not the best period for the Blues. They only had four shots on goal.
The offense continued to be a little sketchy early in the second. The Blues had a two-on-one and Brayden Schenn hit the post and then missed a deflection on the next chance.
The Blues were playing with fire defending quite a bit and then Robert Bortuzzo took a high sticking penalty. They had a fantastic penalty kill, however, and actually had the best looks on goal during that two-minute stretch.
The Blues kept that momentum up and forced the Wild into an error. The officials finally called a delay of game against the Wild after missing two or three other ones earlier in this series.
St. Louis wasted little time on the power play. A quick play down into the corner and a fantastic pass to Ryan O’Reilly in front made it 2-0 with a roof-shot one timer.
Interestingly, the game went back and forth yet the shot totals stayed low. Credit has to go to the defense for making some blocks, but both teams were putting shots wide too.
Nevertheless, the Blues made the most of their looks. Alexei Toropchenko made a strong move to the net and got denied on the initial chance only for Tyler Bozak to pick up his first playoff point on the rebound goal.
The officials got involved a little too much late in the second period. The Blues earned a power play on a rather dubious call where Jordan Kyrou actually grabbed his opponent’s stick.
Regardless, they took advantage again. This time it was Vladimir Tarasenko knocking one in from one knee to make it 4-0.
The Blues got an equally lame hooking call against them with seven seconds left in the period when Calle Rosen had his stick grabbed by the opponent.
While a 4-0 lead was commanding, the Blues needed to not give the Wild any daylight. Binnington made a good save on Kirill Kaprisov and then had some luck as a hard shot rang off the post behind him.
St. Louis had an opportunity to put the final nail in the coffin with another power play. They failed to generate even a shot and that gave the Wild some life.
The Blues were doing a little too much defending, backing in just a little too much. This opened up a blast from Matt Dumba that beat Binnington to the glove side with 13:35 to go.
Shortly after that goal, the Blues took another foolish penalty. The PK came up large, again, killing off another Wild power play to keep the lead at three.
St. Louis played a pretty even keel game from then on. While Minnesota had a chance here or there, the Blues didn’t let them pressure non stop.
Eventually, Colton Parayko flipped one down into an empty net to ice it. The Blues won the game 5-1 and the series 4-2.
I said prior to Game 5, and it rang true for Game 6 as well, the Blues needed to stick with Binnington. He is not the de facto starter for the rest of the playoffs, but he earned every game he’s been in so far and paid the Blues back with solid performances.
That was true in this game, for sure. Neither team had a ton of shots on goal compared to other games in this series, but when you’re in a potential series ending game, each shot on takes on added significance.
The Blues could not afford any softies to go in against them, especially early. The Wild were not peppering the net in the first period, but they had good looks.
The aforementioned save on Jordan Greenway was very big by Binnington. You let that one in and the game swings entirely the other way.
After the first period, Binnington was not tested incredibly often, but he still made some good saves. At the very least, he made the saves you expect him to make.
The Blues have been defensively challenged, but they played reasonably well in this game, minus the penalties. They needed their goaltender to simply do his job on a night when he didn’t really need to bail them out of a ton of situations.
Binnington did that. 25 saves doesn’t look that impressive on paper, but they were timely and helped the team win.
Cons: First period
One thing I will give the Blues is that they came prepared for this game to implement a gameplan. Unlike Game 3, they were not trying to end things in the first five minutes.
The Blues knew the Wild were coming. They were going to sit back a moment, weather the storm and then get to their game.
While that worked in result, it didn’t really work on practice. The Blues were quite fortunate things did not turn out differently after 20 minutes.
St. Louis only mustered four shots in the first period. They allowed 10 and the Wild had almost double that for chances.
This was not your typical game where the Blues didn’t get a shot until almost halfway through the period, though statistically that was accurate. Nevertheless, you run the risk of things not going your way.
On top of that, the Blues gave the Wild two first period power plays. We can argue the validity of the calls, but when Minnesota’s only two goals in Game 5 came on the power play, you don’t want to give them that kind of hope early in this contest.
Pros: Offensive efficiency
Say what you will about lack of overall shots, especially in the first period. Four shots is not a recipe for success, but when you score on 25% of those shots, how much can you complain?
Should Leddy’s goal have gone in? Absolutely not, but those are the breaks you need in the playoffs.
That’s kind of how the entire game went. The Blues didn’t have a ton of looks on goal, but they made them count.
They finished the game with 27 shots. They scored five goals.
The power play didn’t muster a shot on every chance it had either. Nevertheless, they scored two power play goals, often scoring on the first shot of that power play.
Guys chipped in that you expected and some you didn’t. Tyler Bozak had been lacking offensively, but picked the right time to get his first goal.
Tarasenko and O’Reilly have been on fire and continued that. Parayko’s empty netter was icing on the cake.
Cons: National TV crew
I’ll start off by saying, I don’t have firsthand knowledge of this. I was told by one of our readers that watched the national broadcast.
I watched the Ballys broadcast because I prefer a hometown slant. There is generally more energy to it.
However, as a broadcaster myself, I know the national guys have it difficult. The more neutral you try to be, the more you’re going to tick off both fanbases because you’re not calling it how they see it.
With that in mind, it is incredibly disappointing to hear them screw up easy things and also actually make slightly biased comments. I get that today’s broadcasts are meant to be more opinionated, but keep certain comments to yourself.
The one that really got to me was, apparently, the color commentator Butch Goring made a comment about St. Louis fans liking their football team too. Again, I did not hear it myself, so maybe there was a certain tone that made it more acceptable or maybe the guy is that clueless?
The more likely answer is he’s a jerk and thought it was a funny dig. Why he would feel the need to take a dig at St. Louis is beyond me.
The guy didn’t play for any Minnesota teams, nor any Blues rivals in his career. He’s not from Minnesota or the United States either.
On top of that, Brendan Burke, who is a talented broadcaster, also crapped the bed a couple times. He called Brayden Schenn “Luke Schenn” and also called Enterprise Center “Scottrade Center”.
These guys have a tough job because they’re not associated with either team, so it’s more information to remember. Still, you’re calling the game at the highest level and making rookie mistakes. I would say I expect better, but the national coverage for both ESPN and TNT has been pretty awful this season, in my opinion.
Was this the dominating, statement win Blues fans would have liked going into a series against the Colorado Avalanche? Not at all.
The scoreline of 5-1 makes it seem more dominant than it was. In the end, who cares?
It wasn’t dominant, but it was not a nail biter either. When the biggest gripe was some questionable penalties called, your night is going pretty well.
One of the biggest factors in this game, and the series, was special teams. While Minnesota got those two power play goals in Game 5, the Blues special teams dominated overall.
They had two goals on six chances in this game. They kept the Wild off the board on five power play attempts, which may have been the deciding factor.
Looking ahead, things are going to get even tougher. The Avs are the Avs.
I don’t like how much people kiss their butts or bow before them, but the truth is they are an incredibly talented team. The Blues have the edge in net, but maybe not anywhere else.
Binnington and Ville Husso might need to steal a few. That’s something for a few days from now.
Overall, this was a big game win and a big series win. The Blues had crashed out in the first round the last two years and needed to get a win.
On to Colorado.