The St. Louis Blues had an incredible, emotional win in Game 5 against the Colorado Avalanche. Playing on home ice, the question was whether they had emptied the tank or could rally around that effort.
The answer was about as convoluted as you could get. St. Louis made the most out of a little for much of the evening, but they were also flirting with disaster all night long.
The Blues fell back into their defensive shell, whether by design or being forced to by an amped Avalanche squad. Going into the game, everyone knew St. Louis couldn’t afford another 26-6 shot first period, so the Blues only got outshot 13-7.
The problem was those seven all came late in the period. It was 11-2 past the midway part of the period and then 20-8 well into the second period.
Nevertheless, Ville Husso was on point and St. Louis took advantage of the few Colorado miscues they could. The first came with just over a minute left in the first.
St. Louis had a rare bit of offensive zone pressure and the Avs failed to clear the zone. Justin Faulk made them pay with a laser from the slot that beat Darcy Kuemper over the blocker and into the upper corner to make it 1-0 with one minute left.
The Avalanche came even harder in the second period, but the Blues were holding their ground for a good while. Unfortunately, with the long change, the defenders for St. Louis got caught out for over three minutes. That was unsustainable when the Blues failed to get the puck deep enough for Nick Leddy to get off and Colorado eventually scored after a scramble in front to tie it 1-1.
The Blues were flirting with more danger with the Avs putting more pressure on, looking like they were going to score their second and third quickly. Instead, the Blues took advantage of another Colorado mistake.
The Avs got careless with the puck at the offensive blue line when Jack Johnson took a poor angle and Brayden Schenn took off down the right wing. The defender went down far too early, setting up a great pass to Jordan Kyrou to bury and make it 2-1.
St. Louis was playing a valiant defensive effort in the third period, but it eventually became too much. Colton Parayko took an awful delay of game penalty close to the halfway point and the Avs would beat Husso over the glove to tie it 2-2 with one second left on the man advantage.
That goal proved to be costly as the game came toward a close. Husso had made several quality saves and it seemed as though overtime was looming, but a shot from the left circle beat Husso glove side again.
Colorado won it with just under six seconds left. The Blues got a shot off, but it was almost impossible to sneak one in from that distance and St. Louis fell 3-2 and 4-2 in the series.
You want to talk about polar opposites, just look to Jordan Kyrou in this game. He seemed to be either fantastic or awful.
When he was on, he was on. Kyrou was engaged and slipping by defenders, using his speed to slip by up the wings.
Kyrou showcased his abilities on the goal. He put himself into the right spot to take the pass and had the calmness to bury it like a veteran would.
On the flip side, he was weak along the boards again. He had his pocket picked or simply failed to get the puck in on an easy dump. There were times he just played like it was a December game that meant nothing.
Of course, we cannot ignore the failed conversions too. The breakaway, I’ll give him a pass.
You’d like an elite scorer to bury that one, but it just nicked off the pad. Maybe it misses wide even if it cleared the pad?
The biggest miss was when Kyrou got Kuemper out of his crease and then shot it right into the defender. All credit in the world to the braveness of the block, but Kyrou needed to shoot that long before he did. There should have never been a block attempt, but he kept waiting and waiting.
That would have made it 3-1 and maybe game over. Instead, we know the result.
Let’s get the elephant out of the way. In an ideal world, Husso stops those last two Colorado goals.
I’m more upset about the tying goal than the game winner, but take your pick. I just feel like Husso needed to have a more active glove, but he’s had problems with the trapper all series.
Regardless, this game was only winnable for the Blues because of him. Husso was strong on his posts and his pad work was phenomenal.
The ability to keep his pads sealed more times than not was what allowed the Blues to keep the score low. The Avs kept coming, time after time, and Husso had the answers.
Nobody was stopping that first goal and the blame rests with the team’s inability to get the puck deep enough for a proper change. Husso played valiantly, but sadly lost valiantly.
As said, in an ideal world, he stops one or both of those last goals. Without him, the Blues don’t even get that late in the game with the opportunity to win.
Like Kyrou, Parayko can be fantastic at times. There were moments in this game where he looked like the elite defender the Blues want and need, but his boneheaded plays overshadowed all that.
He took a needless icing in the midst of Leddy’s 3-plus minute shift. You’re practically seven feet tall in skates (not really, but you know). Skate the blasted thing out and use your power to bull rush the forecheckers.
That delay of game penalty speaks for itself. Maybe you say the puck is rolling. It doesn’t matter. You have to be aware enough of your position on the ice, i.e. backing up over your own blue line, to not even try to lift it. Take it all the way back at that point or slap it down for an icing. I don’t care. You cannot give the Avs a power play in that moment in the game.
Like all the Blues defenders, Faulk had his moments where you wondered what was going on. We have to realize how difficult it can be to keep up with multiple skaters who are in the top 1% of the NHL.
Faulk had himself a game though. His ability to keep the puck in the zone benefitted the Blues on several occasions.
The goal was simply an elite shot.
What is more about that play is Faulk could easily have said the period was over and went to the bench. Instead, he looped back around, found the empty space and made himself available for the pass.
The shot was just wicked. People won’t give it the credit it deserves, but even though Kuemper got his blocker on that, there was no stopping it. There was simply not enough reaction time and the shot was placed well enough that it was scoring no matter what.
Cons: Season ending
If Colorado was going to win the game, I suppose it doesn’t matter if it was in the final seconds or in overtime. It’s just as heartbreaking either way.
The sad part is that this game was there for the taking. If Kyrou buries either, or both, of his chances, the Blues win.
If Husso stops any of those last two goals, the Blues win. If St. Louis wins Game 6, I think they win Game 7. You could tell the Avs were starting to sweat, even when they had the better of the play.
That said, the Avs played well enough and deserved to win. I don’t see Edmonton standing a chance, so the Avs may win the whole thing unless the Eastern Conference can defend a little.
The disheartening part is that the Blues were good enough to beat the Avs. They just couldn’t sustain that long enough.
Unlike in 2019, the Blues didn’t overcome their adversity. They couldn’t steal a win in an all-time performance by Jordan Binnington in Game 1. They couldn’t overcome the disappointment of Binner’s injury in Game 3 and were too focused on Nazem Kadri in Game 4.
When the Blues were focused and playing their game, they had success, both in this game and in the series. There were just too many times where they seemed to respect the Avs’ talent a little too much. Understandable, but disappointing.
Now, the season is over and the questions begin. Who stays and who goes. Is anyone a salary cap casualty?
These are all questions we will ask over the coming days and weeks. For now, it’s just sad the season is done.
For once, I think we can all admit the Blues lost to a team that was better in this series. I will contend the Blues could and should have won the series if a thing here or there went their way, but it didn’t.
If nothing else, at least Kadri didn’t score the game winner. I don’t believe Kuemper is a Stanley Cup goaltender, but the fact is Chris Osgood and Matt Murray won Cups and were not the main reason, so it happens.
This is sports for you. It always feels like it’s there for the taking to the losing side, but whether it really was or we just had hope, is our own feelings. The bottom line is it’s over and we have a summer to wait until next season’s hope begins again.