There is no quit in these Blues
What a strange series this has been so far and yet it is so much like last year. Through six games, the Blues and Avalanche have been within one goal or less of each other in the third period of every game but one, the one the Blues won 4-1. My prediction of this series going six or seven games has come true though my keys to the series have been hit or miss.
Game four saw undisciplined play and some questionable goaltending put the Blues in a hole they couldn’t quite climb out of, falling behind 4-1 before closing the game to one goal and eventually surrendering two empty net goals to lose 6-3.
The Blues were able to hold Nathan MacKinnon, Cale Makar, Gabriel Landeskog, and Mikko Rantanen in check in game three, allowing only the goal to Rantanen but Nazem Kadri roasted the Blues for three goals and an assist. Kadri appeared to use the Blues fans hatred and the disgusting social media vitrol he received as fuel in torching the Blues.
In game four, the Blues continued to get nothing from Vladimir Tarasenko, Robert Thomas, and Ivan Barbashev. Scott Perunovich was again exposed with poor reads in the neutral zone and defensive lapses in his own end. I’m sorry Blues fans but I don’t see a player ready to defend at the NHL level yet. Vince Dunn struggled with this at first but Perunovich appears to be behind even where Dunn was. Of course, Perunovich is ahead of where Dunn was in the offensive side of the game.
Ville Husso’s small trend of giving up untimely goals continued with what appeared to be a fairly stoppable shot by Nazem Kadri to the short side.
What a tough couple of days it was for the Blues fans in their home rink. The Blues went from playing a strong game, in control of the Avalanche and looking to take control of the series, to having their el fuego goalie Jordan Binnington knocked out of the series by an accidentally on purpose play by a known habitual offender. They then got to watch their team collapse and lose their control in both games, only to rally and get right back into the games before weak, short side goaltending let them down. I don’t believe I am the only one who believes this series would already be over had Binnington not been injured.
In Colorado on Wednesday, a unique thing happened in this series, the Avalanche scored first. The team that has scored first usually fares well but no so far in this series. Nathan MacKinnon finally got on the board in this series less than four minutes into the game. David Perron made a terrible neutral zone play with a lazy dump in that gets snagged at the blue line and the transition quickly goes the other way. MacKinnon gets the puck as the trailer and his shot deflects off Nick Leddy’s stick and by Husso.
With a little under seven minutes into the period, Blues fans got a sign of potential good things to come on a faceoff play where the Blues won the draw and Vladimir Tarasenko drove down the right wing, beating Makar to Kuemper. It was a fairly harmless shot and play other than it showed a driving, engaged Tarasenko, something the Blues would need and will continue to need if they are going to rally in this series.
Robert Bortuzzo gets called for a very questionable penalty with about two and half minutes left in the period as he goes down and blocks a shot, Darren Helm gets his stick into Bortuzzo’s body, tangling it in his body and Bortuzzo gets called for holding the stick. As I say a lot, you have to win regardless of the officiating. Shortly thereafter, MacKinnon gets his second goal of the game on the ensuing power play after Husso’s save on the MacKinnon shot rebounds off Colton Parayko’s chest and into the net.
Perron continued his struggles in the game, icing the puck about four minutes into the period. The Avalanche win the resulting face-off and Gabriel Landeskog deflects a Devon Toews shot from the point, making it 3-0.
Tarasenko scored his first of the series, cutting the lead to 3-1 with a little over five minutes left in the second period. You can watch it here - https://www.nhl.com/video/t-334052284/c-11810858
The Blues came out with a much stronger third period and cut the Avalanche lead to one halfway through the period as Pavel Buchnevich sliced through the Avalanche who had four players back before dropping the pass back to Robert Thomas for the one-timer and his first goal of the series.
The Blues kept applying more and more pressure and were rewarded with the game tying goal about five minutes later. Alexi Toropchenko drive hard into the Avalanche zone and started sustained offensive zone pressure that lasted about 45 seconds before Jordan Kyrou jammed home the Toropcheko rebound from a bouncing shot. Toropchenko really had quite a strong game.
The tie wouldn’t last long as MacKinnon would get his hat trick two minutes later with one of the better moves you will see though Blues fans won’t be happy with the Jordan Kyrou stick wave defense that it becoming all to customary. Watch it here - https://www.nhl.com/video/t-334052284/c-11811726
The Blues evened the score with about a minute left, Thomas scoring his second goal of the game from the edge of the net. Again, the Blues had sustained pressure on the play before scoring. Justin Faulk keys this play as he first prevented the empty net goal and then had an important hold of the zone at the blue line. Faulk has consistently been one of the best Blues players all season and is undervalued in my opinion. His game is excellent. He’s not quite to Victor Hedman level but he is a Hedman type defenseman. His overall game is very strong.
Tyler “Game 5” Bozak would score the overtime winner just a few minutes in. He was part of the 2019 Blues vs Jets game five heroics, he was the one who tripped the Bruins Acciari in the Stanley Cup game give that led to a goal, and now the OT winner. Watch the goal here - https://www.nhl.com/video/t-334052284/c-11812159
How many of you had Nathan Walker on the ice for the Blues OT winner? I didn’t think so but there he was putting net front presence on. Good play by him to engage near and around the net on that entire sequence.
Something I have noticed, maybe confirmed, in the last two plus games is that Husso is a blocking goalie in the style of Jaroslav Halak, using body movement and body position, where pucks hit him and move out. He isn’t a puck swallower, absorbing and controlling rebounds like Binnington can. He also doesn’t seem to react as well to deflections as Binningon does and I think this is due to his blocking style, focused in getting his body in line with the shot angle, not necessarily reading as moving to the actual puck as much.
This Blues team just keeps fighting no matter what and they get back into games that many would assume they were completely out of. Hopefully the Blues will be able to get their first home victory in this series tonight. They have won series winning only one of three home games before, look no further than the Stanley Cup Finals.
It’s a great day for hockey.