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Blues/Kings, Game 3 - Really, it sucked (and Sens/Habs thoughts)

May 6, 2013, 10:31 AM ET [33 Comments]
Chip McCleary
St Louis Blues Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
Sometimes you get nostalgic about things in the past and want to remember it as being better than it really was. You get caught up in the hype, buy into the name, and think "this is the greatest thing ever" ... and only after reflection do you realize, "you know what, that really sucked - how could I have been so duped?" The Disco Era, Return of the Jedi, anything by Cheap Trick or Elvis Costello, Survivor since about the 4th season, ... at the time, people thought (and maybe even still think) they were really great things - but if you look back and think about it, you can say "you know what, they were never really that good." Game 3 on Saturday night between the Blues and the Kings falls into that category as well.

Oh sure, it was exciting to watch - and even though it was a 1-0 game, we all thought "man, great game, defense is incredible, goalies are standing on their heads, ... what excitement!" I spent Sunday afternoon watching a replay, though ... and after trying to analyze it, it was pretty apparent how sloppy that game was. Defense was outstanding on both sides, sure - but the offense? The 6-year old across the street shows more creativity than either team did. Missed chances on both sides, lots of firing through a crowd hoping for a miracle, the Blues all but holding up a sign saying "WE'RE GOING TO SHOOT!" about 2 seconds before virtually every shot attempted, ... if you don't like imagination on offense and prefer "throw everything at the net, no matter how little sense it makes" styles of play, you were in heaven watching that game.

Don't get me wrong, I love good 1-0 and 2-1 games - but Saturday night really wasn't a "good" game. I'm sure it's also the kind of game both sides don't want to have to play 4 more times in this series, because it's no longer a real test to see who the better team is at that point. It's a hockey game where the winner might as well be decided on whose mascot wins a single faceoff. As much as both teams know goaltending is going to be excellent and goals will be at a premium, neither one should have "let's go try to win 1-0" as the game plan; trust the goalies to do their job, and go open it up on offense.

I expect a more open game tonight with a little less physical play as both teams get focused on trying to win and take momentum going back to St. Louis. If both teams start trying to slug it out like they did Saturday night, it may be yet another 1-0 game that seems great at the time but is really a sloppy mess when you take a second look.


The big news for the Blues is that Vladimir Tarasenko appears to be going into the lineup tonight. No word on whose place he'll take; Blues fans should feel free to offer up suggestions here. If you go by "least effective forward" I think Oshie is the clear choice; Oshie has just been terrible throughout the first 3 games so far. If it's "forward most ill-equipped to deal with the Kings" it's McDonald, who has regularly been knocked off the puck when challenged by the Kings.

The next question is where to put him. I'm tempted to say "up on the Backes line with Steen" and see if he can take advantage of the opportunities being created there. I suspect he'll be on a line with Sobotka in some manner, though. Tarasenko has shined in the playoffs over in the KHL, so it will be interesting to see what he's learned watching the first 3 games of this series and whether he can bring that same elevated level of play to tonight's game.


I'll recap my thoughts on the other playoff series below, but I want to spend extra time on Ottawa/Montreal because I watched most of that game last night.

Before the playoffs started, I called the Senators to win the series. The Sens had confidence and were getting healthy and had played better down the stretch, while the Canadiens had struggled after a strong start and the goaltending had been poor - and I didn't see any reason why that would change. Last night was the epitomy of the stretch run for both teams. Craig Anderson stymied guys all night long, while Carey Price was terrible in net. (Rumor has it that he asked for deodorant in the locker room after the game and a teammate tossed him a stick ... and it got past him too.) The Sens came out and played physical, and the Habs took it as a sign to go try and take liberties - and it continually came back to haunt them. In the 3rd, it all boiled over for the Habs - and it underscores why they're not likely to come back from down 2-1 unless there's a serious change. The Habs are still trying to focus on message-sending after the Gryba hit on Eller in Game 1, while the Senators are picking apart the Habs when they try to do that, making it easier for them to win games and the series.

Following a Kyle Turris goal that extended the Sens lead to 4-1, everything came to a head with 12:56 to play. Ryan White and Zack Smith exchanged shoves before White landed a slash to the leg of Smith, touching off a line brawl on the ice. That might have been fine if the Canadiens could have backed it up - but they didn't. The Senators won all 5 fights, some pretty convincingly. The Sens got a PP from the slash by White, and 4 seconds later Jakob Silfverberg deposited a pass behind Price to make it 5-1.

You'd think that Montreal would have said, "shit - that didn't work ... let's just get out of here" but apparently they subscribed to the rule of "when in trouble, keep digging." P.K. Subban picked up an instigator for dropping the gloves with Kyle Turris. Rene Bourque tried to mix it up with Cory Conacher. Brandon Prust landed an elbow on Conacher. Brendan Gallagher missed getting an instigator for dropping the gloves on Conacher. Bourque decided to take another run at Turris. It was stupid penalty after stupid penalty by Montreal in a game long since decided, in some vain effort to keep trying to seek out retribution - and it continually backfired on them.

The crowning moment was the time-out taken by Paul MacLean with 18 seconds to play, which infuriated the Habs bench and caused Josh Gorges to intentionally fire the puck at Turris as time ran out. More words were exchanged, and I'm sure more "we'll get you next game" remarks were dished out by the few Canadiens players left ... and the Sens just smiled and went to their locker room knowing they're up 2-1 in the series and have the Canadiens focused on everything put actually playing hockey. It was absurd, but it was also embarrassing for a franchise that has prided itself in class and excellence but engaged in something more fitting of a cellar-dwelling team trying to win by dropping the gloves because it knows it can't win on the ice.

And that's really the crux of it. Sure, Montreal fans can be pissed about the time-out and Neil playing to the crowd after the fight and anything else from the first 2 games they want to be ... but in the end, it's all about scoring goals. If Montreal is focusing more on scoring goals and less on trying to run guys, none of that other stuff happens. The goonish tactics that Montreal tried to employ in the 3rd was exactly what other teams tried to do to Montreal in the late 70s when the Habs were winning the Cup 4 straight times ... and the repeated scoring on the PP by the Senators was exactly what Montreal would have done back then.

Michel Therrien has to get his players to forget about everything that happened last night and get them refocused on the bigger prize. If he can't, the Habs won't have to worry about making a return trip to Ottawa this season - and it may call into question (again) whether Therrien is really the right guy to lead Montreal back to the Cup.


Around the rest of the playoffs:

San Jose vs. Vancouver - the Canucks looked like maybe they'd have a chance ... and then the 3rd period started. Since being up 3-2 going to Boston with a chance to win the Cup in 2011, the Canucks have lost 9 of their last 10 playoff games, getting outscored 32-15 in the process. I'm not sure what's more surprising, the play of the Sharks or the play of the Canucks - but this is the kind of effort the Sharks have needed (and didn't get) in past playoff years. At the same time, it begs a serious question: has the Cup window closed on Vancouver?

NY Islanders vs. Pittsburgh - the OT penalty call on Mark Streit may have been iffy, but it wasn't a total and complete dive by Crosby either. Close to the net, hands off the stick, ... that's going to get called, like it or not. It's clear that when the Penguins want to play, they can dominate the Islanders. When they don't, though, the Islanders have enough firepower to make things difficult and swipe a game. Staying motivated through this series may be the biggest problem Pittsburgh has, but the play of Marc-Andre Fleury in net is going to be a problem for the Pens going forward.

Minnesota vs. Chicago - the Blackhawks have 2 big hurdles to clear to win a Cup. The first is "don't run into a hot goalie," and the other is "get at least good goaltending from Crawford." After Saturday afternoon, the Hawks may have both problems going right now. This is still a winnable series for Chicago, and I still think they take it in the end, but Matt Zucker's OT goal is the kind that just kills a goalie's confidence. Like the Penguins, Chicago seemingly has this "OK, we'll start playing and we'll win this game" attitude which they've used successfully for much of the season - but in the playoffs against a hot goalie, deciding to only play 20-25 minutes of a game may backfire.


Game time is 9:00pm tonight; GDT will be up this evening.
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