The Blues added to their impressive road performances of 2016, eliminating the Dallas Stars convincingly by a score of 6-1. The Blues now have home ice advantage through the rest of the playoffs. A video recap of the game can be seen here
The Blues got on the scoreboard just over 5 minutes into the 1st period on a power play goal from Robby Fabbri. Paul Stasnty made a great pass to Troy Brouwer in the slot. As Brouwer shot, Robby Fabbri darted to the top of the crease and put the rebound into the net. Watching Fabbri’s read and quickness on the play would make you think he is a scorer in the prime of his career, not a rookie.
The Blues thought they had taken a 2-0 lead with just under 2:30 to go in the period but Vladimir Tarasenko’s apparent goal from a bad angle was called back on a coach’s challenge due to offsides. At that point, I expect most Blues fans took a deep breath. This is the type of play that would have been a blow to the team’s pschye, perhaps seeing them doubt themselves and their performance suffer. As many have been saying, this Blues team is different. I like to hope that it is the “dawn of a new era” (thanks Terminator X for such an appropriate line even if you shared it more than 25 years ago).
Less than a minute later, Fabbri curled around the net and fed the puck to Brouwer. Instead of shooting, Brouwer slid the puck to Stasnty at the goal line and he somehow beat Kari Lehtonen from a bad angle. At this point in the game, I mentioned to those with whom I was watching the game with that the Blues needed to get at least one more shot on goal in the last minute and a half because Lehtonen was clearly rattled. With less than 5 seconds left, Patrick Berglund would oblige, beating Lehtonen from blue line, ensuring that Antti Niemi would start the second period. It is interesting to note that if Tarasenko’s goal would have counted, Berglund’s would not have as the Tarasenko offsides call actually added about 5 seconds to the game clock.
About 4 minutes into the 2nd period, David Backes let what would have appeared to be a rather harmless shot from the top of the right circle that beat Niemi to the blocker side. The Blues added another goal with about 5 minutes left in the second period. Brouwer was the recipient of some wonderful passing from Fabbri and Stastny, leaving him with a lot of net to hit on Niemi’s glove side.
The Stars were able to get on the scoreboard about 5 minutes into the 3rd period as a point shot from Alex Goligoski deflected off Joel Edmundson and right to the wheelhouse of Patrick Eaves at the far post for an easy goal. Tarasenko capped off the scoring with an empty net goal with about 5 minutes left in the game.
Brian Elliott stopped 31 of 32 shots, often scrambling and unorthodox. The team in front of him was selling out defensively, working hard and cohesively to get the job done.
When your team significantly wins the goaltending battle, wins the special teams battle and holds the other team’s best players in check, you are likely going to win comfortably.
Let’s look at how the series played out related to Jammer’s Keys
Mission accomplished. Brian Elliott and the Blues had a 93% series save percentage while the Stars had an 88% with Kari Lehtonen slightly above that at 89%. In two of the three Stars wins, the Stars save percentage was 96% combined. In the other five games, their save percentage was less than 85%.
Contain the Stars Big 4
Mission mostly accomplished. Jamie Benn had 1 goal and 4 assists. In only 6 games against the Wild, he had 4 goals and 6 assists. Patrick Sharp only had 1 goal and 1 assist, all in one game. Jason Spezza had 1 goal and 3 assists, down from 4 goals and 5 assists in round 1. Tyler Seguin of course did not dress.
Another big mission accomplished. The Blues penalty kill was 90% efficient while the power play scored at over 27%. The Blues held the Stars power play to less than half its regular season and first round conversion rate. In addition, they continued their 30% playoff improvement on their own power play.
The Blues remained relatively injury free while the Stars never had the services of Tyler Seguin and had to deal with injuries to Travis Moen and Patrick Eaves.
Once again, the Blues rookies played a strong game with the strength of the cast changing. Joel Edmundson continued his growing play, making a great offensive read and scoring his first playoff goal. Robby Fabbri rebounded from his poor performance in game one to assist on two goals in just over 15 minutes of ice time.
NHL Champions for Charity
In what I hope becomes a hockeybuzz tradition, Bill Meltzer and I placed a wager on the series. As a result of the Blues win, Bill will be making a donation to Safe Connections (@SafeConnections on twitter) whose mission is to reduce the impact and incident of relationship violence and sexual assault through education, crisis intervention, and counseling services. Even though I won the bet, I pledge to make a donation to Snider Hockey ( @SniderHockey on twitter) should the Blues make the Stanley Cup Finals. Snider Hockey’s mission is to build lives and unite communities, helping educate young people to succeed in the game of life.
I'm going to work on starting NHL Champion for Charity which I hope will get players and fans to pledge donations for each win their team makes in the NHL playoffs. For the players, it would be great if they would agree to donate a small percentage of their playoff bonuses to charity while fans could donate an amount per win, perhaps both upping it if their team won the Stanley Cup. As a simple example, a player could pledge 0.25% per win with a bonus 1% if they win the Cup, bringing their total to 5%. I likely won't get any traction on this until next year if ever but at least wanted to put the idea out there now.
It’s a great day for hockey.