Blues Score 7 unanswered, Beat Wild
In a season that started with an almost perfect 4-1 victory over the vaunted Colorado Avalanche ended in a 7-3 triumph over the Minnesota Wild. Between those two victories was a topsy turvy season that included major injuries to Oskar Sunquist and Carl Gunnarsson.
Fan Appreciation Night did not start off the way the home team would have wanted. The Minnesota Wild, who were blanked by backup goaltender Ville Husso just one night earlier, took out their frustration on the Note, and starter Jordan Binnington.
St. Louis started the game in the locker room. Minnesota outskated, out passed, outshot, and just plain outplayed the hometown team. The Wild even rested some of their starters including Star rookie Kirill Kaprizov and Blues killer Kevin Fiala.
The Wild opened the scoring with two goals coming 43 seconds apart. Nico Sturm gave Minnesota a 1-0 lead at 3:23 of the first period on a rebound, the kind of goal the Blues have had trouble scoring all year. Ryan Suter scored on a laser from the left point to make it 2-0. Nick Foligno increased the lead to 3-0 at 16:04 when he became a soccer and baseball player on the ice batting in a rebound over the pad of Binnington.
Twenty minutes in the books and Minnesota looked to be in full control. The Note have had a rough go of it in the second period this season. Coming into this game they were a minus -15 overall and a minus -11 at home.
St. Louis head coach Craig Berube must have gone all fire and brimstone on them in the locker room because a different team came out.
They scored seven straight goals including 4 in the second period. David Perron had two goals and an assist and became the first point per game player for St. Louis since the late Pavol Demitra in 2002-2003.
Perron on point-per-game avg: "It’s nice, it’s been in the back of my head for a bit. After a certain amount of games, you don’t know how long you can sustain that… It’s definitely pretty cool, and hearing what Panger said about Pavol Demitra, it’s cool.” https://t.co/adnolwb5hw— x – St. Louis Blues (@StLouisBlues) May 14, 2021
Here's Kyrou's 14th of the season … https://t.co/JZSX0KHPtv— Jeremy Rutherford (@jprutherford) May 14, 2021
The power play, which was much maligned, this season went from 28th in the league to eighth on the strength of two pp goals from Scheen. The power play finished the night 3-4
And finally Schenn's 16th goal of the season (6th of the year on the PP) … https://t.co/zXkWICqU9H— Jeremy Rutherford (@jprutherford) May 14, 2021
The Blues finished the season with 63 points. Winning 27 games to go along with 20 regulation losses and 20 overtime/shootout losses. Good enough for fourth place in the Honda West Division and a date with those same Avalanche.
St Louis Faces Avalanche in the First Round
Colorado picked up their third President’s Trophy finishing tied with the Vegas Golden Knight at 82 points. The Avalanche owned the tiebreaker, regulation wins 35-30.
The Blues will go into this first-round match-up the underdogs. Moneypuck.com only gives the Blues a 15.7% chance of advancing. According to a tweet released by the website, the Blues are the biggest underdog since they started keeping track in 2016.
The Avs, Stan Kroenke’s, hockey team and the Blues have met only once in the playoffs. In 2001 Colorado bested the Note in five games on their way to their second Stanley Cup. The Avalanche also won the President’s Trophy that season.
Blue Captain Ryan O’Reilly gave the Avs a bit of bulletin board fodder when he guaranteed a series win for the Blues.
“When we’re skating and we’re physical, I think we give them a lot of issues,” O’Reilly said. “Whether that’s forecheck or defending. When we play our heavy game and commit to it and put pucks in and don’t feed their rush, we make it tough on them and find ways to beat them. That’s what we’ve got to do. That’s got to be our focus. We know that they have a lot of talent over there. They work hard, but for us, it’s an exciting challenge. We’re going to have some fun and we’re going to beat them.”
For O’Reilly, this may just be personal. Colorado took him 33rd overall in the second round of the 2009 entry draft. He played six years for the Denver team. Netting 90 goals 156 assists for 246 points in 427 games. O’Reilly also was the recipient of the 2014 Lady Byng Trophy. All of that was not enough as Colorado traded him to Buffalo during the 2015 offseason.
The bad blood between St. Louis and Colorado has been festering for years. During the 2017-2018 season the eighth playoff spot came down to the two cities one the last night of the regular season. Once again, the Avalanche would crush the Blues winning the game and advancing to the playoffs.
This time history may not be so good to the Avalanche. The Blues have 16 players from the Stanley Cup-winning team and they add Kyle Clifford and his two rings in the offseason. Experience is on the side of the Blues. The Avalanche have not made it past the second round of the playoffs during this four-year run.
The Blues have been to the conference finals twice since 2016, winning once. Six players from 2016 are still with the Blues. Vladimir Tarasenko, Colton Parayko, Jaden Schwartz, Robert Bortuzzo, Gunnarsson (on IR), and Binnington, who play in only one game that season. Steve Ott is now an assistant coach for the Blues.
The Blues have had a less than stellar season. Injuries and a lack of chemistry plagued the team for most of the season. At one point the Blues were in sixth place in the division. The month of April saw the Blues face the Avalanche six times with the Ava winning four. Both teams scored 17 goals with only one game, a 4-1 Blues win, being decided by more than one goal or an empty-net goal.
Should the Note be down one late, they should not panic. They have been the best team in the league with the goalie pulled. The Blues have netted nine goals with the extra man 8 more than the Avalanche.
The first-round matchup should be better than the numbers suggest. Both teams are coming in hot and both feel like they have something to prove. To go along with that both Colorado and St. Louis will have more fans in the building than they have all year. St. Louis announced they have been authorized to increase the total of fans to 9,000 and Colorado will increase to 7,500. The seventh man will be back for both teams.
Guy “Hawaii Blues Fan” Bensing