St. Louis Blues can right the ship, even with injuries
After three games in the first round of the 2022 NHL Playoffs, it’s not looking so good for the St. Louis Blues. After winning the first game, they were outscored 11-3 in the next two games.
Minnesota scored two of those goals in three minutes. They scored six of those goals in just over 40 of 120 minutes played.
On top of that, the Blues are dealing with injury issues. Marco Scandella missed the first two games and the Blues also lost Robert Bortuzzo, Nick Leddy and Torey Krug in the space of three games as well.
Scandella returned for Game 3, but the Blues lost Krug. It’s a washout at best, but St. Louis lost one of its best puck movers in addition to the guys it already had out of the roster.
Sounds pretty serious, right? Yes and no.
Ultimately, if the Blues don’t get any of these defenders back, it will be incredibly difficult to win. Even if they found a way to scrape Minnesota, there’s just no way to slow Colorado down if you don’t have your best guys.
However, all is not gloomy. There are things in the Blues’ power to change that can swing things in their favor.
First and foremost, they need to stop trying to destroy the Minnesota Wild. St. Louis had 39 hits in Game 2. They had 33 in Game 3.
The only game St. Louis won, they had just 23 hits. It was also not a physical penalty of 23 hits.
The Blues tried to knock the Wild off their skates in both games they lost. They were composed and playing their own style in the first game and the results are showing on the scoreboard.
It’s great that Saint-Louis wants to commit and be physical. They’re not built like they were in 2019 and the injuries show it. It should be noted that Leddy’s injury was the result of a low blow, but the fact is the Blues are not made to play that way. They are racehorses, not Clydesdales.
In addition to the physical game, Saint-Louis needs to regain its composure. You can’t win the match in the first five minutes, so stop trying.
Game 3 was the biggest example of that. The Blues were absolutely flying and trying to get a goal in the first 20 seconds.
In doing so, they exposed themselves. When defense has been a liability all year, you can’t just fly everyone around the offensive zone because a quick burst leads to a break the other way. St. Louis allowed 12 or more rushes in this series alone. It is a defense system and the system breaks down when you throw caution to the wind.
You certainly can’t win the game in the first five minutes, but you can lose it. In Game 3, when you allow two goals in the first two minutes and switch, you get behind the eight ball too soon.
Even in Game 2, the Blues just couldn’t put a stopper on it. Minnesota didn’t score until 9:33, but got the goals on chance hits, like a broken stick. The Wild scored two more goals over the next 10 minutes and had a 2-0 lead with less than five minutes to go.
The Blues just need to calm down a bit. They had the first goal scored against them and did not calm down.
Clearly, in this series, scoring the first goal is going to be very important. Although the sample size was small, the team that scored first not only won, but ran away at the end of the contest.
If nothing else, the Blues need their big guns to step up. David Perron did it in Game 1 and Ryan O’Reilly was consistent. Other than that, there wasn’t much.
The team’s top line of Robert Thomas, Vladimir Tarasenko and Pavel Buchnevich has one goal and five points. Someone in this threesome needs to be warm.
In an ideal world, the Blues would have to play to keep the game scoreless for about half of the first period, if not the entire period. Obviously that can change if you have healthier bodies, but they have to let the emotional wave of the opening section pass and then settle down.
If you score a goal within that time, that’s the icing on the cake. The Blues need to focus on team defense, make simple plays to get out of the zone and follow the puck instead of the forechecker.
The Blues must be more interested in puck recovery than hitting. They just need to simplify their game.
Minnesota has top-notch talent, but they’re not much better than the Blues. They look like it for two games, but all it takes is a win in Game 4 and it’s a different series.
We all have short memories, but the 2019 playoffs didn’t go very well in any of the series. The Blues looked set to sweep the Winnipeg Jets in the first two games, then, like now, they went for hits instead of plays and lost two straight.
The Blues then righted the ship and they can again. It won’t be the same way they did against the Jets, but all you have to do is stick with it.
Even at worst, the Blues still got into those games towards the end. We can discuss empty-net situations, but the Blues have had a glimmer of hope to come back in both losses so far.
Taking an early lead and not waiting for a comeback attempt is the easiest way to turn things around. We’ll see how it plays out, but it’s never as bad as some would have you believe.