Well this was it. The last game of the regular season. The Blues were coming off an emotional 2-1 overtime victory against Chicago. TJ Oshie was back in town for the first time since being traded in the off-season. The Central was still up for grabs. Hell Vladimir Tarasenko scored the first goal just over a minute into the game. This was the Blues way of heading into the playoffs on a great note (no pun intended) and helping the fans feel positive about the playoffs.
Oh but they were playing the best team in the NHL this year, whose goalie just so happened to be chasing a record held by the newest member of Blues management. They also had a guy who just so happened to be looking for his 7th 50 goal season, albeit he was three goals away. And there was that Oshie guy too.
The Blues got off the hop the best way possible, putting pressure on Washington in their own zone, hemming them in. The cycle got rolling and eventually the puck would land in the stick of Alex Pietrangelo. Petro would slide behind the net just as Tarasenko was settling into an open patch in the middle of the ice. One quick flick of the wrist and the puck went from behind the net to Vladi's stick and half a second later it found the back of the net.
The goal 1:15 into the game pushed the crowd to their feet and the fact that Oshie was the one "guarding" Tarasenko only made the goal that much sweeter. Unfortunately for the Blues and their fans that was the second to last highlight of the game.
A mere three minutes later the Caps would spring out on the break and John Carlson would find a wide open Alex Ovechkin in his favorite spot and you know he never misses from there. So goal #48 is on the board for Ovie, the Russians are now tied in the game and so are the two teams.
During the first commercial break of the game the Blues gave fans their second highlight with a tribute to Oshie that brought a very warm and well deserved welcome from the fans. While Oshie's career here was up and down, costing coaches jobs and not yielding much in the playoffs, he did bring an excitement back to the barn that had been missing since the first lockout.
As the fans were just settling back into their seats for the ensuing face-off, #49 went into the net. Niklas Backstrom would win the face off and slide the puck over the Ovechkin who deftly maneuvered the puck just out of Robby Fabbri's reach before sniping a shot past Brian Elliott. There is just something special about watching an Ovechkin shot go in and we got the full display tonight.
As the period wore on you could see the Blues just running around the ice tonight with no cohesion to the plan they were supposed to play. This team looked nothing like the one that beat these same Caps minus Oshie on March 26th.
The Blues power play really suffered tonight as well going 0-3, barely registering a decent scoring chance despite twice having almost a full 2 minutes on fresh ice at the start of the period. With the Stars losing in the first period it was really disheartening to see this team almost seem to not care.
Recently the Blues second periods haven't been quite as an adventure as they were earlier this year but tonight the #ShittySecond reared its head one last time during the regular season. The Blues were out-shot 12-4, out scored 2-0 and just completely outplayed the entire way. John Carlson would slip in behind Kevin Shattenkirk and tip in a nifty pass from Tom Wilson to make it 3-1.
The Blues would have a nice shift after that goal making you think like they cared but alas it was just a shift and the period continued to be dominated by the Caps. Both Patirk Beglund and Ryan Reaves would take relatively stupid penalties but the PK held strong, not allowing a power play goal, the one lone bright spot in this game. Although since Jason Chimera scored right after a penalty expired who knows if that should count as a win for the PK.
Going into the third period the only things that really mattered now was staying healthy, maybe watching Ovechkin get 50 and Braden Holtby tying Martin Brodeur for the most victories in the regular season. Thankfully at least Hitch was smart enough to pull Elliott starting the third, although some fans would criticize him for even starting him to being with. Anders Nilsson came in to relive him and didn't look all that bad.
Holtby would get a little more work this period as the Blues finally started to put stuff on net, although they weren't the greatest attempts in the world. The one true chance came when Tarasenko was in front of the net and got a tip on a Pietrangelo shot that Holtby squeezed between his pads. That was it for the Blues, seriously.
#50 for Ovechkin would come in part because of the tenacity of TJ Oshie, which we saw on a regular basis here in St. Louis. Oshie would start the breakout with a breakup of a play in the neutral zone, putting the puck on Backstroms stick. Oshie would drive the middle of the zone pulling Pietrangelo with him allowing Backstrom to saucer a beautiful pass to Ovie who buried it for the hat trick and his 7th 50 goal season.
That put a bow on the Blues regular season and it kind of put a bad taste in our mouths. The final of 5-1 is disheartening but we have a relatively healthy team for the first time in years and the Blues went 13-4-0 since March 1st which is the best stretch run in team history so maybe things will be different.
The Blues now have to face the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round of the playoffs and they will be facing a team who is getting all of their injured players back and will only be down Duncan Keith for game 1. David Backes confirmed post-game that he would be ready for game 1 and besides Jake Allen he was our only question mark.
Now the real test begins for this team, can Brian Elliott live up to the performances of this year? Will we receive the secondary scoring we got during the regular season? How will the rookies hold up against an experienced Stanley Cup Championship team? We will see next week as the Blues battle the Hawks in the first round.
Thank you all for reading my take on the Blues games this year, I look forward to providing what insight I can during the playoffs. When all is said and done I am counting on a Blues Stanley Cup parade this year so Let's Go Blues!!!!
Three Stars (for the year)
#3 - Robby Fabbri and Colton Parayko: You can put numbers here if you want to justify this but what I saw is what drew me to this conclusion. Both of theses kids looked like they were in their element despite their age. Yes, some rookies scored more than Fabbri and Parayko combined but the intensity they brought really trickled down to the whole team. The future for this team is bright, now we just need to win.
#2 - Vladimir Tarasenko: 40 goals, first one since Brad Boyes (yikes). This is this generations Brett Hull. He scores, he passes, he gets in scraps. I am going to be glad to watch him terrorize this league for years to come.
#1 - Brian Elliott: Never named the number 1 but never complained. Will likely finish 2nd in GAA with 2.07 and 1st in Save Percentage at .930%. All for a guy who was on a two way contract a few years back. Thanks Brian.