The Blues are playing like shit. That is something 100% of fans can agree on as the series continues tomorrow night in San Jose with the Sharks up 2-1 in the series. It's the sheer panic and brokerage of your personal train of thought that needs to stop. Go ahead and be upset and mad at this team. They deserve it and would tell you that. Just don't call the Western Conference Finals finished yet. Guess what? The last time I checked, an NHL hockey team had to collect four wins before collecting a Stanley Cup Finals ticket. Giving up on the Blues is futile.
Please don't call me the FAN POLICE. That's like calling every sports writer a preacher and every fan an armchair general manager. All I am doing is telling fans the basics. No Corsi against or WAR on Ice required to inform the general population of Blues faithful that the series didn't end Thursday night. If you have partaken in the playoffs before, you know any series can change on a dime. A series of plays can swing the entire matchup around. So please stay buckled in and let's talk some hockey.
The Blues are being manhandled by the Sharks so far in every facet of the game. Game 1 was an even match of skill, power, and finish with the Blues escaping with a 2-1 win. Game 2 was a San Jose domination. While Game 3 may look like a repeat of Game 2, I do think the Blues played better. However, they couldn't execute and most of their notable players were shut down.
While it's not time to put his face on a milk carton, Vladimir Tarasenko hasn't done much in this series. He hasn't been able to fire many shots, find space or become a problem for the Sharks. He's being neutralized. As Darren Pang told Frank Cusumano on the CBS Press Box Thursday afternoon, the real studs can adapt to this extra coverage and still produce. Tarasenko has to find a way.
The bigger problem is that other Blues aren't benefiting off the Sharks focus on Tarasenko. Jaden Schwartz has a lot of energy on the ice but no finish lately. Alex Steen has played well defensively but his offense is gone. David Backes has been a hero during these playoffs but even he couldn't find the front of the net in Game 3.
The Sharks are doing a great job of pinning the Blues in their own zone and shutting off the transition game in the neutral zone. Every time the Blues skate up the ice and try to transition into a forechecking puck hunting attack, the Sharks meet them there and shut it down. The Blues found space against the Stars and Hawks and put pressure on Corey Crawford, Anti Niemi, and Kari Lehtonen. It was constant many times. While Sharks goalie Martin Jones deserves respect for his play so far, the Blues haven't attacked the Sharks zone as much the past two games.
Ready for a semi-terrible example? Think of it as a group of friends trying to get into a nightclub but the security is stacked in front of the doors. Every time they try to rethink an infiltration method or bring different friends, the security still prohibits their entry. It doesn't matter how many lineup changes or line changes Ken Hitchcock makes, the players are going to have to find a way in. Once they get in, they can score on Jones. If not for the luck of posts, a pair of goals beat him in Game 2. Just saying.
The worse stat from Game 3 was the hit count. The Sharks out-hit the Blues 41-18. That just can't happen. Part of what makes the Blues so good is their physical relentless nature on the boards in every corner of the ice. The Sharks big players are getting results because they are doing the dirty work and getting to areas of the ice they need to be successful at and the Blues studs are not.
I won't be a true pill here and question the Blues effort. That's just stupid folks. The Blues are trying like hell to improve in this series. The movement is there. The adjustments are visible. They are slamming the door with a wrecking ball. The effort is there but the execution is not. That's the sad but true part. Can the Blues adjust and come back? For the better of the playoffs, the Blues have been in control. Here they are down and their play isn't solid.
Effort is great but it doesn't matter in the playoffs. As the St. Louis Game Time paper Captain Brad Lee constantly points out, it has nothing to do with "deserve" in the playoffs. You win or lose, and then go home.
As I have advised you for the past 30 days, buy more bourbon because I don't think this Blues team is finished yet but I know they will do nothing the easy way. It's just not in their nature to take a shortcut to glory. I'm not giving up yet. I'm not done with hockey yet. The Sharks may be damn good but so are the fucking Blues. A win in Game 4 and this entire series swings back towards the Blues. It's that simple....for fans. Too bad there aren't referee calls to blame.
The players need to get their shit together. Tarasenko is the first guy I think of because he is the Blues version of John Rambo. The man who can step on the ice and destroy the other team with skills they can't begin to comprehend but will appreciate later. He has 10 shots on goal in the series but ZERO points. That can't continue if the Blues are to come back.
For the time being, I am going to forget about the fact that the Blues haven't scored since Sunday and drink more bourbon. I'm going to believe in the unlikely. Will you join me?