Jori Lehtera will be viewing today’s game three from the press box, because the Blues’ new youth movement has something that he doesn’t: speed and mobility. As a matter of fact, Blues coach Mike Yeo had nothing but praise for the Blues’ rookie and sophomore players:
“I like the way the lines were last game, so I don’t see us making a lot of switches there,” Yeo said. “I liked Sanny’s game. Obviously he’s a big body with speed, and for a young kid playing in his first playoff game, on the road, against a team like that, for him to play that way, pretty impressive, and that goes for a lot of our young kids. You talk about (Joel Edmundson and Colton Parayko), these guys are second-year players and you look at (Barbashev) and the way he’s playing, some of the matchups they’re facing. Obviously we’re getting good performances right now from these guys, but what an experience for these kids. The growth they’re going to get playing in these types of games is huge.”
The first two games, home games for the Wild, saw the kids matched up against some of the Wild’s best, and they held their own. Similar lines tonight coupled with Yeo having the advantage of line-matching should give the kids an opportunity to flourish.
Another player having an opportunity to flourish is Vladimir Sobotka, who is one of the Blues’ current default faceoff guys. Sobotka went 50% on faceoffs Friday night, as did Patrik Berglund. The Blues have struggled mightily in the faceoff circle without Paul Stastny; Yeo will have to rely on Berglund and Sobotka to gain an uptick in posession.
The Blues have shut down Minnesota’s offense - or at least every player not named Zach Parise, who scored the goal that sent game one into overtime and who scored the Wild’s lone goal on Friday. Both goals came with a man advantage - Wednesday’s game tying goal came with Dubnyk pulled and the Wild on a 6-on-5, and Friday’s goal was scored 5-on-3.
St. Louis hasn’t exactly been burning up the scoresheet either, and much of the lack of offense for both teams comes down to the play of Jake Allen and Devan Dubnyk. Both goaltenders have been excellent in this series, and winning a game is centered on who can solve the opposition’s goalie first. Allen in particular has been next to unsolvable: he has a .087 GAA and a .974 save percentage. Those things happen when you allow only two goals on 76 shots.
Unfortunately, that also means that the Blues have allowed 76 SOG through two games. Winning through that kind of play is next to unsustainable.
The last times the Blues went up 2-0 on the road, they swept those series - once in 2001 against the Dallas Stars and once in 1993 against the Chicago Blackhawks. That latter series gave the world an epic Eddie Belfour meltdown. Teams that take a 2-0 series lead in a best-of-seven series hold an all-time record of 305-48.
The Blues have been up 2-0 before during this six season long playoff streak; once to the Los Angeles Kings in 2013 and once to the Chicago Blackhawks in 2014. Those two series ended in six games with a Blues loss. It’s tempting to be watching this series through your fingers, expecting more of the same, but this Blues team isn’t like those squads. They’re not favored teams, and they weren’t anointed at the start of the season as Cup favorites. These guys are the underdogs with a new coach and a bunch of kids who don’t seem to be focused on the legacy of the Ken Hitchcock years.