Did you think it was going to be easy? If so, please direct yourself to a storied history of chokes, blue ball specials, and general disappointment.
The St. Louis Blues do nothing easy, and in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals against the San Jose Sharks, demons came to bay in the form of defensive breakdowns, missed opportunities on the power play, and a terrible second period of hockey.
It all added up to a 6-3 loss, with the final nail in the coffin coming on an empty net goal. The game wasn’t all bad, though, so let’s break down a few things and try to carve out some takeaways.
1) The Sharks’ scoring depth was on full display. Four different players scored a goal, and 22-year-old phenom Timo Meier scored the two back-breaking goals in that dreadful second period. It’s not just Joe Pavelski, Brent Burns, Joe “I deserve a cup” Thornton, Logan Couture, and Evander Kane; other guys like Meier and Kevin Labanc (combined 47 goals this season) can put the puck in the net. There’s no give in the Sharks lineup, and the Blues’ lazy defense was exploited. This offense is like the Dallas Stars and Winnipeg Jets offense on steroids.
2) What in the hell was Jay Bouwmeester, Colton Parayko, Joel Edmundson, and Alex Pietrangelo doing? Bouwmeester has been Jekyll and Hyde this postseason while Edmundson looks like a California Penal League Defenseman of the Year at times. I know it’s criminal to say Petro has a bad game, but I can tell you he wouldn’t call his Game 1 performance solid. He was a -3 and coughed up a puck at the blue line, leading to the Sharks first goal. Parayko had a terrible giveaway that led to the Meier goal in the second period. The defense was a tragedy. Too many breakdowns. Out of the five goals, maybe one was truly Jordan Binnington’s fault.
3) Vladimir Tarasenko may have assisted on a goal, but he largely went missing again. The Sharks shut him down three years ago in this stage, and if it happens again, punch San Jose’s ticket. The Blues need depth scoring, but they also need their big guy to come up big. This postseason, Tarasenko has been a power play threat, but since the Blues are malfunctioning on special teams lately, it doesn’t matter. Do the little things, drive to the net, and as the esteemed Nicholas Hand said, move your damn feet. You make $8 million, bucko, so produce something more than missed shots and long faces.
4) Binnington wasn’t sharp, but it’s his series. I am glad Craig Berube left him in for the third period. Anytime your save percentage finishes below 80.0%, you will have some doubts, but the Blues left their guy out to dry. I don’t need to see Jake Allen and his shaky confidence in net. This is Binnington’s train and he is riding it home, win or lose. He did make some key stops in the first two periods to keep the game from becoming double digits. Don’t overlook that due to your Jake obsession.
5) Pleasant things. Ryan O’Reilly scored on a nifty play to make it 3-2 briefly in the third. The Blues showed energy towards the end of the third period. According to reporters after the game, the Sharks were a little fragile at the nasty attitude and aggression shown by the Blues. Apparently, Erik Karlsson thinks other teams should be as soft as his hairdo. Fuck you, Erik. You may use a K instead of a C and add an extra S to your last name, but that doesn’t mean the Blues won’t smash you like a piece of dough in a pizza shop. I like the way the Blues crawled inside the head of these Sharks, even in defeat.
One more thing: Well done, Robert Bortuzzo. You may do things out there on occasion that make me question your career choice and my sanity, but when you drop the gloves and pound a Shark into submission after a lost game, I applaud your wildness. Keep doing that next game, Big Bob. As Cap said to the Hulk, “smash!”
Don’t panic yet, ladies and gents. That’s for later. It’s one game. A 60 minute downer where the Blues were completely out of their wits for about 35 minutes. They showed skill, precision, and aggression, and never bowed down. They collected intel and will use that in Game 2. If you want to know when to panic, do it Monday night if the Blues lose. They aren’t coming back from that deficit, so let’s go ahead and slap the No Shit customary “must win” on this upcoming matchup.
The Blues are going to make this series, and every single one in existence, harder than it needs to be. Of course they want it! There isn’t a lazier punchline in sports talk than “they didn’t want it.” Get over yourself. The Blues wanted it, but the Sharks were better.
Until Game 2, drink well and good morning.