Saturday night was not the strongest start to the Western Conference Finals for the Blues. Jaden Schwartz scored his ninth of the playoffs and Ryan O’Reilly had some second period heroics to bring the Blues within one, but it wasn’t enough to overcome some very, very questionable play by the team’s defensemen.
You can hit everything that moves and get into the Sharks’ minds, but it doesn’t do a lot of good in the end when you gift them clear paths to the net, have 12 giveaways, and pull the “let’s turn the puck over at the blueline to see what happens” trick that a defenseman has tried in every series so far.
“We gave them everything I thought. We didn’t play our game. They capitalized on our turnovers and their chances and they buried them. Those are easy fixes and you just have to get back to work. I thought in the third period, we got back to our game and you can see what we did to them…(Game 1) is over, just throw it out. Nothing you can do about it. This is a team that bounces back and we find ways to fix our game and elevate our game.”
The good thing is that it’s just game one, and it’s a learning curve. The Blues wound up on the penalty kill too often, so limiting that would be better than nothing. Yes, some of the calls were questionable, but you know how you mitigate that? Don’t put yourself in a position where those calls can be made.
Did some obvious non-calls go the Sharks’ way? Yup. Did David Perron get high sticked in the face without a whistle? Yup. Should that influence the fact that the defense looked like they were pylons and the team’s top players were absent? Nope.
Martin Jones was out of position on the last two of the Blues’ three goals and he afforded multiple opportunities to score. If the Blues stop doing the Sharks favors and exploit their average goaltending, tonight should be a bounce back game. If the Blues can control play more and be more effective in the faceoff circle (43% isn’t going to cut it), tonight should have a better outcome.
I’m not saying don’t be physical; what I’m saying is that it isn’t the only thing that you should be. The Blues have had a bad habit over the best decade of getting frustrated when they don’t score, or misunderstanding that the hits stat isn’t the same thing as goals.