Allow me to begin with this statement: Vladimir Tarasenko won the game last night. His third period natural hat trick broke the 2-2 stalemate that the Blues found themselves stuck in and is sending the team back to St. Louis for tomorrow night’s potentially final game six.
This isn’t a criticism of Tarasenko’s four goals. Or of Ryan O’Reilly’s four. Or of David Perron’s five goals, or Jordan Kyrou’s three, or Brandon Saad’s one. The Blues have needed scoring, and they know where it’s going to come from.
As close as this series is statistically - and let’s be real here, it is, despite every game being a lopsided victory - it would be nice to get some balance but whatever works, works. If we get ahead of ourselves here and look at the potential for a series against the Avalanche, the Blues’ strategy this round isn’t going to cut it.
The Avalanche can dump it on their opposition - we saw that in the first round against Nashville. In a quick four game series, the Avs outscored the Predators 21 to 9. The only close game was game two, a 2-1 Avalanche victory. Clearly, the Avalanche’s firepower is a lot for any defense to handle, but if Torey Krug and Marco Scandella’s absences extend into round two, the Blues may want to fight firepower with firepower as much as they can.
So, where can the Blues look toward for some bonus goals? Before the postseason started, we looked at potential X-Factors for scoring punch. Kyrou, O’Reilly, and Perron made up the list, and I have to admit, I am proud of my predictions. But for next round, the team is going to need more than just an X-Factor to get past the Avalanche.
If the Blues make it to round two - and let’s be clear, they’re not there yet - who is the Blues’ top candidate for that round’s X-Factor?
Pavel Buchnevich and his 30 regular season goals would be candidate number one. Buchnevich, like many other Blues, has been contributing this round in the assist column, tied with Justin Faulk at four for the team lead. Ivan Barbashev and Brayden Schenn are close behind Buchnevich on the list of players yet to break out this post-season. Barbashev finished the regular season with 26 goals, Schenn with 25.
The Blues may be able to eke out a win in round one with a limited slate of scorers; getting past the Avalanche is going to take all hands on deck. Five guys lighting the lamp is fine, but the committee needs to get bigger to make it through round two.