Clearly, the Blues lost in the semi-final round for many reasons, but let’s put the kibosh on the fact that it’s because the Avalanche are a better constructed team. They’re an expertly constructed team - save for goaltending, I suppose, but other strengths can mask that deficiency - but we’ve seen just as well constructed if not better constructed teams get bounced this post-season and post-seasons before his one. The Presidents’ Trophy winning Panthers are out. The Calgary Flames? Gone.
The Blues hung with the Avalanche for six games. That’s not something to turn your nose up at, especially when St. Louis was out-chanced and out-played in at least five of those. You can have a team with no quit and it can steal you a win - that’s what happened in game five thanks to Tyler Bozak. The Blues didn’t lose because they gave up. The Blues lost because key players either dropped, disappeared, or played like garbage because their minds were elsewhere.
Game six was curtains in the hardest way, but the third period was an example of the lack of attention to detail that the Blues showed all series. A badly timed Parayko penalty didn’t help, but game six was winnable, game seven was a possibility, and the Blues checked out.
What cost them the series?
Their Offensive Players Didn’t Show
You cannot eke your way through multiple playoff series when you only have a few players scoring. Vladimir Tarasenko’s six goals, Ryan O’Reilly’s seven playoff goals, Jordan Kyrou’s seven goals, and David Perron’s team leading nine playoff goals were key, even if you could quibble and complain that Kyrou missed a clean chance to put the Blues up 3-1 in the third period of game six. Kyrou wasn’t the issue. Tarasenko wasn’t the issue, even if a bulk of his playoff goals came in round one.
What the issue here is that the Blues finished with the most 20 goal scorers in the NHL and those are the only ones who cracked five goals in two post-season rounds. Robert Thomas had two goals, Pavel Buchnevich had one. Ivan Barbashev? Zero. Brayden Schenn? Zero. The Blues’ explosive offense showed warning signs in round one, especially in games two and three, but came up painfully short in round two. You can’t go from having that balanced firepower to shooting near-blanks and not expect some problems when you’re playing Colorado.
Jordan Binnington Was Injured
A postseason performance should never depend on just one person, but it is pretty excusable when that performance is reliant on a goalie. Jordan Binnington’s playoff resurgence (4-1-0, 1.72 GAA, .949 SV%) was cut painfully short thanks to whatever play Nazem Kadri was trying to accomplish. To Binnington’s credit, he wrote the injury off as one of those hockey things - or at least he did in Tuesday’s end of the season interviews:
“It’s a physical sport. I think it’s playoff time and he’s going to go to the net hard, that’s how it goes,” Binnington said of the collision when speaking to reporters on Tuesday. “I don’t think he intentionally was trying to do what he did to me, or for me to get injured I should say, but he knows how to play hard, how to go to the net. It happens in this sport. For me, it is what it is. I just have to kind of deal with it.”
On the other hand, the night of the game, he did not exactly “deal with it,” which will lead us into reason number three the Blues got knocked out of the postseason (excuse the embed; it was the easiest one to find):
“I could just stay silent and go in the room or I could say something and just have him look me in the eye and understand what's going on, something to think about. Yeah, I just threw the water bottle.” pic.twitter.com/CcX2khOusp— Spittin' Chiclets (@spittinchiclets) May 31, 2022
And reason number three:
Blues Players Got Distracted
Good God, did they get distracted. The above video’s just a microcosm of that. It’s great that in retrospect Binnington can realize that it wasn’t intentional, but tossing a water bottle at Kadri on his way out demonstrates the level of emotional regulation that you could expect to see in a sixth grader. On top of that, that’s prime bulletin board material and after last year’s trash talking by ROR wound up on the board - and helped motivate the Avalanche to sweep the Blues - you would think the team would keep that to a minimum.
The wheels fell off the second that Binnington left the game, at least on the scoresheet. The team didn’t necessarily physically retaliate against Kadri in game three, but they were so rattled by the loss of Binnington that any game plan, any planning at all, went out the window. By the time that game four rolled around the whole thing was a gong show that wasn’t at least gotten back on track until the end of game five. So sure, Binnington might’ve had what he viewed as a “God-given” opportunity to chunk a water bottle at Kadri (I’m pretty sure God’s busy elsewhere, bud, but fine) but the Avalanche in game four had multiple Blues-given opportunities to make their opponent look like amateur hour. They seized on it.
The Blues lost because they were distracted. They never played “their game” during the series, and after Binnington dropped, they didn’t have a prayer of recalibrating and doing so moving forward. Binnington and the Blues are both better when they take care of business, not create their own drama. This needs to be addressed moving forward if they want to get deeper in the microcosm that are the Stanley Cup Playoffs. That’s what got them a Stanley Cup in 2019, and that’s what can get them another in the future.