Game in a Sentence:
The St. Louis Blues are that much closer to being a second round playoff team after another absolutely stifling road performance against the San Jose Sharks.
- It was all Blues from the outset in this game and the end result was pretty much what they want to achieve every game. A low scoring, fight for your ice type of game where they can dictate the pace as they please. Frankly, they are scary and the Sharks look lost.
- B.J. Crombeen’s goal signifies so many of the things that the Blues do well to earn victories. A well timed line change coupled with an aggressive forecheck and creative puck movement finds a streaking Crombeen who beats Antti Niemi.
- The Sharks forward corps look totally lost against this St. Louis team. Martin Havlat and Joe Thornton have been the primary contributors offensively, but beyond them it has been slim pickings. Joe Pavelski has been inconsistent at best while Patrick Marleau and Ryane Clowe have been invisible. These players are catalysts for one of the top (on paper) offensive groups in hockey and need to do something – ANYTHING – to help out their team.
- Ironically enough Logan Couture, one of the most inexperienced Sharks, has been one of their best players each night in my eyes. Encouraging from the standpoint of evaluating the individual. Very discouraging from the standpoint of evaluating the team. He’s an all-star but he should not be shouldering the load with this cast around him.
- One part of this Blues team that I absolutely love is the number of redemption stories on its roster. There’s the obvious one involving Brian Elliott which will no doubt be flogged as the Blues go along, but what of the comebacks by Andy McDonald, David Perron and Alex Steen. These three players were plagued by concussion problems and have returned down the stretch and into the playoffs to make meaningful impacts. Each game this series you could have made the argument that they were the best players outside of the crease. Great to see after the season we’ve had in the NHL that it is possible for guys to return from head injuries and be big time players.
- Another part of this Blues team I love is their depth down the middle. Almost every single one of their forwards has at least some experience at the NHL level playing center and many of them could be top six players on other teams around the league. For those of you wondering who logged the least amount of ice time among St. Louis forwards tonight: Chris Stewart and Jason Arnott. Now, let’s think about this for a moment. Stewart has been seen as a ‘can’t miss’ top six guy as recently as this preseason and Jason Arnott was the piece which was going to put Washington over the top as a second line center in 2011. Here they are less than 12 months later logging fourth line minutes with the Blues. That, my friends, is depth at its finest.
- It was a mixed bag night from Dan Boyle as he led the Sharks in ice time at 30 minutes, had five minutes of power play time and led the Sharks in blocked shots and giveaways with four apiece. He could stand to improve if they are to have a hope.
- I think the question we’d all love to know the answer to is are they (San Jose) going to improve? I can’t help but think this is a roster on its last legs of continuity. When you have so many core guys playing so poorly in the playoffs after a down year in the first place, you have to wonder if their window has passed. Not only did they get beat tonight, they barely looked like they had a chance against a Blues team that systematically punished them defensively and outworked them offensively.
- It’s unfortunate that San Jose has been so out of sorts because they are truly wasting great performances from Antti Niemi in goal. He has been just as capable as Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott – a true testament to Niemi’s level of play – but hasn’t been able to get the results because of poor execution up front. That’s not to say he has been untouchable, yes he has let in goals that leave something to be desired, but he has given his team a chance to win every night and the Sharks simply haven’t capitalized.
- Brian Elliott continues to be a wall in goal behind the stellar defensive group in front of him. This team is filled to the brim with excellent two way players on the blueline and in the forward group and it makes the goaltender’s job much easier when he just has to mop up what makes its way through. It’s going to take a special offensive performance to outdo this unit of players so long as the goaltending is in a zone like this.
- I would be absolutely stunned if there is another game played at the Shark Tank this year. I think the Blues take game five.
My Three Stars:
1) Andy McDonald
2) David Perron
3) Brian Elliott