It’s amazing when you think about it.
The first-round playoff series between St. Louis and Minnesota was expected to be one of the closest in the NHL. But while three more series in the league are headed to Game 7s and there is a possibility of three more depending on what happens at the Games 6s on Friday, the Blues finished their series against Wild with relative ease, and advanced in six games after a 5.1 win Thursday at Enterprise Centre.
Even more impressive is that the winning margin in all six games was three goals or more: 4-0 Blues, 6-2 Wild, 5-1 Wild, 5-2 Blues, 5-2 Blues and 5-1 Blues.
However, I didn’t feel this was out of balance with the Blues, who after trailing 2-1 in the series in Game 3 have won their last three games with a combined score of 15-5.
“It was a tough fight,” Blues player Tyler Bosak said on Thursday. “That’s a very good team out there. It’s kind of a shame that we played in the first round of playoffs. They were two of the best teams in the West. They deserve a lot of credit for the season they gave, and that was a really tough battle for us.”
“Every match looked like it could go any way with a bounce here or there and we were lucky enough to win. This is a great test for us and should prepare us well for the next round.”
The Blues have escaped the first round for the first time in three years, but then they will face an avalanche, who would be a big favorite after finishing the NHL’s regular season No. 2 with 119 points, sweeping Nashville in the first round and sweeping the Blues in the playoffs last season.
Coach Craig Beerop thinks the blues are better equipped to run in the avalanche this time around.
“I think we are deeper this year than we were last year,” said Birubi. “Up front, we’re deeper. Back end, we’re deeper. It’s going to be a tough streak for sure. They’re a great team. Colorado. We all know that. They have a lot of quality players. You’re going to have to do a lot of things right.”
Some of these things may be a continuation of what went right against Wild, so while we wait for the second round, here’s a look back at 10 reasons why the Blues won the first round:
1. Vintage Bennington
We can’t forget Ville Husso’s closing order with 37 saves in Game 1, but after the Blues faltered in games 2 and 3, they brought on Jordan Bennington, and he showed off flashes of his Stanley Cup form from 2019.
Binnington went 3-0 with a 1.67 goal-to-average and 0.943 save percentage.
“It’s exciting,” he said. “The guys have been up all year and have done well. That’s what this team is all about. I tried to have the mentality of going out there and just competing, and giving the team a chance to win.”
Berube’s decision to go to Binnington became a turning point in the series.
“You have to make decisions, sometimes you are right and sometimes you are not,” said Birubi. “We all know we have two guards who can do the job and we just wanted to change the momentum and make a change. With Binner going in there, he really scrapped the foreclosure check, which is a big part of their game. And he obviously did the job he tackled as well.
“We have great confidence in Binner. We have won with him, and we have seen him perform at a high level in the big matches.”
Breaking the puck of blues goalkeeper Jordan Bennington: ‘Make a big difference’ # Longing https://t.co/yRQIL7kRuU
– Jeremy Rutherford (@jprutherford) 12 May 2022
2. D installed it together
If someone had told you that defenders Nick Lady, Tori Krug, Marco Scandella and Robert Portozzo would miss out on a lot of the series, you probably wouldn’t have liked the Blues’ chances of taking on the wild.
But with Justin Falk (26:21 ice time per game) and Colton Paraiko (25:47) up front, the Blues used a total of 10 defenses and patched them together, allowing 16 goals in six games, seven of which were his own by Kirill Kaprizov. Cali Rosen’s ICE time averaged 15:27 in five games, and Stephen Santini would have done it season For the first time in the series, Scott Peronovich returned from wrist surgery.
“They were excellent,” Birubi said. “I know we used a lot of them in the series, but they all had a job to do and they did it. That’s what it boils down to. They all did their job and that was a big part of it all.”
3. Go with 11 attackers and 7 defensemen
When Krug fell with a knee injury in Game 3, the Blues made the decision to go with a squad of 11 forwards and seven defenses in the last three games of the series. It’s not traditional, but it worked.
“Well, I think we were worried because we got a D in two games and these were tough minutes for D, especially against this team,” said Blues captain Ryan O’Reilly. “I think it was kind of being a little cautious, making sure we had (enough help) at the back end because it’s vital in order to win. So I think going to (11-7) and being able to win, and finding a way to do that, you have to stick It. You stick with what works, and that’s what we did.”
The Blues were 3-0 with an 11-7 ranking in the series and are now 11-4-2 this season when they use it.
4. Pironovich interferes with Krug
The rookie defender hasn’t played since mid-January, and after wrist surgery, he wasn’t guaranteed to be back in the squad this season. But after Krug was injured, Perunovitch not only wore a uniform; He did the power unit section #1.
Peronovich averaged 11:12 ice time in his three games, including 4:06 the team’s all-time high on strong play, and earned three assists.
“I am not surprised. To get out of a surgery like that and come back and jump in the playoffs, against a very good team, and make an impact like that, it shows that he is an elite player and that he is going to be a huge part of our group going forward,” O’Reilly said. It’s definitely impressive.”
5. Special teams were superior
The Blues entered the series after having a clear advantage in the regular season over special teams, and it has continued. They were 8 for 26 (30.8 percent) in the force game and wiped out 20 of 24 chance of playing wild force (83.3 percent). For the series, the Blues only outperformed Wild 11-10 in five out of five, which shows how important the success of the specials is.
“It’s key in the qualifiers, for sure,” said Blues striker David Peron. “He takes a little bit of pressure out of our five-on-five game. (Blues assistant coach Steve Ott) does a really good job of pre-scouting every night, little tweaks here and there and guys are implementing it.”
Buzak said of PT: “Everyone trusts each other to do the right thing and support each other. I think it starts with goalkeeping first and foremost. The goalkeeper has to be your best penalty shooter, and our goalkeepers have been amazing all year. We’ve seen it again in this series.”
6. The Power of Abe O’Reilly
O’Reilly scored five goals and eight points in the six games, with a goal in each of the last four games (all in strong play).
Two of those goals came after he and his wife, Dina, welcomed his daughter into the world, and said his “new father’s strength” helped him.
“Yeah, I think I feel a little bit stronger,” O’Reilly said. “My release is getting a little more difficult now that I am a father of three. Some good luck is going my way.”
Inside a whirlwind week Ryan O’Reilly awaits the birth of his child during the Blues playoffs. # Longing https://t.co/fWd6sFUz9E
– Jeremy Rutherford (@jprutherford) May 10, 2022
7. Veterans Ascended
In addition to Fulk and Paraiko in the big minutes and O’Reilly’s offensive jolt, Peron had a hat-trick in the first game and led the Blues in points (nine) in the series, and Brayden Shane was a physical strength, scoring the highest on the team. 23 visits.
“Well, they won and they were good players for a long time and they definitely came in this series,” said Birubi. “You have to look at a lot of other guys too, the little things that they do. A guy like (Pavel) Bukhnevich, for me, was really special in this series, like penalties and defense. There are a lot of guys. They played hard and did a lot of things. Small properly, and you should get that in the playoffs. You should have everyone.”
8. Tarasenko . took
Vladimir Tarasenko belongs in that latter category as well, but we’re going to give him his own entry, because had it not been for a hat-trick in the third period of Game 5 in Minnesota, the Blues might not have closed out Wild in Game 6 on Thursday.
After scoring 34 goals in the regular season, Tarasenko added five more goals in the series in just 16 shots (31.3 hits).
Vladimir Tarasenko liked the Blues’ win more than he liked a hat-trick: let’s move on to the next match # Longing https://t.co/IX1FQLcx5k
– Jeremy Rutherford (@jprutherford) May 11 2022
9. Victories on the way
There was a lot in the final weeks of the regular season about which team — the Blues or the Wild — would get the home ice advantage in the series. As it turns out, the Blues won two of their three games at Xcel Energy Center in Minnesota, so it didn’t matter.
“I used to mention (before the series) that I wouldn’t mind starting the playoffs down the road,” Peron said. “I think we did when we won (the Stanley Cup in 2019), and it’s good to get that out of the way now.”
Since Berube took charge of the club in 2019, they are 14-8 on the road in the post-season.
10. Berob Decisions
From putting Binnington in the net to going into the 11-7 lineup to mixing and matching his attackers, Berube and his crew have done an amazing job training the series, and that shouldn’t go unnoticed.
“Yes, there is a lot that goes into this,” Bosak said. “They see the game different from what we do. They kind of feel really good about who is going well and what they think is going to work for us. They obviously made some really good decisions in this series that worked and paid off.”
(Photo by Jordan Bennington: Michael Thomas/Associated Press)