Tuesday, April 30, 2019


Bortuzzo, Lindell discuss altercation late in second period; Montgomery 
on Maroon goal; Robinson along for ride; Bouwmeester's strong game

DALLAS -- The outrage from Dallas Stars fans could be heard all the way to the banks of the Mississippi River.

Not once, but at least twice.

When Pat Maroon scored what turned out to be the game-winning goal in a 4-3 Blues win in game 3 of the Western Conference second round on Monday, giving the Blues a 2-1 series lead, Stars fans were outraged that Maroon wasn't issued an interference penalty when he shoved Stars defenseman Esa Lindell, who fell to the ice. It allowed Maroon to collect a puck behind the net, move to the left of goalie Ben Bishop before beating Bishop into the top corner.

Perhaps somebody else may have gotten that call. Not Lindell, who was called earlier in the game for embellishment when not once, not twice but three times tried to sell a hard call on Blues defenseman Robert Bortuzzo for cross checking.

Bortuzzo was given two for cross checking and Lindell was issued two for the embellishment at 16:29 of the second period.

"He crossed at me hard," Lindell said Wednesday. "I wasn’t expecting him to come hard again. I’m not that kind of player. But you know there’s nothing I can change anymore or affect what happened yesterday. I’m already focused on tomorrow."

When asked what he thought of being called for embellishment, Lindell said, "Well, they called us both, so I guess we both did something there."

Bortuzzo tried referencing to the referees on the ice (Steve Kozari and Kelly Sutherland) that Lindell was embellishing. He didn't have any issues with both being sent off.

"Yeah, that's not my call," Bortuzzo said. "The refs saw what they saw and made the call. I'm just trying to play on the edge. That's a battle that happens a lot in the game and I think the refs did a good job. That's about it.

"... I'm just playing on the edge. The refs handled it pretty good, I thought."

Needless to say, Stars fans were not at all pleased with the coincidental minors. Lindell sold it to 18,532 inside the arena, but not to officials.

And when it came time deciding if it was a penalty or not at the end, officials decided no whistles were needed when Maroon scored, and Stars coach Jim Montgomery agreed; he had no issue with no call.

"Nope, not at all," Montgomery said. "I just think that more importantly, their low cycle game and their defensemen getting involved, in the first minute of the game they scored it and then in the last two minutes of the game or whenever it was, that’s them playing to their strengths and us not executing or taking away time and space defensively."

Lindell described what happened.

"Well, Maroon pushed me there," he said. "He got a step on that, so that’s why I was a bit late there. He got a good chance and obviously that was my guy who scored and I take the blame on it."

When asked if the officials missed a call, Lindell simply said, "Well, no. They didn’t call it, so they didn’t."

* Looking for another road win, staying unflappable -- The Blues' unflappable mentality is a big reason why they are two wins away from the Western Conference Final for the second time in four seasons and the reason why they lead this series.

During the final seven minutes of regulation, the Stars frantically tried to grab momentum away and send the Blues into a bit of panic mode.

As the Winnipeg Jets witnessed firsthand, it didn't work against the Blues then and certainly won't work now.

"They're not always going to go your way and you've just got to keep fighting and stay with it," Blues coach Craig Berube said Wednesday. "Frustration's not a good thing. It's important to stay composed, stay working and keep working."

On Monday, the Blues held three different one-goal leads, and on each occasion, the Stars tied it. In most cases, the home side feeds off the energy of the crowd and the road team can become at times unglued. The Blues have a bevy of veteran players that keep the message simple and clear.

"We've got good veterans to keep everything calm," Berube said. "Alex Steen does a great job with that, [Alex] Pietrangelo, [Jay] Bouwmeester, all the veteran guys, [Ryan] O'Reilly, [Vladimir] Tarasenko. We've got a lot of veterans. 

"We've got to stay calm and composed. We talk about discipline and composure all the time during games. I thought we did a good job of it."

When Andrew Cogliano tied the game 2-2 with a shorthanded goal at 13:06 of the third period, that seemed to be the time when the Stars would take momentum. But Pietrangelo had an answer 1:18 later to give the Blues a 3-2 lead. When Tyler Seguin tied it 3-3 at 15:52 following a Blues turnover, Pat Maroon answered 2:30 later with the tiebreaking goal.

St. Louis had answers in its first-round series with the Winnipeg Jets each time they pushed the Blues and eliminated the Jets in six games.

"I think a lot of that is experience and learning from things that go on through the year, and previous years," the 35-year-old Steen said. "We've done a good job of that throughout the season and especially in the playoffs. We've grown quite a bit in that department. It's obviously something we'll continue to do, staying even-keeled. And the easiest way to do that is focusing on the present. Obviously we'll look back at the game and analyze it. And we'll get ready for the next game.

"... Our group has a very strong belief system. And it's a very passionate and energetic group. We just stick to our game plan and have a lot of trust."

And instead of reveling in the most recent past, the Blues seem to have that tunnel vision and look forward. They did so following their dramatic come-from-behind 3-2 win at Winnipeg in Game 5. The Blues trailed 2-0 in the third period and Jaden Schwartz completed the comeback with 15 seconds remaining in regulation. They went out and closed out the Jets in Game 6, winning 3-2 despite dominating much of the game before the Jets scored twice late.

"We have this confidence about this group," Bortuzzo said. "Maybe we haven't made things easy on ourselves at times. We had the Winnipeg game where we were up 3-0 and what not, but that quiet confidence steps in and we know that we're going to get the job done and we've proven to do that in many games here.

"It's just something we've built over this stretch of good hockey we've been playing into January and through here. We're a team that plays with a quiet confidence that we know if we go about our business, dictate our pace on other teams, we'll have success."

* Binnington matches NHL record -- Jordan Binnington's win Monday was his 30th in 39 games, which matched the NHL record for fewest games played to 30 wins, which is also held by Frederick Andersen of the Anaheim Ducks on Oct. 31, 2014.

Binnington also became the first goalie since Cam Ward with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006 to win his first four road playoff games.

"Those are some good numbers," Binnington said. "I'm very proud. It's been a great team in front of me so it's been a good time playing with them."

* Bouwmeester's night -- Jay Bouwmeester was called for a ticky-tack penalty in the first period that led to Alexander Radulov's tying goal for the Stars, but the Blues defenseman had a stellar night moving forward.

Bouwmeester finished with 22:54 ice time and had two assists, including the game-winner for Maroon, and was a plus-3 in the game with eight of the Blues' 28 blocked shots.

"He's one of those guys that you know to trust in every circumstance," Steen said of Bouwmeester. "He's a beast for us. Plays a lot of minutes. Probably the most solid professional I've ever played with, as far as being prepared and getting himself back to where he needs to be for every game. He's a quiet guy, but he's extremely solid in the way that he plays the game. He leads that way, leads our group and creates that competitiveness in that group."

It's been quite a story for the 35-year-old Bouwmeester, who has come back from hip surgery and was rewarded with a one-year extension prior to the playoffs at $3.25 million.

"It goes back to the start of the season and the injury and surgery he had over the summer," Berube said. "That surgery is a tough one to recover from. I've seen it with other players in the league and it takes a year and he did it in a couple months where he got his game back. He's a great pro. He worked at it, realized where he was at and worked at it and this is what we're getting out of him."

* Better on the dots -- The Blues only won 38 percent of the face-offs Monday, which tied a season-low and only third time all season they've been below 40 percent.

Their previous 38-percent game was coincidentally, Mike Yeo's final game before getting fired after a 2-0 loss to the Los Angeles Kings on Nov. 19.

The Blues lost 45 of 72 draws Monday.

"We've got to do a better job for sure," Berube said. "That's a real good faceoff team over there. We can do some things maybe to change it up a little bit in the faceoff circle and we'll talk about that and make a couple adjustments on that, but we've got to be better in the faceoff circle."

* Robinson rubbing off in the right way -- Having nine Stanley Cups along for the ride in the playoffs can't be all that bad.

It certainly isn't for the Blues, who get to pick the brain of Larry Robinson, the team's senior consultant to hockey operations.

The 67-year-old Robinson, who won six Cups as a player for the Montreal Canadiens and three more as an assistant or head coach with the New Jersey Devils, has been along for the ride during these playoffs and can do nothing but pass along the wisdom and experience to these current Blues players.

"He's obviously been a great player, won Stanley Cups, won Stanley Cups as a coach, so he has a lot of knowledge and been through it all," Berube said. "It's really good to have around for our guys. Larry goes around, talks to all our players, coaching staff, gives us information, tells us what he sees. To have a guy like that with that experience around, you can't beat it. He's an unbelievable man.

"He's got a great presence about him, but he loves to talk hockey. When you get a man like that that's had the success he's had as a player and a coach, it's great to have him around."

Maroon late goal gives Blues series lead following 4-3 win over Stars

Game 3 of second round series saw St. Louis, Dallas score four goals in third 
period, including game-winner with 1:38 remaining to give Blues 2-1 series lead

DALLAS -- If anyone blinked in the final seven minutes between the Blues and Dallas Stars on Monday, get the remote out and hit rewind on the DVR.

And for it to come down to two St. Louis grown players to decide the outcome is quite the coincidence, with Pat Maroon staring down Ben Bishop from the side of the goal in the waning minutes.

Oakville vs. Chaminade.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Pat Maroon (right) celebrates with Colton Parayko after scoring the eventual
game-winning goal in a 4-3 win over Dallas in Game 3 on Monday.

But it was Oakville's Maroon winning the war by scoring the tiebreaking goal with 1 minute 38 seconds remining in regulation to help the Blues pull out a dramatic 4-3 win over the Stars in Game 3 of the Western Conference second round at American Airlines Center.

The teams combined for four goals in a 5:16 span after it looked like the Blues, who lead the best-of-7 series 2-1, would hold on to three different one-goal leads. But the Stars wouldn't budge, forcing the Blues to try to one-up them for a fourth time, which they did.

And in typical form, as they did in Game 1 of the first round series against the Winnipeg Jets when Tyler Bozak scored with 2:05 remaining of a 2-1 Blues win, this time it was Maroon. And it came off a cycle play, where the Blues' third line, with Robert Thomas, simply grinded their opponents down.

Maroon and Thomas were able to get a puck into the corner, and Maroon went to work behind the net, doing enough to poke a puck and leave it at the back of the net. Bozak came in, cycled it off, and eventually got a puck back to Jay Bouwmeester. Bouwmeester wristed a puck off the back wall. Maroon played the perfect carom after knocking down Stars defenseman Esa Lindell, who had a moment of his own earlier in the game. Maroon peeled off to his right and pulled the puck to the front and raised a wrister over Bishop's right shoulder into the net. No goal was initially signaled on the ice, and Maroon didn't know it right away either but celebrated with his teammates seconds later.

"I think he just fell over me," Maroon said of Lindell. "We were just battling and he tried to get the edge on me and he fell on me. I got an opportunity to use my hands in front and get the puck up quick. At first, I didn’t know if it went in. But we found a way to get it in and we found a way to win tonight."

They most certainly did, but not without some anxious moments, that included a shorthanded goal allowed and another late goal allowed off a turnover.

The Blues even had to withstand the final 43.3 seconds of a delay of penalty call on Colton Parayko.

So how does one explain such a finish?

"Hard to explain," said Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, who put the Blues ahead 3-2 with 5:36 remaining on his first goal in 18 games. "I tell you what, these playoffs. We’ve had a few of those. One against Winnipeg, it was the same thing (Game 5). Just keep playing, sometimes it might take 60, sometimes it might take more. We’re just going to keep playing, whatever it takes."

"Yeah, it was back and forth," Blues interim coach Craig Berube said. "We made a few mental mistakes. The shorthanded goal and just a couple of plays where we’ve just got to be better there. But we stayed with it and so did they. They battled, too, and obviously kept it close right down to the end. We made a couple of mistakes that cost us and went into our net, but we stayed with it and battled back. It was obviously a huge goal by Patty Maroon. I thought that line was really good tonight."

The Blues led the game 2-1 and had the chance to put it away with a late power-play goal, but instead of putting it away, Andrew Cogliano tied the game 2-2 converting a 2-on-1 after Brayden Schenn tried to get the puck to Vince Dunn at the point. But upon further review, Schenn was tripped on the play by Cogliano, a play that was not called by Steve Kozari or Kelly Sutherland, and it went back the other way. The Stars tied the game with 6:54 remaining.

"It's unfortunate," Dunn said. "Guys are trying to make plays. It's the power-play. There's no pointing fingers on anyone. It's just an unfortunate break. They go down, it goes off my knee, off Binner, backdoor to a guy for a tap-in. It's unfortunate, but I think in all, we found a way to win. It took all four lines, all six D. Another good game by Binner. It's about finding ways to win right now."

The Blues didn't panic, and that was key.

"We didn't panic at the end," Dunn said. "A lot of the other games when we're in a lead, we're kind of sitting back and giving them a lot of momentum in their transition. I think tonight we continued to push. A couple bad breaks on some goals that we can kind of look back and learn from. I think in all, we moved the puck a lot better tonight and we were a lot more connected."

Pietrangelo's one-timer from along the left wall, a shot that may have fooled Bishop, beating him short side, helped the Blues reclaim that lead at 3-2 just 1:18 after Cogliano's tying goal. It's been a theme of what they tend to do: regroup and go back at it instead of those early-season games in which the Blues would curl up and wither away.

"Go get another one," Pietrangelo said. "We had a couple of chances there but they got momentum with (that goal). How do you get the momentum back? Go out there and score another one. I thought we did a good job of that.

"... We’re resilient. This group has a lot of character. Everyone’s in the game and you don’t know who the hero is going to be. It’s not the way we drew it up before the game but we’ll take it."

It appeared that would be the game-winner, but not so.

A Pietrangelo turnover led to Tyler Seguin's tying goal with 4:08 left and tied the game 3-3.

"Yeah, just a couple of mistakes," Pietrangelo said. "Couple bad bounces. That’s going to happen. This time of year is unpredictable. Bad ice … you find a way to win."

It couldn't have been a better start to the game for the Blues, who got a team-leading sixth goal in the playoffs from Jaden Schwartz. He redirected a Parayko point shot up and over Bishop to give the Blues a 1-0 lead 1:27 into the game.

But as the period went along, the Stars got some footing and converted on a late power-play goal by Alexander Radulov with 2:48 left in the period. It came, first, after a terrible tripping call on Bouwmeester, but there was a clearing attempt just inside the blue line by Robert Bortuzzo, and he fanned on it. Bozak tried winning the board battle for the puck and it never left the Blues' zone, and Jason Spezza found Radulov on the far side and he one-timed a shot past Binnington to tie the game 1-1.

The Blues had 15 shots in the second period, good sustained time, and got the go-ahead goal from Bozak at 8:30.

Dunn made the play, with a burst in along the right side, cuts back, feeds Thomas near the top of the right circle for a one-timer on a perfect low-high play. The shot trickled through Bishop and Bozak was at the right post to backhand it in near the goal line for a 2-1 lead.

"We talked about it," Dunn said. "They like to collapse down low. Whenever we can spread them out and create offense like that, I think we find ourselves getting more pucks to the net. They do a good job of getting in front of them. When we can kind of create space on the outside and get more pucks on the inside, that's when we're getting more chances out front."

Bozak added: "I just tried to get to the net. Take away his eyes. 'Thommer' had a great shot and pretty lucky for it just to be sitting there. But I'll take them any way I can get them."
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues center Ryan O'Reilly (right) battles for possession of the puck against
Stars center Radek Faksa on Monday at American Airlines Center.

The Blues found a way to improve to 4-0 on the road and 6-1 in one-goal games these playoffs, and Jordan Binnington, who made 28 saves, became the first goalie since Cam Ward in 2006 to win his first four playoff starts on the road. He also tied an NHL record for most wins (30) in his first 39 NHL appearances, matching the record set by Frederick Andersen of the Anaheim Ducks on Oct. 31, 2014.

"I don’t know, I can’t explain it," Berube said. "We’ve been a good road team all year. Our road record has been fantastic all year. I thought right from the get-go, we were engaged right away in the game. We were aggressive and it sets the tone for us for the game."

"It's hard to explain I guess," Bozak said. "Every line's going, every line's playing. We just play hard. We don't get too down, don't get too up. Just stay even-keeled and whatever happens, just try and stick to our game plan and play the way we want to play."

Monday, April 29, 2019

(4-29-19) Blues-Stars Game 3 Gameday Lineup

DALLAS -- Craig Berube has a propensity for sticking with what works, and even when things don't go out of whack, he doesn't tinker with lines much.

But with a pivotal Game 3 of the Western Conference second round series against the Dallas Stars at 7 p.m. today (NBCSN, KYKY 98.1-FM), Berube is tinkering with his top two lines and bottom defensive pairing.

Berube is moving his hottest goal scorer, Jaden Schwartz, up to the top line with Ryan O'Reilly and Vladimir Tarasenko and shifting David Perron off that line's left wing and putting him back at a more comfortable right wing on the second line with Oskar Sundqvist at center and Brayden Schenn back on the left wing.

Also, Robert Bortuzzo is going back in on defense, and Joel Edmundson is coming out of the lineup tonight.

For Schwartz, he leads the Blues with five goals in the postseason, and he's played with both O'Reilly and Tarasenko in the past. They played together Nov. 6-16 and Feb. 21-March 1; the Blues were 5-4-1 in those games but Schwartz is scoring at a more consistent clip. They combined for 23 points (nine goals, 14 assists) in those 10 games.

"He's been playing really well," Berube said of Schwartz. "He's going to get on the forecheck for those guys. I think him and O'Reilly together in there forechecking ... Vladi's going good right now, he's driving the puck wide with speed a lot and taking it to the net. And Schwartz got a nice goal going to the net there the other night, so ... they’ve played together before, too."

O'Reilly agreed that it can make for a solid line.

"He’s playing really well right now and it will be a nice look for us," O'Reilly said of Schwartz. "You see his intensity on every play, the way that he hunts the puck and the turnovers that he causes, with the way that he forechecks and the way that he pressures. Obviously, it’s really effective and it generates a lot of offence off that. He’s been one of our best players in this last bit here, so it will be a nice look and hopefully it will get us going.

"We have to take a page out of his book and forecheck hard. If we’re doing that, that’s where we’ll generate offence and find a way to possess the puck and go from there."

As for Perron, who was moved to the left wing when Berube wanted to get Schenn playing down the middle in the first round against Winnipeg that helped spark that come-from-behind win in Game 5, it just hasn't seemed to be a proper fit even though he played all last season in Vegas on the left.

"Yeah, I hope I can just get back and play the normal game I did. I did feel a little bit different on the other side. I pride myself on board work, make a lot of little plays that makes the play go forward, makes the play maybe turn into an odd-man situation that starts from the d-zone or even the neutral zone. I don't think I did that the last two games, I don't think I did it in Game 6 either against Winnipeg. We won the game and maybe no one notices or talked about it, but for me, between rounds, I wanted to get better from, and going back to the right side, I think it's going to be a little bit more natural because that's where I played this year.

"I think the way I can pull some pucks and shoot it off guys' legs or sticks, whatever, I got a couple good looks throughout the year that way. I kind of got in a groove of knowing my pattern of coming in the zone, you look for a middle lane drive through the legs, if it's not there, maybe you pull around, a stop-up, whatever it is. I think. I played right shifts some last game. I had 'Fabs' one time going down the left side, and I just wasn't comfortable to make that play, which I should have than normal."

Perron was adamant about talking about continuity instead of making it a focus on changing lines looking for a spark.

"Hopefully we don't turn into Hitch daily with a line update where we talk about a new line and it's going to be the whole solution of our problems," Perron said. "I think we've just got to play hard, we've got to be on the inside more and I think yes, it's nice to be on the right side because it's where I played for the most part this year, but again, I think 'Schenner' played a lot on the left side this year. They're going to take draws from strong side, him and Sunny, and we'll go from there."

So why do players lime stability?

"Because it puts the onus on the players to be better," Perron said. "If you keep changing the lines, I feel like you just wait for the next opportunity for the line change to get a spark from the team or when it's been pretty stable like it's been all year, it's up to the players to do their job and you want to be the guy that can make a difference and we've had guys step up at different times in the season and we look forward to that again tonight."

Berube spoke with Perron about moving him to left wing before doing so, but it's evident that his best side is the right.

"Well, he feels more comfortable over there for sure," Berube said. "And he's been there all year … pretty much.

"... He’s passing on his forehand and (I) find that he goes north a little bit better on the right side. That’s what we want. I know if it really matters in the offensive zone what side he’s on. But out of his own end, obviously he can make plays on his forehand and through the neutral zone."

- - -

As for Bortuzzo, he's missed the past four games going back to Winnipeg Game 5, and putting him back in on the third pair and moving Vince Dunn back to his natural left side seems to be a natural fit.

"I'm looking forward to it," Bortuzzo said. "You can tell it's been an intense series. I've been waiting for the nod to get in there. Happy it's time, happy to get out there and contribute.

"We've played most of the season together, big chunks of hockey. We have a good relationship. We talk to each other a lot out there. He's a super-talented young guys who makes super smart hockey decisions. We've done a good job of reading off each other all year."

Edmundson comes out after playing just 9:54 in Game 2 on Saturday, and according to Berube, it's not so much wanting to see more.

"No, not really," he said. "We want 'Eddy' to play a physical, hard game. Did at times, but I think he can be more consistent taking the body, playing a heavy game.

"'Borts' plays a heavy game for us. Plus, it's a right-handed shot, and it gets Dunn over on his normal side, on the left side. Good penalty killer."

Bortuzzo wouldn't talk about if there is any sort of underlying nagging injury he's dealt with. There probably is, as with all players this time of year, but hitting the reset button for him may be beneficial.

"Absolutely," he said. "It's two very good hockey teams going at it right now. We just want to reinforce what we do best and I think that's what we've done over the last couple days here. It's a tough barn to play in, but if we play our style and the game we can play, we'll have success."

- - -

* Blues goalie Jordan Binnington has recorded 29 wins in 38 starts since making his first NHL start on Jan. 7 (regular season and playoffs combined). He can match the NHL record for fewest games to record his 30th career NHL win (39 games), a record Toronto goalie Frederik Andersen holds and set on Oct. 31, 2014 with the Anaheim Ducks.

* When a best-of-7 series is tied 1-1, the winner of Game 3 owns an all-time series record of 213-103 (67.4%), but just 1-3 this season's playoffs.

* The Blues are 10-9 all-time when holding a 2-1 series lead in a best-of-7 (.526), including a 7-4 mark when those series began at home (.636). When they win Game 3 after splitting the first two games in a best-of-7, St. Louis owns an all-time series record of 7-7.

- - -

The Blues' projected lineup:

Jaden Schwartz-Ryan O'Reilly-Vladimir Tarasenko

Brayden Schenn-Oskar Sundqvist-David Perron

Pat Maroon-Tyler Bozak-Robert Thomas

Robby Fabbri-Ivan Barbashev-Alexander Steen

Carl Gunnarsson-Alex Pietrangelo

Jay Bouwmeester-Colton Parayko

Vince Dunn-Robert Bortuzzo

Jordan Binnington will start in goal; Jake Allen will be the backup.

Healthy scratches include Joel Edmundson, Michael Del Zotto, Sammy Blais, Zach Sanford, Mackenzie MacEachern, Chris Thorburn and Jared Coreau. The Blues report no injuries.

- - -

The Stars' projected lineup:

Jamie Benn-Tyler Seguin-Alexander Radulov

Jason Dickinson-Roope Hintz-Mats Zuccarello

Andrew Cogliano-Radek Faksa-Blake Comeau

Mattias Janmark-Justin Dowling-Jason Spezza

Esa Lindell-John Klingberg

Miro Heiskanen-Roman Polak

Taylor Fedun-Ben Lovejoy

Ben Bishop will start in goal; Anton Khudobin will be the backup.

Healthy scratches include Valeri Nichushkin, Tyler Pitlick, Gavin Bayreuther, Joel Hanley, Brett Ritchie and Landon Bow. Jamie Oleksiak (lower body), Marc Methot (lower body), Martin Hanzal (back) and Stephen Johns (upper body) are all out.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Blues want to get to game quicker, be more mindful of Stars second line

Despite 1-1 series, slow starts hampered Blues at home; 
Hintz, Zuccarello, Dickinson accounted for seven points in Game 2

BERKELEY, Mo. -- The Blues headed South for their Western Conference Second Round series with the Dallas Stars tied 1-1, with Games 3 and 4 slated for American Airlines Center without playing their best game in the series yet.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues center Ryan O'Reilly (90) delivers a check
to Stars defenseman Miro Heiskanen Saturday.

That's the good news. The bad news is that they haven't gotten there yet, and with a pivotal Game 3 on tap for Monday (7 p.m.; NBCSN, KYKY 98.1-FM), the Blues may want to ratchet things up being in danger of falling behind in a series for the first time in the playoffs.

"I think we've obviously (got it at) 1-1. I still feel like we can get to our game quicker," forward Brayden Schenn said. "There's been some times in the game where it's a feeling-out process. We've just got to get to our game quicker, play harder, playoff hockey and we've just got to want it more. That's what it comes down to."

The Blues allowed the Stars to get a quick leg up on the momentum in Game 1 before Robby Fabbri scored the first goal of the game and give the Blues a lead before they settled in for a hard-fought 3-2 win.

In Game 2, it was more the same, but this time, the Stars made the Blues pay for their mistakes on costly turnovers, jumping out to a 3-1 lead before holding on for a 4-2 win after an empty-net goal with three seconds remaining.

"It's 1-1, we've been playing well on the road, especially in the playoffs," defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. "We had some success playing in Winnipeg. So we feel confident going in there, another tough building to play in, but we feel confident after what we were able to do last series."

The road seems to bring out the best in the Blues. They're 3-0 in the playoffs, with all three wins coming in Winnipeg, they had the fewest regulation losses in the West (13) during the regular season (21-13-7 record) and fourth-fewest in the NHL behind Tampa Bay (nine), Toronto and Pittsburgh (12 each).

"At home, I don't know what it is," forward Pat Maroon said. "We struggle, but it is what it is. We've got to put it behind us now. It's tied 1-1, we're going in tomorrow, we've got to find a way to win.

"I just think we get to our game right away. Maybe we like playing on the road in front of the other fans. I just think bonding with the guys and being with the guys on the road makes it a lot different. I just think we establish our game right away. At home, I feel like we wait for them to come at us instead of dictating the play right away. On the road, we try to dictate the play right off the bat. We get to our game right away. I don't know why that happens. It's a weird game like that, but we're fully confident going into Dallas right now tied 1-1, we're still in a really good spot."

One area of emphasis for the Blues may be not only paying attention to Dallas' top line of Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn and Alexander Radulov, but also that of the Stars' second line of Roope Hintz, Mats Zuccarello and Jason Dickinson. That trio combined for seven points (two goals, five assists) on Saturday, with Hintz leading the way with two goals and an assist, and Zuccarello and Dickinson each picking up two assists.

"They're the ones who are scoring for them," Pietrangelo said. "They've done well. We've done a good job on that top line, but I think we can be better against that secondary scoring. If we can take that away, I think that's when our depth will really kick in."

Did the Blues underestimate that second line?

"No, I think everything that they're getting, we're pretty much giving to them," Pietrangelo said. "We can be better in terms of managing the puck and lessening those opportunities."

Regardless of the obstacles and challenges that lie ahead, nobody expected this to be a quick series. 

"Yeah, you knew going into it, you knew it wasn't going to be a sweep," Schenn said. "One and one, two games here, we've had chances, a lot of chances to score goals, goalies have played really well, you knew that was going to happen going into the series as well. We've got to do a better job of getting in on their defensemen, making it hard on [Ben] Bishop because chances are the shots that he's seeing, he's going to stop."

What the Blues would like to stop is making their power play predictable in the series. They were 0-for-5 on Saturday, including a 24-second two-man advantage late in the first period that they never even got a chance to try anything with, and a late power-play that included 55 seconds of 6-on-4.

"They've done a good job of up-ice pressure, disrupting the breakout," Schenn said. "That's up to us. We've got to make adjustments, be cleaner. Execution's got to be way better. They can pressure up ice all you want, but as long as you execute, there's always a guy open. We've just got to do a better job with that."
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Ivan Barbashev (left) tries to maintain control of the puck while absorbing a
check from Stars defenseman Esa Lindell on Saturday in Game 2.

With Dallas playing its first home game of the series, expect the Stars to ramp up the physical aspect.

"I think we need to be more physical," Maroon said. "I think myself (and) other guys need to be more engaged, more physical. But that goes along with the series. Right now, we've got to find ways to do that. We've got to be harder on those top guys. They're going to be more frustrating on our top guys, so our bottom two lines have got to find ways to frustrate them. We've got to do a better job off that. But like I said, it's a long series. You don't want to take stupid penalties. You don't want to get too involved in it. Just make sure you take numbers, get a nice clean hit. It's going to be a physical series. It's going to get dirtier and dirtier every game. I mean 'dirty' just by stoppage of play, in-your-face kind of stuff, so yeah, it's going to be more physical down the stretch."

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Poor start, ineffective power play cost Blues in 4-2 loss to Stars in Game 2

Early mistakes, Dallas transition help even series 1-1; St. Louis 
goes 0-for-5 on power-play, series shifts to Dallas for Games 3 and 4

ST. LOUIS -- The Blues have had these tough starts to games a few times throughout the playoffs but have been able to recover.

Dipping one's hand in the cookie jar one few many times will eventually cost you, and even after shoddy play early, the Blues had the chance to redeem themselves with the man-advantage against the Dallas Stars on Saturday in Game 2 of the Western Conference second round series.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues winger Vladimir Tarasenko (91) has pressure applied by Stars' Esa
Lindell on Saturday in Game 2.

A poor start and an ineffective power play ultimately cost the Blues in a 4-2 loss on Saturday at Enterprise Center, evening the best-of-7 series 1-1. The series now shifts to Dallas for Games 3 and 4. Game 3 is Monday at 7 p.m.

"It's not going to be easy," said Blues goalie Jordan Binnington, who was peppered early with Grade A scoring chances but finished with 31 saves. "These teams are here for a reason. Both are good and both can play, so … we're going on the road tied 1-1."

Dallas got two goals and an assist from Roope Hintz, and Ben Bishop recovered from a so-so Game 1 to finish with 32 saves and improve to 11-3 following a loss in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"I do a pretty good job of not carrying the luggage with me," Bishop said. "I’ve been pulled, I’ve given up six (goals). It happens. That’s the cool thing about playoffs. Every game is a new game and you don’t carry on that from the last game. You can have good ones, you can have bad ones. There is obviously a bigger spotlight on the bad ones and everybody else wants to blow them up. But I’ve done a pretty good job of leaving them in the rear-view mirror and getting ready for the next one."

St. Louis was its own worst enemy early and fell behind 3-1 on goals by Hintz at 7:11, Miro Heiskanen at 13:39 and Mattias Janmark at 14:51 after Colton Parayko, who had a goal and an assist, scored at 14:25 to cut the Stars lead to 2-1.

"We made a couple mistakes and they capitalized," Blues interim coach Craig Berube said succinctly.

They sure did, and it started with the first goal when Pat Maroon coughed up a puck near the blue line with the chance to get it out, and Hintz scored from the slot to make it 1-0 after Mats Zuccarello curled around Joel Edmundson and made a play to an open Hintz in the slot. Binnington got a piece but not enough.

Heiskanen's goal that made it 2-0 came off an Alex Pietrangelo zone entry, and when he whipped a puck through the low slot area, Dallas turned it back around catching the Blues flat-footed. It turned into a 2-on-1 after Heiskanen burst up the ice with Hintz, and they were able to maneuver around Carl Gunnarsson and Heiskanen tucked a drag into an empty cage.

But Parayko got a big goal less than a minute later on a wrist shot from the high slot to make it a 2-1 game, but on the next shift, Brayden Schenn lost puck possession, then Jason Dickinson was able to beat Schenn and Vince Dunn to a loose puck and go in with Janmark on another 2-on-1. Dickinson fed Janmark at the right post and he crammed it through Binnington's pads to suck the life out of the building again.

The last three goals came during a 4-on-4, which the Blues did not handle well at all.

"They took advantage of some opportunities they had there," Blues left wing Jaden Schwartz said of the Stars. "Our puck play wasn't as good, wasn't as sharp as it usually is. They took advantage and executed on their opportunities. We did a good job climbing back, but that's a lapse we can't have."

Added Berube: "We've got to make a better puck decision in the neutral zone and then back our defense up on the play. A few mistakes on that.

"At times when we turned it over, we turned some pucks over in that first period and they transitioned well. They're a good transition team. We have to make better plays there and make sure we're putting it in deep."

From there, Bishop, who allowed three goals on just 20 shots in Game 1, made sure to keep the Blues at bay.

Bishop, who grew up in St. Louis, had fans chanting his name derisively throughout the games here. He even teased them when he almost knocked in a David Perron shot off the back boards into his own net but alertly swiped it off from the goal line to keep it a 3-1 game in the second.

"You don’t think about it during the game, but now, you can chuckle about it," Bishop said. "It’s pretty crazy to think you were that kid up there in St. Louis, screaming [Ed] Belfour’s name and now, you’re on the ice and they’re screaming your name. Never in a million years would I have thought that when I was watching playoff games as a kid that I would be in the net playing against the Blues. But it’s pretty neat now. I’m not thinking too much about it, but obviously, it’s pretty cool."

The Blues had a late power play in the first but failed to convert. It was a sign of things to come. It continued with a 24-second 5-on-3 that produced nothing and a power play at the end of the game with 2:45 remaining that didn't produce much, including a 6-on-4 for 55 seconds when the Blues pulled Binnington.

"We ended up with the puck on the face-off with the power play and made a bad play and gave it back to them," Berube said. "We get the puck there, get set up, we can get our goalie out a lot quicker and get 6 on 4 with more time.

"We got some good looks. They did a good job up ice on us and disrupted our breakout at times. Winning the face-off is important, obviously. We lost some draws and kills your momentum a little bit. We had some good looks but not enough. We've got to do a better job of little things, like in the breakout, better execution, and face-offs, execution too. That will help for sure."

Schwartz scored 1:48 into the third period to make it 3-2, a goal that needed review just to make sure it went in, and then there was a Stars challenge for goalie interference.

Schwartz, who leads the Blues with five playoff goals, tipped in Parayko's wrist shot by Bishop cutting to the net. It went in and out so fast that officials didn't initially call it a goal but after conferring, did. The Stars then challenged and the goal was upheld.

It was the kind of goal the Blues needed quickly in a period to gain the momentum, and they had it.

"We had that belief to come back," Schwartz said. "This time of year, be able to score and win games when you're down in them. We had a good push and had a lot of zone time. Pucks were right around the net, we just couldn't finish them."

That momentum was there. The Blues were outshooting Dallas 28-19 when Perron was called for goalie interference with 7:21 left. The Stars had their second power play and had nine -- NINE! -- shots on goal but Binnington kept them at bay.

"That's was impressive by him," Parayko said of Binnington. "He made some big saves. We had good defense in front and everything was huge."

And with the Blues pressing for the tying goal, Hintz iced it with an empty-netter with three seconds remaining.

"Both teams played hard," Schwartz said. "This time of year, there's not a lot of space. Forwards track hard, D have tight gaps and it's physical. That's how playoffs is this time of the year. We've just got to do a better job of using our speed and finding those holes."
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Robert Thomas (18) tries to move the puck around Stars defenseman Roman
Polak and goalie Ben Bishop in Game 2 of the second round Saturday. 

"It's going to be tight," Berube said. "Both teams play good defensive hockey, both goalies are playing well. Our power play could have helped us tonight, it didn't. That might have made the difference in the game."

Center Ivan Barbashev left the game in the second period but returned after colliding with teammate Vince Dunn.

* NOTES -- Berube and Binnington took their turns getting accolades from the NHL.

On Friday, Berube was named a finalist for the Jack Adams Award given to the coach "adjudged to have contributed the most to his team's success." Berube, Tampa Bay's Jon Cooper and New York Islanders coach Barry Trotz are the finalists.

"It's a great honor for sure to be in the conversation with those other coaches," Berube said. "I've said that all along, it's an organizational thing. Doug [Armstrong's] done a great job of putting the players together and my coaching staff, obviously a great coaching staff, they've done a great job with these guys and the players. For me, it's the players. They've come together and played well as a team and bought into what we're preaching. That's why we're here where we're at."

Berube is 38-20-4, including the playoffs, since he took over for Mike Yeo on Nov. 19.

And Binnington was named a finalist for the Calder Trophy, given to the player selected as the most proficient in his first year of competition in the league.

Binnington, Vancouver's Elias Pettersson and Buffalo's Rasmus Dahlin are the finalists.

Binnington went 24-5-1 with a league-leading 1.89 goals-against average and .927 save percentage in the regular season.

"Very honored," Binnington said. "It’s been great here, the team has been great for me and I’m very honored and humbled to receive the recognition."

Friday, April 26, 2019

Blues want to be better for Game 2 than just in spurts

Stars had better of play in third period with Blues trying to protect two-goal 
lead; grabbing 2-0 series lead would be big when series shifts to Dallas

ST. LOUIS -- It was a win, one that gave the Blues a 1-0 lead against the Dallas Stars in the Western Conference second round series. 

But the Blues know that Game 2, slated for Saturday at 2 p.m. (NBC, KYKY 98.1-FM), will have to be a better one than the 3-2 win in Game 1 on Thursday.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Tyler Bozak (right) said the Blues want to have a better game against the
Stars and defenseman Taylor Fedun (42) on Saturday.

"It's tough," center Tyler Bozak said Friday. "Obviously, they're a really good team. It's the third period and they're down a couple goals, so they're going to press pretty hard. So you've got to think defense first and in those scenarios obviously, you want to play with the puck as much as you can in the o-zone. They're rolling their top guys out there and they're extremely good players. They're going to get their chances. I thought Binner did a great job and I thought our D did a great job."

Jordan Binnington made 16 of his 27 saves in the third period when the Stars outshot the Blues 17-6, and a number of key saves came after Vladimir Tarasenko scored the second of his two goals to give the Blues a 3-1 lead.

The Blues settled in and decided to try and protect that two-goal lead rather than continue to push the envelope leading to the notion that a two-goal lead is the most dangerous.

"I'll take a two-goal lead any day if that's possible," Bozak said. "I don't really think about that. I'd rather have a two-goal lead than a one-goal lead, that's for sure. Obviously, we can do a lot of things better than we did last game and good teams find a way to win and we found a way to win and that's huge to get the first one for us."

The Stars outshot the Blues 29-20 for the game and found some positives themselves in pushing to the end. Jamie Benn, who scored a power-play goal with 2 minutes 17 seconds left to make it a 3-2 game, nearly tied it but he fanned on a swinging shot at an airborne puck in the closing seconds from close range after the puck was centered.

"We started playing better," Stars center Tyler Seguin said. "We showed some good stuff. We’re happy with some of the things we did in the game, but we also know there’s a lot of areas that need improving."

It was a game of momentum swings throughout for both teams, with each grabbing the bull by the horns.

The Stars opened the game quickly and pinned the Blues back before Robby Fabbri scored on their first shot of the game on St. Louisan Ben Bishop at 5:57 of the first period to get St. Louis settled in. 

"A deep breath, a weight lifted off my shoulders," Fabbri said of scoring for the first time in 25 games. "I knew it had been a while, I didn't know it was 24 games, I didn't want to look. At this time of year, it's not about goals, I'm happy coming out of games doing the little things if it's not getting on the scoreboard."

Then when the Blues had their moments, they worked the puck in cycle form in the Stars' end and created plenty of offensive zone time.

"I think they probably had a few more than us to be honest," Bozak said. "I didn't think we got off to the start we wanted. Obviously 'Binner' held us in it and got a big goal from 'Fabs' that kind of boosted us and I think we kind of took over a bit. It's two really defensive teams that don't give up a lot. Two really good goaltenders. There's not going to be a ton of shots throughout the whole series as some of those other series you see. We've got to capitalize on our chances and when you get a guy like Vladi [Tarasenko] getting opportunities, pretty happy with that."

Some of the little things for the Blues to find success would be to fluidly move throughout their zone and crisply get pucks out and past the Stars' quick forecheck.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Brayden Schenn (10) and the Blues would like to generate more than 20
shots on goal against Ben Bishop (30) and the Dallas Stars on Saturday.

"I think that's more on us," defenseman Carl Gunnarsson said. "We know we have to be better tomorrow. But we're playing a good team. We just have to focus on ourselves and just take another step. We know that wasn't good enough but we got the win, we're happy with that, but we have to keep improving."

The Blues will be looking for their second 2-0 series lead in these playoffs. They won the first two games in Winnipeg in the first round before the Jets came to Enterprise Center and took two, only to see the Blues win in Winnipeg again and close the series out in six.

"It's tight out there. It's tough hockey, physical hockey," Blues interim coach Craig Berube said. "There were some big hits (in Game 1). They're a good team. They've got size, really good players. It's going to be a tight series. What you saw [Thursday] is what you're going to see."

Tarasenko's two goals help Blues to 3-2 win over Stars in Game 1

Binnington clutch with 27 saves; Fabbri scores first goal in 25 
to help St. Louis take 1-0 series lead in best-of-7 second round

ST. LOUIS -- He has the ability to take a game over at any given moment. 

That's what the Blues come to expect out of Vladimir Tarasenko and know of this capability.

Tarasenko had jut two goals through six games in a first-round series win against the Winnipeg Jets but hadn't had that sort of breakout game yet.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Vladimir Tarasenko (91) scores in the third period past Stars goalie Ben
Bishop after cutting around defenseman Miro Heiskanen on Thursday.

Until Thursday.

He scored twice, including a highlight reel goal in the third period that turned out to be the difference in a 3-2 win against the Dallas Stars in Game 1 of the Western Conference Second Round at Enterprise Center.

The Blues, who lead the best-of-7 series 1-0 with Game 2 slated for Saturday at 2 p.m., got the boost they needed from Tarasenko, who also scored a power-play goal in the second period to end Dallas' perfect run on the penalty kill, and Robby Fabbri scored his first goal in 25 games while Jordan Binnington made 27 saves, including 16 in the third period to preserve the win.

But this was all Tarasenko, who continues to torment the Stars. He has 23 points (16 goals, seven assists) in 27 regular-season games against them, and now has nine points (five goals, four assists) in eight playoff games against the Stars.

"Just God-given talent," Blues interim coach Craig Berube said of Tarasenko. "He's a powerful guy that can skate. When he drives wide like that, he's really tough to handle for a lot of people. We've talked about it. It's been ongoing for quite some time throughout the year and I think he's gotten better better at it."

Tarasenko took a puck at the center ice red line, burst up the sideline, powered his way past talented Stars rookie defenseman Miro Heiskanen before depositing a shot top shelf over St. Louisan Ben Bishop at 3:51 of the third period and gave the Blues a 3-1 lead.

"I obviously scored," said Tarasenko, who had a similar move in the second period on former Blue Roman Polak but didn't score. "Cut the middle, it's nice but guys know you do this a lot, so you just try to take the puck wide, take it to the net, use the body and good thing it works at the right time."

It provided the Blues with ample breathing room, because the Stars, who had just 12 shots on goal through two periods, peppered Binnington with 17 third-period shots, pulled within one when Jamie Benn, a Blues nemesis, scored a power-play goal with 2:17 remaining and nearly tied it at the buzzer when Benn fanned on an airborne puck.

But this is what Tarasenko is capable of doing at the right moments for the Blues.

"It’s amazing how he can make something out of nothing," Blues center Ryan O'Reilly said of Tarasenko. "That play, I’m in the corner and I just try to throw the puck up. He makes a play, he gets it, then drops wide and scores an unbelievable goal. That’s just him. He’s just one of the few people in the game that can turn it on and make those amazing plays."

The Stars came out with a bit of purpose early and hemmed the Blues in their zone, had a 5-0 shot lead before Fabbri scored his first goal since Nov. 23 on the Blues' first shot.

He took Ivan Barbashev's stretch pass before whipping a wrist shot through Bishop's five-hole for a 1-0 lead 5:57 into the game.

"Yeah, puck's rolling," said Bishop, who made 17 saves in the game. "I don't think he's trying to go five-hole. Kind of fans on it and it goes five-hole. Sometimes when they're trying to shoot somewhere else and ends up fanning five-hole, that's how it goes in. Kind of an unfortunate break, but it happens sometimes."

Jason Spezza tied it for the Stars at 10:25 of the second when John Klingberg skated around David Perron before feeding Spezza in the left circle. Binnington got a piece of the shot but not enough.

But Tarasenko's power-play goal gave the Blues the lead for good when he took Brayden Schenn's quick cross-ice pass, skated into the left circle and beat Bishop five-hole at 18:03 of the second.

"We talk a lot about our power play in practices," Tarasenko said. "I always say hard work will pay off. Good thing it works. 'Schenner' make a great pass, 'O'Ry' make a pick and they create a great scoring chance for me."

"That was a massive one to give us some confidence," O'Reilly said. "Our first power play we had there wasn’t great. We needed to get back to shooting the puck to generate some momentum and obviously it was a big play. Everyone was involved on it and it gave us some big confidence for sure."

The Blues took the initiative early in the third and got the goal needed by Tarasenko to gain some breathing room.

"I thought Vladi, he took the puck wide with speed tonight," Berube said. "He drove the net a few times, got rewarded with a goal. Good job. We talk about driving the puck wide all the time with speed and he did that tonight a few times."

Things got a bit chippy at the 12:22 mark when Stars forward Blake Comeau made contact with Binnington when Binnington beat him to a puck in the high slot. The Blues' goalie went down, and a penalty was being called, but Vince Dunn and Alex Pietrangelo took exception before a bit of a skirmish broke out, and offsetting penalties were awarded.

"He kind of came out a little late," Dunn said of Binnington. "I thought I was going to get the puck. Once a goalie's out, you have to make sure you're out of his way. It was kind of a freak play. I didn't want to hit him and I didn't want to get in the way of the puck.

"I definitely think it's an emotional game. I definitely think [Comeau] could have avoided contact there. I'm just trying to do something for my teammates."

Binnington downplayed it.

"I don't mind that," said Binnington, who improved to 5-2 in the postseason and set a Blues record for most wins in a postseason by a rookie goaltender, eclipsing Jacques Caron (4-5 in 1972) and Curtis Joseph (4-1 in 1990). "It's playoff hockey and stuff happens. It was nice to see the boys come in there and stir it up afterwards. It was a unique play that doesn't happen too often and I think we handled it well."

What the Blues didn't handle all that well was the third period in general and Dallas' push at the end, which nearly resulted in two late goals.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Robby Fabbri celebrates after scoring for the Blues in a 3-2 win over Dallas
in Game 1 of the Western Conference Second Round on Thursday.

"I didn't think that we made enough plays. We've got to be better making plays. Our puck play has got to be better. All game, I didn't think it was great. We've got to be better. They're going to be better next game, we've got to be better."

"There's no space in the playoffs, so we need to find a way to go into the hard areas to score the goals, hang out down low with the puck and don't make the turnovers," Tarasenko said.

But at this point, a win is a win, and the Blues held down the Stars' top line of Benn, Tyler Seguin and Alexander Radulov, which had 18 points in their first-round series win over Nashville, to a goal and an assist, which came on the Benn goal.