Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Big-name players come out to play for Blues in 4-1 win over Avalanche

Perron, Schenn, Tarasenko, Thomas all make impact that 
leads to second straight win; Binnington makes 30 saves

ST. LOUIS -- David Perron could only smile about it now.

It wasn't so funny a few days ago when he was turning the puck over three times during an early-game power play that was a prelude of what was to come, a loss to the Colorado Avalanche to kick off a three-game series at Enterprise Center, and further cement how things had been going for Perron and his teammates.
(St. Louis Blues/Scott Rovak)
Vladimir Tarasenko (91) gave the Blues a 1-0 lead on Jonas Johansson
(35) and the Colorado Avalanche in a 4-1 St. Louis win on Monday.

"Two games ago I had a crazy power play shift that kind of chipped away my confidence a little bit for half that game just because obviously you're not trying to make any bad plays out there," Perron admitted after a 4-1 win against these very same Avalanche on Monday night, capping off a series win of two games to one for the Blues.

"The first one I kind of double-clutched it and they kind of go on a breakaway," Perron added. Things like that happened. And then last game we couldn't get anything going. I felt like as a line, I couldn't get in there as much as I wanted. Power plays, I made a couple bad plays again. Bad plays are still going to happen, but when you start chipping at your confidence, little things like that, you want to grab it really quick. You want to be really sharp really quick. I was glad I responded, but again I've got to keep going next game."

Yes, Perron responded. He scored a goal, his first in 10 games, and added a pair of assists in the 4-1 win Monday, but it wasn't just Perron who got off the schneid.

Blues coach Craig Berube was looking for more from some of his big-time players, big-money players that perhaps had been bringing the effort but not necessarily the results.

Not only did Perron respond with a big-game effort, but how about Vladimir Tarasenko? Scoring a power-play goal as the bumper and net front presence in front, getting his first in seven games. How about Brayden Schenn, who whipped that gigantic gorilla that had been draped on his back for several weeks? He scored his first in 20 games Monday, and Robert Thomas, injured often this season, potted just his second of the season in 23 games.

Mike Hoffman had an assist to give him eight points the past six games (five goals, three assists). Even though he scored twice in a loss to the Avs last week, Jaden Schwartz scored twice in that game. 

Oh and there's Jordan Binnington, who made 30 saves to keep his solid play going, not long after proclaiming after a home win, 'We're coming."

These are all guys Berube needed results from and got them in another all-important game against one of the league's best teams.

"It's great to see them get pucks, get the puck to go in for them," Berube said. "We need those guys to produce. They know that. I thought the whole team was pretty engaged all night and played a solid game. I thought the Thomas line had a real good game, they had the puck a lot. 'Tommer' ended up scoring finally. He had a couple breakaways in the game too and didn't capitalize on them but he stayed with it and he got a nice goal there. We need our big guys to produce. That's what they're paid to do.

"... Vladi on the power-play goal, good goal. The O'Reilly line had a good game, solid game going against (Nathan) MacKinnon all night. They scored two goals, that line. Real good job."
These are guys that had perhaps been squeezing sticks for some time the longer games passed and pucks weren't going in the net for them.

Ask Schenn, who has done everything else but score ... until Ryan O'Reilly, one of the money players scoring at a regular clip, found Schenn in the left circle before he snapped off a quick one-timer past Jonas Johansson that made it 2-0 in the first.

"It’s obviously, everyone goes through slumps, ups and downs, this year isn’t 82 games, but over an 82-game season, you’re going to have them," Schenn said. "Maybe I haven't had one that long, you’ve got to keep fighting through it and eventually it will come. So it’s nice to get the monkey off the back and get it going more so offensively."

Going back to Perron, who is tied with O'Reilly for the team lead in points with 45 in 46 games, what really got the juices flowing tonight wasn't necessarily what started on the offensive end.

Sure, it played a role, but when he arrived at the rink Monday afternoon and saw his name up there again next to close pal O'Reilly and Schenn flanking the Blues' captain as his wingers, Perron knew what the assignment was: to slow down the -- no pun intended -- avalanche known as MacKinnon.

OK, so MacKinnon didn't have Colorado's team leader in goals Mikko Rantanen for the series, but Gabriel Landeskog and Andre Burakovsky are no slouches either. 

The Schenn-O'Reilly-Perron trio can pick up the scoresheet and see across the board minus-3 each for MacKinnon, Landeskog and Burakovsky. 

MacKinnon, who did extent his point streak to 14 games (nine goals, 16 assists) with a power-play goal in this game, assisted by Landeskog and Burakovsky, was simply shut down 5-on-5 by the Schenn-O'Reilly-Perron line, and that trio can take pride in that. It used that challenge as a boost in other areas.

"Yeah, it's cool to play against those guys," Perron said. "It just brings your game up a level every single time that happens, that I get the chance to play against the top line on the other side. I feel like I want to raise my level up to that and sustain that. 

"I remember coming into the league and you play against (Patrick) Kane and (Jonathan) Toews and those guys and I just ... obviously the Blues were in a different state as a team back then, but that game you wanted to step up and match those guys. It feels similar. It's great to be a part of tonight. To shut them out 5-on-5 ice time, it was key for us to get the win. And O'Ry, like he's just doing it every single night. It's very impressive."

The Corsi and Fenwick numbers didn't necessarily reflect how well the O'Reilly line neutralized MacKinnon and Company, but it outscored the Avalanche trio 2-0 at even-strength and the biggest number, it held those skaters to zero high danger scoring chances.

"We got the matchup the past couple of games and with O’Reilly, he’s so easy to play with, he plays extremely hard, he supports the puck well, and he’s good at both ends of the ice," Schenn said. "He had a heck of a two games and 'DP' tonight stepped up offensively for us. That line generates … obviously they’re missing a guy that already has (26) goals, so maybe it’s a bit different when they have Mikko Rantanen on the right wing, but at the end of the day, you still got good players on that line. It was nice to shut them down a little bit."

With 10 games left, it's what the Blues will need moving forward. They'll need the defensive output in one end and hope that will lead to better things in the offensive zone.

"I guess I'll speak for our line. We played a lot of the night against MacKinnon's line and their guys are four up the ice the whole time," Perron said. "Schenner and I were talking about how (Cale) Makar and (Samuel) Girard and those guys, you don't just back-check their blue line, you've got to back-check almost all the way to the hash marks. That's how involved and how active they are. They stay in the offense a long time. It seems like they don't feel like they're taking too much risk. They don't really turn it over either. They're doing a good job of just activating and we have to be really sharp. It was great."

The Blues finished the season series 3-5 against the Avalanche, but in each of the losses, they were by one goal (empty-netters aside) except for one, the 8-0 thrashing in the second game of the season, so should the Blues qualify for the playoffs, it could be a matchup with the Avs in the first round.
(St. Louis Blues/Scott Rovak)
Brayden Schenn (third from right) is congratulated by the Blues bench
after scoring his first in 20 games of a 4-1 win over Colorado Monday.

And games like these are what should give the Blues confidence.

And just think, they did it without key defensemen Colton Parayko and Vince Dunn, each out due to an upper-body injury, and got the job done with Niko Mikkola, who had been a healthy scratch the past 10 games, and veteran Steven Santini, playing in his first NHL game since Nov. 21, 2019 with the Nashville Predators.

"Yeah, it's great," Perron said. "Obviously we wanted to get more early on. We could have. I feel like, I really get this feeling that we can play against any team when we do the right things like we did tonight. That's really what's truly special about our group. I think we still got that quiet confidence that we've got to keep pushing forward and things are going to click in the end at the right time. 'Binner' was outstanding again tonight, even when it was 4-1. He didn't give them anything to build off and it was great."

A win coupled with Arizona's 6-4 loss at San Jose Monday, the Blues moved back into the fourth and final playoff spot in the West Division with three games in hand on the Coyotes. 

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