Tuesday, May 18, 2021


Blues have major improvements to make in series, goaltending not one of
them; Kyrou's first postseason goal; Dunn skates; Perron remains in protocol

DENVER -- Down 1-0 in their series against the Colorado Avalanche following a 4-1 loss in Game 1, the takeaway is the Blues have their work cut out for them.

That's an understatement.

Oh, and Jordan Binnington will give the Blues a chance if he continues to play like he did Monday when he made 46 saves and kept it a 1-1 game heading into the third period.

"Yeah, he played great," Blues defenseman Justin Faulk said. "He did exactly or more than what we could have asked him to do. He played pretty damn well and made a bunch of huge saves and kept us in it. Whenever you have that, you know you have an opportunity every night to win a game. And if Binner can keep doing it, not trying to say if he can keep doing it, but with Binner playing that way, if he's going to continue to play that way, there's no reason that the boys can't rally behind that and pick up our game and try to get going too."

But the Blues, bombarded with all the statistics, including shots differential (50-23) and possession time, certainly have to start talking the talk if they are to make this a series, because everything they were talking about not allowing the Avalanche to do to fuel its success, the Blues led the feeding frenzy.

"We didn't do anything with the hockey puck," Blues coach Craig Berube said. "First of all, that's where it all starts, coming out of our own end with the puck. We didn't make plays, we just punted pucks out of our own zone. They basically took our game plan of what we wanted to do and made it a three-quarter ice game and now we're back in our end. We've got to do a batter job making plays coming out of our end and advancing it 200 feet. Our forecheck wasn't tight enough. We allowed numbers up the ice, odd-man rushes against us. We didn't do a good enough job on their D, making them stop, controlling the puck in the offensive zone. Our forecheck's got to be better. Those two things really stand out for me more than anything. That fuels their game. They're a good team off the rush, they're a good transition team. We've got to take that away."

Take away time and space, make the Avs stop and start with pucks in the d-zone, don't allow the transition to get going, better play in the neutral zone. All that, huh? 

Oh, and slow down that train of Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog while you're at it? Good luck, because that trio got off to a rip-roaring start in the series opener with three goals, four assists and a plus-8 rating.

"It is as expected. Their top line carries a lot of their offense and a lot of the weight for their team," Faulk said. "At the same time, I think we could have done a better job on their other three lines as well. With that, if you can kind of control the play a little bit more throughout their lineup, it'll slow their top line down just as a whole because the way they have to change, the way they get momentum and the way they kind of generate, if we can kind of leave it to just not necessarily saying it's going to happen, but that top line, it'll help us a lot and allow us to generate more as well.

"Any time you allow them to kind of gain the offensive zone with possession over the blue line, it opens up a lot more options. They can hit the third guy, they can hit the fourth guy. If we don't have numbers on the way back or if any of their guys beats some of us up the ice, it really gives them a lot of options, so if you can kind of force a dump-in or force a play at the blue line, it either results in an offsides or a dump-in and slows their rush chances. They play very well off the rush and they get a lot of chances that way so if we can kind of as D have better gaps and kind of be in their face a little bit more to create those turnovers, it'll help us tremendously."

Berube said, "I'm not sure it's really one thing that gets us off our game defending them. We kept them off the scoresheet 5-on-5 until the first shift of the third period, but in general, we have to be tighter on them. We've got to take away their rush game. They hit the middle of the ice way too much, that line included. Now it's tough. They're coming at us with speed, their coming at our D with speed and they've got numbers. That starts all in the offensive zone and on the forecheck. It's about reloading harder, it's about better positioning, better sticks. All those little things, D being tighter, banging walls. We weren't connected with five-man units. Yes, the first period, we had some good zone time and some good play in the first play for about 10 minutes."

The Blues say they'll be better in Game 2, and they better be, but what do they need to do to accomplish that?

"Just cleaner execution with the puck, without the puck," Faulk said. "I think it all needs to blend in together. If we execute with the puck, especially coming out of our own end and through the neutral zone, that sets up our forecheck and then when you get that going, that allows us to play offense and even if your forecheck is going the right way and they break the puck out, the D generally are up tighter, they have better gaps and it allows us to shut them down and create turnovers on our end and then start the cycle all over again. It's just better execution, kind of all over the ice, but definitely with the puck, so we can put ourselves in a better position."

One thing the defensemen need to realize is not to just hand the puck back over to a team that feeds off fear.

"A big part of it, yeah," Berube said. 'We've got to make plays and want the puck and advance it 200 feet and put pucks into areas in the offensive zone where we can get them back and forecheck. It wasn't there for 60 minutes. I thought our second period, we were coming, we were pretty good in that period. I thought that was a pretty good period for us, but the third period, we get scored on right away the first shift and really killed our momentum, I thought, and we're kind of on our heels that period. We didn't really battle back in that period. We didn't get enough good looks or opportunities."

* Kyrou's first of many -- Jordan Kyrou's first NHL postseason goal was picture-perfect for the Blues at the time, and tied the game 1-1 late in the second when he, Ivan Barbashev and Robert Thomas executed a perfect odd-man rush that culminated with Kyrou's one-timer from the slot off Barbashev's backhand feed.

"Obviously it was a very exciting goal for me," Kyrou said. "It was my first playoff goal so I was a little more excited than usual, so I was excited to get that."

It was too bad the Blues didn't feed off the gain in momentum at the time, because they sucked the life out of the 7,700-plus fans in the building and had to have the Avalanche thinking in their heads that they can't beat Binnington with the night he was having.

But that all went out the window when MacKinnon scored 30 seconds into the third period.

"It was definitely good to get that one and tie the game up," Kyrou said. "Colorado's a good team, so we've got to try and capitalize on the chances that we get. It was a good second (period) there and we kind of let off in the third a little bit there."

Berube made a switch in the second period, flipping Barbashev and Mike Hoffman, putting Barbashev with Thomas and Kyrou and moving Hoffman to a line with Tyler Bozak and Vladimir Tarasenko.

"I thought that Vladi and Barby and Bozak, in the first period, Vladi hit the post; they had some good shifts," Berube said. "That wasn't the reason I switched that line, I didn't find that 18, 25 and 68 were getting anything going so I wanted to put a more physical player (Barbashev) on that line and they had some good shifts together. I thought Hoffman was fine with Bozak and Tarasenko in the game too."

* Player updates/evaluations -- Blues forward David Perron remained on the NHL's COVID-19 protocol list on Tuesday, along with defenseman Jake Walman, and Berube had no further update on either.

Defenseman Vince Dunn, who's missed 12 straight games with an upper-body injury, practiced during Tuesday's optional.

"He's feeling OK," Berube said. "He'll skate today and we'll get a better view of him after practice to see if he's available tomorrow."

As for Tarasenko, he had a glorious chance early to put the Blues ahead but hit the right post instead on a close-in range chance and was engaged early but seemed to fade as the game progressed.

"Early on he was good," Berube said. "He was skating and attacking. He didn't do it for 60 minutes. He's got to skate. It's all skating for him and getting involved and getting in there and being aggressive and I thought early on, he was good. He had a couple real good looks. He had a partial breakaway, hit the post. He did some good things, but overall, it's about skating for him and getting in there and getting inside the dots and getting around the net."

Niko Mikkola played in his first NHL playoff game and played 11:31, was a plus-1 with a hit and a blocked shot.

"He was fine," Berube said. "I didn't have an issue with Mikkola. He was aggressive, he's physical, he did a good job."

No comments:

Post a Comment