Friday, May 7, 2021

(5-7-21) Blues-Golden Knights Gameday Lineup

Another chance to clinch the fourth and final berth in the West Division is up for grabs today when the Blues (24-19-8) open a three-game trip, starting with back-to-back games against the Vegas Golden Knights (37-13-2).

The Blues and Golden Knights will drop the puck at 9 p.m. today (BSMW, ESPN 101.1-FM) and the scenario comes down to what the Blues and/or Los Angeles Kings do.

Blues will clinch a playoff berth if they defeat the Golden Knights in any fashion and the Colorado Avalanche defeat the Kings in any fashion, or if they get one point against the Golden Knights and the Avalanche defeat the Kings in regulation.

It's down to five games remaining in the regular season for each the Blues and Kings, and the Blues hold an eight-point edge on Los Angeles, who must run the table and the Blues only gain a single point of their remaining five games.

"Obviously we know what's at stake for us," Blues forward David Perron said. "We can clinch a spot with good performances here and they can do the same and try and hang onto that first place position and knowing there's a chance that we also can play them here down the road. I think there's a lot at stake. We have to be really sharp, really structured and really elevate our compete level and our work ethic and that's the way we're going to have success."

It's also a chance for the Blues to see how they measure up against Vegas, since this could very well be a potential first-round matchup.

The Blues are 2-3-1 in six games against the Golden Knights, including 1-1-0 at T-Mobile Arena.

"I'll tell you in two days if we want to use them or not," Perron said regarding if these are measuring-stick games. "I think you can as far as the little details that we can not feed their transition, blocking shots. Last time they had a lot of shots on against us and we are trying to obviously lower that for 'Binner,' for our defensemen so that they're not always in our zone trying to break out pucks. Just trying to take care of pucks in the o-zone not turning it over at bad times and making sure that we do other little details right."

"It's potentially a matchup down the road," forward Mackenzie MacEachern said. "For a guy like myself, I just want to assert my presence, be physical and get on the forecheck. I'm definitely fired up about the opportunity up here.

"We look at it like (measuring stick games). We kind of want to send a message that we're not going to roll over easy. We're going to be a tough team to beat coming down the stretch here."

Vegas has outscored the Blues 26-14 (not including the Blues' shootout winning tally) and has held St. Louis to one goal in three of those wins.

"We've got to be a confident team tonight," Blues coach Craig Berube said. "I think more than anything, we've played this team tentative at times and we can't have that attitude tonight. ... They've got solid goaltending, a big d-corps back there with two real high-end defensemen in my opinion and they've got a pretty solid group of forwards. I think they're four-lines deep. They really play an aggressive style, they check well with numbers and they attack. They have a real good attack game. They're a real good team. We've to to play well to beat them."

The Blues are in search of energy, according to Berube after his postgame comments following a 3-2 shootout loss to Anaheim on Wednesday. They had just come off six tough games, three each against Colorado, who they were 2-1-0 against, and Minnesota, who they also took two of three from.

"I don't think he's wrong," Perron said. "Obviously playing a lot of big boys over there in Minnesota was tough on a lot of us. We found a way to have results, we played some good hockey and then I do think that for the next two games and the rest of the way to have success, we're going to have to make sure that We don't fall into the trap of trying to transition everything, trying to get 2-on-1's every shift or even score on every shift. Sometimes you have to keep building, keep bringing momentum for your club and tonight is certainly an example of that. We're going to need to be sharp in that area specifically. Otherwise it's going to be in the back of our net more than the other way around. You play a team like the Ducks who are out of the playoffs, they've got young guys playing loose. They tend to be on the outside a lot, they tend to be spreading the zone a lot. It does change how we play the game. We weren't fully satisfied with our result there, but we're looking forward to bring a lot better tonight."
Berube feels the team is refreshed and ready to attack the final five games and the scenarios they'll be faced with.

"After that Minnesota series, we spent a lot of energy in that series," Berube said. "That was a tough series. We just come off a tough series against Colorado at home. The energy was a little low in those two games against Anaheim, but I believe it will be fine now."

- - -

One of the reasons the Blues have come together to go 8-3-2 the past 13 games has been the red-hot power-play, which has scored in 11 of the past 12 games and gone 13-for-31 (41.9 percent).

Since March 1, the Blues are first overall in the league at 30.9 percent (25-for-81).

"All year, we had the right intentions trying to do the right details," Perron said. "I think our level of urgency raised a little bit more. I think we're making smarter plays with the puck. ... It's a key for us."

The personnel has been tweaked, with Mike Hoffman, who leads the team with seven power-play goals and is second to Perron (19) with 14 power-play points, being elevated to the No. 1 unit. And even with regulars like Vladimir Tarasenko and Torey Krug out of the lineup and off the PP, along with Vince Dunn from the second unit, other guys have filled in, including Justin Faulk and Colton Parayko as quarterbacks.

"We simplified things," Berube said. "It's more of a couple plays that we can run, but then it's power play, five against four and you take what they give you and you capitalize on it. Execution's been a lot better for sure, but I think Hoffman's really elevated our power play with his shot, his ability. He's a real good power play guy. Not only his shot, but he makes simple, subtle plays out there. They really help your power play."

Hoffman draws so much attention to the right circle, it tends to open things up for others, which has benefitted the special teams greatly.

"It's definitely cool to have a shot like that over there," Perron said. "I think 'Faulker' brings a lot of that as well if they want to over-commit to him, I think he can just touch it back to 'Faulker' for a big bomb. I think for me in that position, I'm a little bit more of a setup guy than a shooter, but definitely if there's opportunities for me, I definitely have to take it, get it and shoot it. We've done a good job of finding different situations."

- - -

Speaking of Tarasenko (lower-body injury) and Krug (upper body), each made the trip but won't play tonight. Sammy Blais (upper body) did not make the trip, but Dunn (upper body) did but is not close, according to Berube.

And the line tweaks that occurred mid-game Wednesday will stay in tact tonight, including Zach Sanford playing with Perron and Ryan O'Reilly despite no points his past nine games and two goals and two assists his past 25 games.

"I think his game's gotten better the last couple games," Berube said. "Offensively, we're going to have him up there with O'Reilly. He's had good success up there with that line before. He's had good success against Vegas in the past. Hopefully this can get him motivated him, we can get a goal out of him. I think he's done a better job managing the puck lately and being physical and harder to play against and he's got to continue to do that and get pucks to the net, get around the net, shoot pucks when he has the opportunity but be around that net and get some greasy goals."

- - -

The Blues' projected lineup:

Zach Sanford-Ryan O'Reilly-David Perron

Jaden Schwartz-Brayden Schenn-Tyler Bozak

Mike Hoffman-Robert Thomas-Jordan Kyrou

Kyle Clifford-Ivan Barbashev-Mackenzie MacEachern

Marco Scandella-Justin Faulk

Niko Mikkola-Colton Parayko

Jake Walman-Robert Bortuzzo

Jordan Binnington will start in goal; Ville Husso will be the backup. The healthy scratch is Steven Santini. Vladimir Tarasenko (lower body), Torey Krug (upper body), Vince Dunn (upper body) and Sammy Blais (upper body) are out. Oskar Sundqvist (knee) and Carl Gunnarsson (knee) are out for the season. 

- - -

The Golden Knights' projected lineup:

Max Pacioretty-Chandler Stephenson-Mark Stone

Jonathan Marchessault-William Karlsson-Reilly Smith

Mattias Janmark-Peyton Krebs-Alex Tuch

William Carrier-Nicolas Roy-Keegan Kolesar

Alec Martinez-Alex Pietrangelo

Brayden McNabb-Shea Theodore

Nicolas Hague-Zach Whitecloud

Robin Lehner is expected to start in goal; Marc-Andre Fleury would be the backup. Vegas reports no healthy scratches. Ryan Reaves (undisclosed) and Tomas Nosek (undisclosed) are out, and Pacioretty, who's missed the past two games with an undisclosed injury, is a game-time decision.

No comments:

Post a Comment