Saturday, April 30, 2022

Blues begin playoff push as road warriors against Wild

Just like 2019 when they won Cup, Blues to open with Games 1-2 away 
from home, they're fine with that, actually give a sense that they prefer it

ST. LOUIS -- Home ice advantage would have been nice for the Blues, sure.

But in the end, a veteran-savvy group really doesn't care whether they open at home or on the road, which they will do on Monday when the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs begin against the Minnesota Wild.
(St. Louis Blues/Scott Rovak)
Blues defenseman Justin Faulk (72) is being pursued by Wild forward Matt
Boldy in a recent game between the teams at Enterprise Center.

"If it's Game 1 in Minnesota vs. Game 1 here, I don't think our mindset's going to change at all," Blues defenseman Justin Faulk said. "I don't think anyone's going to sit there and think we're at a disadvantage or anything of that nature. Teams win a series on the road all the time. I don't know actually how much of an advantage it is. I know maybe the coaches like it a little bit more because they can get their matchups but as players, I don't really think about that too much. Just go out there and try to get the job done."

Exactly. Ask the 2019 Stanley Cup champions, who started three of their four series on the road en route to the Blues' first-ever title.

They started in Winnipeg, won all three games north of the border and won the series in six; they took two of three in the second round against Dallas, the only series started at home, before winning in seven games; they took two of three in San Jose, winning that series in six, and they won three of four in Boston, including Game 7, winning the Cup, and going 10-3 on the road in the postseason.

Vladimir Tarasenko, Robert Thomas, David Perron, Ryan O'Reilly, Brayden Schenn, Ivan Barbashev, Colton Parayko, Tyler Bozak, Robert Bortuzzo and Jordan Binnington were all part of that road run.

"I don't mind it at all to start on the road," Perron said. "Obviously we tried to get it, but Minny getting one point (Friday) would clinch that for them. Our focus now is headed there whenever the game is and we're excited about it. It will be a great series."

Sure it will be a challenge. The Wild was 31-8-2 at Xcel Energy Center this season, tied for third in the NHL with Toronto and only behind Florida (34) and Colorado (32) for most home wins this season, but the Blues were 23-12-6 away from Enterprise Center, including 9-1-1 in their past 11 away games.

When the Blues and Wild last met in a playoff series in 2017, the Blues started that first-round series on the road and won all three games in Minnesota, winning the series in five games.

There's a comfort level on the road, and there's enough veterans on the roster to not allow the opposing crowd to affect them in a negative way.

"I think you look at our road record this year, it’s very good," Blues coach Craig Berube said. "We’ve played very well down the stretch on the road. So our team’s comfortable playing on the road. I don’t think there’s an issue there.

"There’s always less distractions on the road for sure. You’re at home, you've got family and people coming into town, they want to go to playoff games and they’re always asking you for tickets and this and that. So we feel good about everything. Again, we had a good road record. Been a good road team for quite some time."
(St. Louis Blues/Scvott Rovak)
Blues defenseman Robert Bortuzzo (41) and goalie Ville Husso will be 
getting up close and personal with the Wild and forward Joel Eriksson Ek.

Only Calgary (25) and the Avalanche (24) had more wins away from home than the Blues in the Western Conference, and only the New York Rangers (22) had more regulation road wins than the Blues (21). Their 154 goals scored (3.76 per game) away from home is second to only Toronto (159); their power-play percentage was No. 1 in the NHL at 29.4 percent, and the penalty kill was third (85.1 percent), trailing only Pittsburgh (87.1) and San Jose (85.2).

Individually, Thomas was tied for eighth in the league with 31 road assists.

"I don't think it's the end of the world if we start on the road," Blues captain Ryan O'Reilly said after becoming the ninth skater to reach 20 or more goals Friday in the regular-season finale. "We've had success everywhere and we're a confident group. Either way, it's going to be a battle right to the end and it's just the way it's going to be.

"... We had a great regular season and the focus draws to Minny now. It's going to be a heck of a challenge."

Blues-Wild first round schedule


Game 1 at Minnesota, 8:30 p.m. (BSMW, ESPN, ESPN 101.1-FM)

Game 2 at Minnesota, 8:30 p.m. (BSMW, ESPN, ESPN 101.1-FM)

Game 3 at St. Louis, 8:30 p.m. (BSMW, TNT, ESPN 101.1-FM)

Game 4 at St. Louis, 3:30 p.m. (BSMW, TBS, ESPN 101.1-FM)

Game 5 at Minnesota, TBA (BSMW, ESPN 101.1-FM)

Game 6 at St. Louis, TBA (BSMW, ESPN 101.1-FM)

Game 7 at Minnesota, TBA (BSMW, ESPN 101.1-FM)

Friday, April 29, 2022

Blues fall in regular-season finale, 7-4 to Vegas, with essentially nothing to play for

Blues came in with chance at home ice, needed help, which was squashed 
by Minnesota's win over Colorado, meaning St. Louis opens on road

ST. LOUIS -- Yes, something was on the line for the Blues Friday night.

No, it wasn't in their hands, and perhaps that's why they basically went through the motions for much of the night in their regular-season finale against the Vegas Golden Knights.
(St. Louis Blues/Scott Rovak)
Blues forward Jordan Kyrou (25), who had a goal and an assist in a 7-4 loss 
Friday against Vegas, is defended by Golden Knights forward Nicolas Roy.

The Blues needed a win along with a regulation loss by the Minnesota Wild to get them home ice advantage in their first-round series against the Wild.

Vegas was just playing out the string in a surprisingly and strange season the Golden Knights endured, missing the playoffs for the first time in their five-year history.

The Blues wouldn't say it, publicly anyway, but they had to know that the Wild were winning against the Avalanche, which was sitting many of their star players in a meaningless game for Colorado. The Blues were tied after two periods, but the Wild was ahead 3-1. The end result was a 7-4 finish to the regular season that didn't even matter.

Had the Blues won (49-22-11), it wouldn't have mattered, so why risk getting anyone injured in a game by all intents and purposes deemed meaningless? Unlike the Wild, which may be losing shutdown forward Marcus Foligno to what looked like a knee-on-knee injury, and defenseman Dmitri Kulikov, who was cross-checked from behind in the game.

"Yeah. For sure. That’s a big thing," Blues coach Craig Berube when asked if keeping anyone from getting injured was a focus. "That’s the way they feel, too. The important game is Monday."

Correct answer, coach.

It's understandable that the Wild would go all-out and ensure home ice would be decided in their own hands and not rely on help, but for the Blues, who finish the regular season 49-22-11, needing help made things easier on their mindset going into this one.

"It's kind of a hard one to get stuff going, but it's behind us now," said Blues captain Ryan O'Reilly, who became the ninth Blue to reach 20 or more goals with two goals and an assist Friday to give him 21 for the season. "We had a great regular season and the focus draws to Minny now. It's going to be a heck of a challenge."

Were the Blues playing some loosy-goosy hockey on Friday? Sure. They didn't generate a ton of offense, but the offense they did generate on Vegas goalie Logan Thompson, they were opportunistic on.

At 3-3 after 40 minutes, there had to be a sense that winning would not help them gain home ice against the Wild.

"No, it's we're still trying to play the game, trying to win it and generate something," O'Reilly tried to convince the media. "I wasn't really scoreboard watching to know. We're going out there and trying to find a way to win a game. Unfortunately we didn't, but it wasn't much scoreboard watching, just trying to play our game."

Sure ... (wink-wink!).

Berube shed some light on that notion.

"It’s a tough game. It really is," Berube said. "But it is what it is."

Normally, coaches and players would hone in on the bad points of losing a game in this fashion and giving up seven goals. But Berube would hammer home the point how much they'll dwell on it.

"The page is turned already. It’s over. Minny," Berube said. "That’s all. We’re all on Minny."

They probably thought about it for, oh, maybe 60 seconds after the game ended.

Maybe Ville Husso, who was bombarded with 44 shots, wouldn't agree. He was quick to leave the ice while teammates wanted to come out and pat his pads or offer some solace on the game, but he was having none of it. He stormed off the ice and smacked his stick on the ground as he was leaving. The likely Game 1 starter was not in the mood.
(St. Louis Blues/Scott Rovak)
Blues goalie Ville Husso made 38 saves in a 7-4 loss against the Vegas
Golden Knights on Friday in the regular-season finale.

Perhaps he'll feel better knowing his teammates are entering the series with the Wild pretty unscathed.

"You go out there, you put your best foot forward and obviously we would have liked to have a better game for our club and I think for 'Huus' and for the possibility to get home ice, but yeah, I think it's just time to turn the page tonight and tomorrow start getting ready for the playoffs," said forward David Perron, who had a goal and an assist.

In the end, it was the smart thing to do.

(4-29-22) Golden Knights-Blues Gameday Lineup

ST. LOUIS -- One game. One win. Get some help up north, and the Blues can begin the Stanley Cup playoffs at home.

The Blues (49-21-11) wrap up the regular season today when they host the Vegas Golden Knights (42-31-8) at 7 p.m. (BSMW, ESPN 101.1-FM) needing a win in any fashion and a regulation loss by the Minnesota Wild, who host the Colorado Avalanche tonight.

The Blues and Wild will face each other in the first round of the playoffs. The series will begin in St. Paul for Games 1 and 2 should the Blues lose in any fashion or the Wild earn at least a point against the Avalanche. 

"We talked about it, we want to go play a good game," Blues coach Craig Berube said. "That's what you've got to just focus on, just go out and play a good game, play to our abilities and what makes us successful."

This season, the Blues are 2-0 against the Golden Knights, who were eliminated from playoff contention for the first time in their brief history on Wednesday. They have to prepare for one more game while looking ahead to their first round playoff opponent.

"I don't know if it's tough," Berube said. "We focus on both of it, both sides of things. I think our players do too. We talk about playoffs, but we talk about significant things that need to be done in the playoffs. We still have a game against Vegas and that focus has to be on the game and Vegas."

The Blues have the chance to reach 50 wins for the first time since 2014-15 when they won 51 games.

"Still one game left and one tune-up before we go in, but we know we're going to see Minnesota and it's exciting," Blues captain Ryan O'Reilly said. "I thought we've done a great job this year. I think finishing strong and all of the ups and downs throughout the course of the season, but we're doing all the things right right now and it's going to be a heck of a matchup. Minnesota's obviously a very good team, but it's exciting. I think it's going to be a great challenge and an exciting series."

If the Blues should begin on the road, it probably doesn't matter to the team -- aside from ownership, of course, which would want that extra home game -- but finishing 9-1-1 down the stretch away from home has built the confidence in the team. It doesn't mean the players wouldn't want home ice, if possible.

"We've got one more game and win that game," O'Reilly said. "We want to play the right way and have some good momentum going into the playoffs. It's points that we want, and if we get home ice, we get home ice. It all comes down to one game and how they (the Wild) do, but I don't think it's the end of the world if we start on the road. We've had success everywhere and we're a confident group. Either way, it's going to be a battle right until the very end. It's just the way it's going to be."

- - -

The Blues are expected to get some bodies back, not all, for this encounter tonight. 

Forward David Perron is expected to play after missing Tuesday's 5-3 loss at Colorado with a lower-body injury, and Robert Bortuzzo, who also missed Tuesday with a lower-body injury, will return tonight.

However, center Brayden Schenn will miss his fourth straight game with an upper-body injury and defenseman Marco Scandella, who sustained a lower-body injury Tuesday, will also sit out. Schenn and Scandella each practiced the past two days.

Berube said the hope is that everyone will be available for Game 1.

- - -

The Blues' projected lineup:

Brandon Saad-Ryan O'Reilly-David Perron

Pavel Buchnevich-Robert Thomas-Vladimir Tarasenko

Ivan Barbashev-Tyler Bozak-Jordan Kyrou

Alexei Toropchenko-Logan Brown-Nathan Walker

Torey Krug-Colton Parayko

Nick Leddy-Justin Faulk

Niko Mikkola-Robert Bortuzzo

Ville Husso will start in goal; Jordan Binnington will be the backup. 

The Blues report no healthy scratches. Brayden Schenn (upper body), Marco Scandella (lower body), Calle Rosen (undisclosed), Mackenzie MacEachern (upper body) and Scott Perunovich (wrist) are out.

- - -

The Golden Knights' projected lineup:

William Karlsson-Jack Eichel-Jonathan Marchessault 

Max Pacioretty-Chandler Stephenson-Mark Stone

William Carrier-Nicolas Roy-Evgenii Dadonov

Mattias Janmark-Michael Amadio

Brayden McNabb-Shea Theodore

Alec Martinez-Alex Pietrangelo

Ben Hutton-Zach Whitecloud

Dylan Coghlan

Logan Thompson is projected to start in goal; Jiri Patera would be the backup. 

The Golden Knights report no healthy scratches. Robin Lehner (shoulder/knee), Reilly Smith (lower body), Nicolas Hague (lower body), Brett Howden (upper body), Keegan Kolesar (lower body), Laurent Brossoit (undisclosed) and Nolan Patrick (undisclosed) are out.

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

(4-19-22) Bruins-Blues Gameday Lineup

ST. LOUIS -- Nine is fine, but 10 would be better as far as the Blues are concerned.

After a record-performance on Sunday in Nashville for most goals in the period when they scored seven in the second if an 8-3 win, the Blues (46-20-10) will look to keep the streak alive in search of their 10th in a row and keep their point streak alive and move it to 13 (11-0-1 currently) when they host the Boston Bruins (46-24-5) at Enterprise Center today at 7 p.m. (ESPN+, HULU, ESPN 101.1-FM).

It will be Boston's first visit to St. Louis since Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final in 2019.

If you haven't noticed, and it's hard not to, the Blues have scored four or more goals in 12 straight games, a franchise record, and have outscored their opponents 62-32 in that stretch.

It's been duly noted that they have seven guys with 20 or more goals this season and now have eight players with 50 or more points on the season.

"It's pretty fun to watch," Blues coach Craig Berube said. "Guys are making a lot of good puck plays right now. We've got to continue to do that. It's really important. The guys are doing what we ask them to do, the way we need to play with the puck, how we want to run our offense and get our 'D' involved and things like that. We've just got to continue to preach structure of it all."

It's the longest winning streak for the Blues since their franchise-setting mark in 2019 when they won the Cup and one that they want to keep building on.

"Obviously we want to keep on winning, try and keep working for that home ice stuff, but I think more than that, just trying to keep building our game in the right direction," forward David Perron said. "It doesn't matter what the score will be at the end of the day. If you do it right, we show we can win more often than not. There's a lot of positive in that regard, guys taking pride in playing the right way, third periods except the one game have been better. We keep pushing for perfection obviously."

And in pushing for perfection, the Blues, who beat the Bruins 4-2 in Boston on April 12, they want to stay sealed defensively while continuing to push for offense. That becomes a challenge.

"It's tough to do to be honest with you, especially when you are scoring the goals, it's tougher to stay on the right side of the things defensively because everyone wants to join in on the party and score, do this or that," defenseman Torey Krug said. "I think we're lucky enough that we have the locker room that we have and the coaching staff we have to stay level-headed and focused on the ultimate goal because we're built to play a certain way. We understand that we've got to have success in the playoffs. I think we just have the right mentality and we're staying focused."

During this point streak run of 12 games, the Blues are averaging 5.17 goals per game while allowing 2.67 per game.

"It's stuff that we keep reminders through video and stuff at this time of the year because you're not practicing a lot," Berube said. "Everybody's got to be cautious of playing good defense and working hard without the puck. That's the biggest thing. If you work hard without the puck, most of the time you'll do a good job of limiting the other team's quality chances and Grade A chances and things like that because of your work ethic. There's going to be breakdowns in the game. That's the bottom line, there's going to be turnovers in the game, but it's how you react to those things and it's all about work and competing.

"We're getting a pretty good chunk of it. We're always looking for more. We're always trying to improve and always trying to push our guys to be better. Everything's in the past. You've got to focus on the Boston Bruins tonight. It's a good hockey team, it's a good challenge."

From a defensive perspective, it's a different point of view why the offense is clicking, but the blue liners have also contributed to the cause.

"I think that overall on the back end, we've just been trying to dictate our pace with our transition play," Krug said. "If we move the puck quicker, turn it up in the neutral zone, have cleaner breakouts, it kind of forces our forwards to play a little bit quicker, obviously we're a pretty scary team when those guys are skating at you full force and making plays. That's just what we try to do, get it into their hands as clean as possible and ad quick as possible."

But is this a streak anyone's talking about? Is anyone superstitious?

"We haven't even talked about it to be honest," Krug said. "I'm sure we do have a couple superstitious guys in there, but it hasn't been mentioned or brought up. We're just trying to build our game right now. I think that's the sign of a good team that's growing within the room. It's been fun to be a part of it and I'm lucky to catch back into it."

"I have no idea if they talk about it or not, I really don't," Berube said. "I'm not around those guys a lot like that. I don't talk about it. I let everything go and I just focus on the next game. That's what I do.

"It's a good team that way. You've got a lot of guys that have been together for a while now on this team and have won together. They enjoy it, they enjoy being around each other."

The Blues are a plus-69 in goal differential on the season, which is fourth-best in the NHL, and their highest since they were a plus-83 in 1999-2000, which is the year they won the Presidents' Trophy with 114 points. Their 288 goals scored this season is also the highest since 1990-91 when they scored 310, the year Brett Hull scored 86 and Adam Oates had 90 assists.

"It's great that they keep coming in. I don't know that it's going to keep going like that in the playoffs, but we definitely have lines that play different ways, a little bit different looks, tougher matchup for other teams depending on any given night, who's going, who's not, whatever," Perron said. "Definitely a lot of playmakers, a lot of guys that can make plays, have good shots that can put it away. We're definitely dangerous with some of the firepower that we have and that's why it's so crucial that we have to be comfortable in those games maybe where it's going to be 1-0 or 1-1, 2-1, those games. We have to find that comfort level that we're going to have that one play, we're going to put it home. We don't need to worry about scoring four or five every night. I know we've done that recently, but I don't think longer in term of the playoffs it will happen that way."

- - -

One area the Blues have also been clean at is staying out of the box. They've been on the kill just 22 times in the past 13 games and have taken the fourth-fewest penalty minutes per game at 7.7 In the past 13 games alone, it's only 1.69 penalty minutes while being shorthanded.

"I think our team's gotten better and better in the discipline department as the year's gone along," Berube said. "We've got to continue that. It's important not to take penalties. We have the puck a lot, which is important and that's probably going to help not taking penalties. When you're running around and you're chasing the puck all the time, especially in your own zone, that's when penalties normally happen."

"All our special teams have been good," Perron said. "Penalty kill's been excellent. A lot of good stuff's been happening from our coaches, pre-scouting the other team, definitely being disciplined and those penalties will happen, but you've got to make sure they're worth it. It's everything included. Staying out of the box is a big one."

- - -

The Blues had a bushy-haired skater enter the ice that no one seemed to recognize -- at least not right away.

As it turned out, assistant coach Jim Montgomery donned a curly-haired wig, to the surprise of many.

"I have no idea, caught me off-guard too," Berube said. "... Probably just having some fun."
"I don't know. I asked him," Perron said. "I think it's just a Halloween costume he had. I think his daughter or something found it again in the house, so he just thought he would bring it around and make the boys laugh again. He's a guy that keep it light around the rink, he's a fun guy to be around. He does little things like that all the time."

- - -

Blues defenseman Nick Leddy, who took a nasty cut and gash under his left eye from Minnesota's Kevin Fiala that forced him to miss the game Sunday in Nashville, will return tonight.

Leddy's return will move Calle Rosen, who had two goals and an assist Sunday, back into the press box as a healthy scratch.

"It's good depth we have," Berube said.

Center Tyler Bozak will miss his 18th consecutive game tonight but is close to returning, and forward Alexei Toropchenko, who blocked a shot last Thursday in Buffalo, will miss a third straight game.

"Not quite there, close. He'll be on the trip," Berube said of Bozak.

"He'll come on the road trip and he'll start skating. He could play on the trip," Berube said of Toropchenko.

- - -

* Should the Blues win tonight, it will mark their third streak of 10 wins or more in franchise history.

* With at least a point, the Blues can match the club record of 13 straight games (Jan. 3-Feb. 5, 2015).

* Center Robert Thomas has a 13-game point streak (six goals, 19 assists), his NHL career-high. He us currently tied with Florida's Jonathan Huberdeau for the fourth-longest streak in the NHL this season.

* Forward Pavel Buchnevich is carrying an NHL career-high 10-game point streak into tonight's game (six goals 12 assists). 

* Forward Vladimir Tarasenko has a five-game goal-scoring streak and has a six-game point streak (eight goals, seven assists). The goal-scoring streak matches his NHL career-high. Tarasenko has 10 goals the past eight games.

* Center Brayden Schenn has 15 points (seven goals, eight assists) his past 11 games.

* Defenseman Colton Parayko has seven assists his past six games and five in a three-game assist streak.

* Perron has a five-game point streak (three goals, three assists).

- - -

The Blues' projected lineup:

Brandon Saad-Ryan O'Reilly-David Perron

Pavel Buchnevich-Robert Thomas-Vladimir Tarasenko

Ivan Barbashev-Brayden Schenn-Jordan Kyrou

Dakota Joshua-Logan Brown-Nathan Walker

Marco Scandella-Colton Parayko

Nick Leddy-Justin Faulk

Torey Krug-Robert Bortuzzo

Ville Husso will start in goal; Jordan Binnington will be the backup. 

Healthy scratches include Niko Mikkola and Calle Rosen. Tyler Bozak (lower body), Mackenzie MacEachern (upper body), Alexei Toropchenko (lower body) and Scott Perunovich (wrist) are out.

- - -

The Bruins' projected lineup:

Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-Jake DeBrusk

Taylor Hall-Erik Haula-Curtis Lazar

Trent Frederic-Charlie Coyle-Craig Smith

Nick Foligno-Tomas Nosek-Marc McLaughlin

Matt Grzelcyk-Charlie McAvoy

Mike Reilly-Brandon Carlo

Derek Forbort-Connor Clifton

Jeremy Swayman will start in goal; Troy Grosenick will be the backup. 

Healthy scratches include Jack Studnicka, Jack Ahcan, Anton Blidh and Josh Brown. David Pastrnak (undisclosed), Hampus Lindholm (lower body), Linus Ullmark (undisclosed), Jakub Zboril (knee) and Jesper Froden (lower body) are out.

Sunday, April 17, 2022

Blues well-oiled offensive machine keeps rolling, setting records

Seven-goal second is franchise record in 8-3 bludgeoning of Nashville Predators; 
Schenn, Kyrou, Rosen each score twice to help Blues to ninth straight win

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Let's just cut to the chase: the Blues are on a wagon.

An absolute wagon.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues defenseman Calle Rosen (right) is all smiles and celebrates with
teammates Vladimir Tarasenko (middle) and Robert Thomas Sunday.

Even coach Craig Berube had to chuckle a bit to begin his postgame interview Sunday evening inside Bridgestone Arena.

It's been an offense that's been firing on all cylinders for a good while now, but in record-setting fashion, the Blues put up seven goals in the second period and won their ninth in a row and extending their point streak to 12 games in an 8-3 rout of the Nashville Predators.

To call the second period a clinic would be understating what the Blues (46-20-10) did.

They started the game trailing, and the Predators (43-28-5), desperate for points in the wildcard race in the Western Conference, were on their toes after honoring original Blue and Predators broadcaster Terry Crisp, who is retiring.

The Blues didn't care. This offense is a juggernaut right now.

When Brayden Schenn scored the first of his two goals on the power play at 17:41 to tie it, away they went.

"I thought that even the first period – second half of the first period – I thought set the tone," Berube said.

Did it ever.

The Blues broke their record of six goals in a period established three previous times: Feb. 23, 1991 in a 9-2 home win against the Boston Bruins when they scored six times in the third period; Jan. 18, 1995 at Winnipeg, a 6-2 win scoring six in the first, and Dec. 1, 1984, a 10-5 win at home against the Detroit Red Wings, scoring six times in the first period.

"I think it's just playing the right way," said forward Jordan Kyrou, who scored twice in the period. "When everyone's playing the right way, obviously you get a lot of bounces. Obviously in the second period we got a lot of bounces going our way."

It was more than just bounces. It was relentless pressure, it was puck possession, it was cycling, it was interrupting plays, and making the Predators pay for their mistakes with rush attacks.

"I don’t know. They made a lot of good plays tonight," Berube said. "I thought we cycled the puck well. We competed in the offensive zone really well. ... Had some real good shifts in the o-zone. Just competing down there and making it hard on them.

"And then second period, we just found a way to get to the back of the net."

Including Calle Rosen, playing in his 14th game with the Blues and 34th NHL game, who had two goals and an assist, including his second and third NHL goals.

"It's always fun to score goals," Rosen said. "It's good to get two today, but it's a great second period by us. We were rolling over them and a fun game to play in.

"I think we just weathered the storm there in the first period. In the second period, we just turned on the jets and decided to play a bit more solid hockey and it showed on the scoreboard."

You want more records?

Vladimir Tarasenko, who got the scoring started with one of his patented power moves off the right wall to the net 1:11 into the second that made it 2-1, scored three points in the game (one goal, two assists) to help him break his personal record of 75 points set in 2016-17; he now has 76 points (33 goals, 43 assists) and now has a six-game point streak (eight goals, seven assists) and has scored in five straight games.

Robert Thomas, who had just one assist, extended his NHL personal high 12-game point streak (six goals, 19 assists).

Pavel Buchnevich, who also had one assist, extended his personal NHL career-high point streak to 10 games (six goals, 12 assists)

Schenn has 15 points (six goals, nine assists) the past 12 games, which isn't some sort of record, but the point is being made.

This is a well-oiled offensive machine right now, and just take a look at the scoresheet and you'll find 14 of the Blues' 18 skaters with at least a point.

Sharing the wealth is quite common.

"Yeah for sure, like I said, every line can play, every line can score and do the right things," Kyrou said. "That's obviously huge. It's definitely going to be huge in the playoffs.

"I think we've been building our game really well and that's everyone. Both goalies have been playing great. Defense has been awesome. Obviously our offense has been amazing scoring goals. We're just trying to play the right way and build our game every game."

The Blues are averaging 3.76 goals per game, fourth behind Florida (4.19), Colorado (3.87) and Toronto (3.85), and it isn't even a franchise record for them. The 1980-81 Blues averaged 4.40 goals per game, but it was a different era of hockey.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues (from left to right) Brayden Schenn, Jordan Kyrou and Colton
Parayko celebrate one of a record-setting seven second-period goals.

This is impressive.

They're also outscoring they're opponents 62-32 during their 11-0-1 run, averaging an astounding 5.17 goals per game.

"I'm very happy with the team, the way they’re performing," Berube said. "They’re playing for each other and right now they’re doing a good job. It’s all about the team. They've got to stick with that and we've got to keep pushing. We've got to move on from this game."

Easier said than done, coach, but this is Berube's mantra: focus on the next game and put the previous one -- good or bad -- in the rear view mirror.

The eight goals is the most since the Blues defeated the New Jersey Devils 8-3 on Feb. 12, 2019. That was the seventh game of a franchise record 11-game winning streak that helped the Blues win the Stanley Cup. This one happened in the ninth game of what the Blues hope isn't the end of a winning streak.

Saturday, April 16, 2022

Saturday's Blues OT win provided a glimpse of what series with Wild will look like

Blues blow three-goal lead, recover for 6-5 win in race for second in Central; 
first-round opponent all but set with Minnesota, should be a dandy best-of-7

ST. LOUIS -- Well, buckle up.

Because if a first-round playoff series between the Blues and Wild feature anything close to resembling what's transpired here at Enterprise Center the past nine days, it should be a barnburner.
(St. Louis Blues/Scott Rovak)
Brayden Schenn (right) celebrates with Justin Faulk and Ivan Barbashev
after scoring in overtime of a 6-5 win against the Minnesota Wild.

The only downside to a Blues-Wild playoff series is someone will be going home much sooner than expected, or deserved.

But such is life in the NHL, and with Saturday's 6-5 overtime win over the Wild, a game in which the Blues (45-20-10) had complete control of leading 4-1 after two periods, along with a 4-3 overtime win here on April 8, there won't be much to separate these two when it comes to the dance in May.

"It's like two pretty similar games, like playoff type of games," said forward Pavel Buchnevich, who had a goal and two assists, including the wraparound assist that led to Brayden Schenn's OT winner 56 seconds in. "It's fun to play like that and a fun building to play. Excited for playoff time."

A number of the game games in recent seasons have been tight, but the Blues seem to find a way to win against the Wild. They have now beaten them seven straight times and are 11-1-1 the past 13 against Minnesota (the Wild are 2-7-5, and 0-4-3 the past seven).

Any way one slices it, expect the series to be much like the Blues had with Winnipeg in the opening round of the 2019 playoffs.

"If we do, it's kind of obviously looking that way that we are going to play them, they're a good team," Schenn said. "They're still missing pieces over there. It's going to be hard series. We’ve seen what they did to Vegas last year. They're hard, they're physical and they're going to give anything. They'll be a good test."

Some may say the Wild will have a psychological disadvantage having lost to the Blues so often recently, but that won't be the case.

"Not at all," Minnesota coach Dean Evason said. "The game was up for grabs tonight. Last game was up for grabs, that's the only two I can remember. They've got a great hockey club, obviously. And you know, we like our team.

"There's end results. We clearly want the end result. I mean, we don't want to lose hockey games, but we know that we're in games. We know that there's things that we clean up and we also know that we could have had success here tonight too and could have had success in the last game as well. It comes with overtime. There's no (3-on-3) overtime and in the playoffs, right? So so we like our group 5-on-5."

The Blues had to battle back from a 3-1 third-period deficit last week when they beat the Wild. This time, they held a 4-1 lead through two periods and had their foot on the Wild's throat. 
The problem is they had a two-man advantage to end the second and at the start following a crushing check delivered by Buchnevich on Tyson Jost that sparked a scrum between Nicolas Deslauriers and Ivan Barbashev.

But the Blues, who were 0-for-4 against Minnesota's woeful penalty kill (31st in the league at 76 percent), simply did not direct pucks to the net, mostly throwing pucks around the perimeter and leaving the door slightly open.

"We go over the 5-on-3 to start, just ... it's tough," Blues coach Craig Berube said. "A lot of times going into intermission when you go back out, you've got a 5-on-3 right away. I just don't think ... we weren't direct on it. We didn't get really any shots, any good looks. We complicated it more than we needed to, but they get a goal and kind of get us on our heels. 

"Our puck play in the third period wasn't very good. We turned some pucks over. They capitalized on them, tied it up, got the lead again, kind of a back and forth game in the third. Not like we wanted it, but we hung in there and got the win."

They did, but in a battle for second place in the Central Division and home ice advantage in the first round, allowing the Wild to grab a point Saturday wasn't ideal. The Blues lead Minnesota by one with the Wild holding a game in hand.

"Obviously it's a 4-1 game, I think guys would like to have a do-over on that and execute and really put them out of the game and at least grab some momentum for us," Schenn said. "It's going to happen where the power plays aren't always going to go your way and that one really didn’t when we started the third period."
(St. Louis Blues/Scott Rovak)
Blues forward Brandon Saad (left) scores on Wild goalie Cam Talbot in the
second period of a 6-5 overtime win on Saturday at Enterprise Center.

Minnesota scored goals 1:32 apart, by Ryan Hartman and Frederick Gaudreau, to make it a 4-3 game and all of the sudden, it's a game that shouldn't have been.

But Buchnevich restored a two-goal lead at 5-3 when he ripped a wrister from the right circle over Talbot at 9:15.

That should have locked the game down again, right?

"We probably were in a real good spot, but again, we just let them come at us too much I thought," Berube said. "And I'll give them credit, that (Kirill) Kaprizov is a dangerous player. He's hard to handle and I just think we gave up our blue line too much, too easily to that line."

Marcus Foligno and Kaprizov scored 58 seconds apart to tie the game 5-5 at 14:00 and 14:58 and all of the sudden, the life that was full inside with 18.096 fans were dumbfounded.

But the Blues prevailed in the end, and will need such resiliency in a seven-game series against this Minnesota team, one that loaded up at the trade deadline and one that will be a tough out.

"Good. Good games," Buchnevich said. "It's going to be good for fans, interesting for us. Excited."

Friday, April 15, 2022

(4-16-22) Wild-Blues Gameday Lineup

ST. LOUIS -- Over the big picture, there's much more on the line for the Blues when they put their seven-game winning streak and 9-0-1 point run on the line Saturday afternoon against the Minnesota Wild.

Sole possession of second place is on the line between two teams tied for points with 98, but for the Blues (44-20-10), and for the Wild (46-21-6) for that matter, it's quite simple: win and they're in.

There's different scenarios of clinching a berth in the Stanley Cup playoffs for each team, but for the Blues, they can take care of the formalities on their own by just winning and not relying on a loss by the Los Angeles Kings that would also put them in should they not prevail against the Wild, who the Blues are looking to sweep the season series against after winning in dramatic fashion against them, 4-3 in overtime, here last Friday.

The Blues can also get in by earning at least a point and the Columbus Blue Jackets beat the Kings in any fashion or the Edmonton Oilers beat the Vegas Golden Knights in regulation.

The puck drops at Enterprise Center at 2 p.m. Saturday before the Blues hop on a plane and take on the Nashville Predators on Easter Sunday at 5 p.m.

"It's a big game. They're right there with us," Blues coach Craig Berube said of the Wild, who have won three in a row after losing here on April 8. "It's always good games against them. Looking forward to it."

And why wouldn't the Blues be looking forward to it. They just keep rolling along after a 6-2 win at Buffalo on Thursday, but now that they know their plight -- captain Ryan O'Reilly didn't know at first -- the task is simple.

"I didn't know that, but that's good to know," O'Reilly said. "I look at the standings seeing where we are. It looks like it will be Minny (in the first round), but still a lot of hockey left and we're still taking it one game at a time and it's going to be an exciting game tomorrow. A good team that we're probably going to be seeing a lot of soon. It's going to be an intense one.

"Any year you want to obviously clinch as soon as you can and that's an opportunity for us tomorrow, so definitely we'll be thinking about that. We've got to stay in the details of the game, do things the right way and know that it's not going to be easy."

The Blues fell behind 3-1 against Minnesota before rallying to win it in overtime. It'll be more of a physical style of game, not just Saturday but Sunday as well, in contrast to what the Blues faced against the Sabres, and the Boston Bruins last Tuesday to a certain degree, teams that like to transition it more and play a run-and-gun style.

"They pressure you hard, they're physical, got some real high-end players over there and they've got good size," Berube said of the Wild.

"It's going to be very physical," O'Reilly said. "Our last game against them too was a physical, tight-checking game. They're a relentless team. They work, they forecheck hard, they defend hard. It's one of those games that has that playoff style to it. As we ramp up here and can potentially see them, it's an important game. It's going to be an intense game, but I like that. That's what we need at this time of the year in preparing."

What's been impressive about this recent run is the Blues' ability to adjust and be able to play the style their opponent prefers. 

"I think our team does adjust pretty well to different styles," Berube said. "Obviously teams play different, like Buffalo last night. They're a good puck-possession team, they make a lot of plays, but we did a good job of countering that and got some goals but (Jordan) Binnington had to be good. That was the big thing because they had some chances. They made plays and I didn't think we checked very well in that game."

But going back to the big picture again, the Blues have eight games left; the Wild have nine. A loss wouldn't hurt in this situation, but will make it tough to gain the home ice advantage in the first round, but winning could help the Blues gain that edge in a building where they're 25-9-4.

"I think our building's an electric place and we want to be in here as much as possible," O'Reilly said. "Home ice is definitely important. You don't want to look at outcomes and get ahead of ourselves here. It's one game at a time, outplaying our opponents and building our game in that playoff mentality. It is something that we want. We've got to fight for it and it's going to be tight."

"I think it's important for sure to have home ice," Berube said. "You just want to stay consistent here. That's the biggest key. We just need to focus on the game tomorrow. That's it."

- - -

Not only are the Blues winners of seven straight, but a 10-game point streak has put them in a great position. They've scored four or more goals in each of the past 10 games, a franchise record.

They've come a long way since that demoralizing 7-2 home loss against the Carolina Hurricanes on March 26.

"We really started to show urgency in our game after that, intensity, a checking side of things and just playing harder hockey," Berube said. "When we do that stuff, we have the skill to score goals. That doesn't take away from your scoring."

It hasn't taken away from it in this 10-game point streak run. The Blues have outscored their opponents 48-24, averaging 4.8 goals per game while allowing an average of 2.4.

"We want to keep building and building our defensive side of the game and make sure we're solid that way, but I thought we've done a good job of finding a way to put the puck in the net and just find ways to beat whoever we're playing against," O'Reilly said. "It's been a good stretch where I think it's given us a lot of confidence in this group knowing that we can play with anyone and have success against anyone. It's exciting for us."

- - -

Which line is the hottest in the NHL right now? 

I think those that follow the Blues know it's Vladimir Tarasenko, Pavel Buchnevich and Robert Thomas.

After that trio combined for 13 points (four goals, nine assists) in the win against the Sabres, their numbers are flying off the charts right now.

Tarasenko, who had his first five-point game in the NHL Thursday (three goals, two assists), has 26 points (12 goals, 14 assists) in 18 games.

Tarasenko, who leads the Blues in goals (31) and points (72) in 67 games, has rebounded from two injury-filled seasons and is on one of his most successful stints in his career.

And Berube said it's all about Tarasenko's skating, and skating north.

"If you look at the opening draw (Thursday), and it's just a little thing, but for me, it means a lot," Berube said. "We lose the draw, but he just spins off his guy, he's right on his toes right away and he just jumps. He gets the puck in the offensive zone. That's what he's showing me right now, he's on his toes and he's skating. I see him tracking back a lot, hard, breaking plays up, being physical. He had a nice, big hit in the game last night in the game again. He's a physical player and he's driving wide on the 'D' and taking the puck right to the net.

"For me, he's been pretty good all year. I said it to you before, it was a while back, he should have 30 goals by now. He's created tons of good opportunities to score goals. They're going in now."

Thomas is on an absolute heater. He has an NHL career-high 11-game point streak (six goals, 17 assists) after a career-high five-point night (five assists), and Thomas has 29 points (10 goals, 19 assists) his past 15 games; he has 71 points (18 goals, 53 assists) in 64 games.
Thomas is the first Blue with 50 or more assists since Doug Weight had 51 in 2003-04.

"You put them together, you've got a scorer (Tarasenko), you've got a high-end playmaker and puck distributor in Thomas and you've got a guy that, Buchnevich for me, he's a very intelligent player, got a great stick and great vision," Berube said. "That's really what it boils down to with him. That's a pretty good combination on a line. Buchy has great instincts, breaks a lot of plays up from a defensive standpoint. That's helpful on the forecheck, having a good stick breaking plays up so the puck gets in our hands, gets in Thomas's hands. Vladi's always in a scoring position. That's one thing he does, he always finds open ice. 

"He's created separation a lot and that's a big thing, to create that separation and he's very good at it because when he cuts back and turns up, he's already moving out of that and creates some separation, so that's going to open some ice up. He's going to make plays off that."

Buchnevich, who's quietly put together a point-per-game season thus far with 65 points (26 goals, 39 assists) in 65 games, is on an eight-game point streak (five goals, nine assists) and has 19 points (seven goals, 12 assists) his past 14 games.

Folks, that's 74 points (29 goals, 45 assists) the past 18 games from that trio.

"It's fun to watch, that's for sure," O'Reilly said. "Some of the plays that they're making, like the one goal last night where 'Tommer' hits 'Buchy', who then hits Vladi backdoor. There's not many guys you see in the crease make that pass backdoor and put it home. It's such an amazing play. These guys, they're confident, they're playing so hard, they worked so hard last game and to see them get rewarded for it is awesome. I know for fans, it's exciting to watch these. They're so dynamic and dangerous. Every time they get the puck, it just creates so much and that's something we feed off of."

- - -

The Blues held an optional practice Friday, and among the skaters were injured Tyler Bozak, who's missed the past 15 games with a lower-body injury but appears to be on the brink of returning, and Mackenzie MacEachern, who's missed the past three games with an upper-body injury. 

However, the Blues put MacEachern on long-term injured reserve, thus ending his regular season, and recalled Dakota Joshua from Springfield of the American Hockey League under emergency conditions.

Also, defenseman Scott Perunovich, who hasn't played since Jan. 15 after having left wrist surgery, was on the ice getting in conditioning work done but limiting the use of his left hand. He still seems a ways off from actual competition.

- - - 

The Blues' projected lineup:

Brandon Saad-Ryan O'Reilly-David Perron

Pavel Buchnevich-Robert Thomas-Vladimir Tarasenko

Ivan Barbashev-Brayden Schenn-Jordan Kyrou

Alexei Toropchenko-Logan Brown-Nathan Walker

Marco Scandella-Colton Parayko

Nick Leddy-Justin Faulk

Torey Krug-Robert Bortuzzo

Ville Husso is expected to start in goal; Jordan Binnington would be the backup.

Healthy scratches include Niko MikkolaCalle Rosen and Dakota JoshuaTyler Bozak (lower body), Mackenzie MacEachern (upper body) and Scott Perunovich (wrist) are out.

- - -

The Wild's projected lineup:

Kirill Kaprizov-Ryan Hartman-Mats Zuccarello

Matt Boldy-Frederick Gaudreau-Kevin Fiala

Tyson Jost-Joel Eriksson Ek-Marcus Foligno

Brandon Duhaime-Nick Bjugstad-Nicolas Deslauriers

Jacob Middleton-Jared Spurgeon

Jonas Brodin-Dmitry Kulikov

Jordie Benn-Alex Goligoski

Cam Talbot is expected to start in goal; Marc-Andre Fleury would be the backup.

The healthy scratch is Connor Dewar. Matt Dumba (upper body), Jordan Greenway (upper body) and Jon Merrill (upper body) are out.