Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Blues right wing David Perron

ST. LOUIS -- Remember the moment David Perron was there to console his buddy Alex Pietrangelo, as the two skated off the ice at Rogers Place in the 2020 bubble?

That moment had all the feels like it could have very well been the last time Pietrangelo would put on a Blues jersey, and as it turned out, it was.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
David Perron (right) is slated to become an unrestricted free agent on July
13 but has indicated he wants to stay with the Blues.

Now it's Perron's turn to have those same feels, because now the 34-year-old can hit the free agent market on July 13 and sign with whomever he chooses if a new deal with the Blues isn't in agreement or signed.

But by all indications, both Perron and the Blues want to keep this marriage going. The 26th pick in the 2007 NHL Draft wants to stay here, and by all accounts, the Blues want to keep him here.

Perron had himself an outstanding season even after a concussion and COVID-19 tried slowing him down; he finished tied for third on the team with 27 goals, one off matching his career-high in 2013-14 and 57 points in 67 games this season.

Perron led the Blues in goals (nine) and points (13) in 12 playoff games, which ended in a second-round defeat against the Colorado Avalanche.

Perron let with the media on Tuesday and offered his thoughts on the season, his season, his willingness to stay in St. Louis and liking the core moving forward:

Reflection on the season:
It was a pretty good season. I thought we lost to a good team. We've got to find a way to improve over this summer as a group, as a team and come back at them. We've been a pretty consistent team for many years now and we want to keep doing that.

Is the team back on the map after postseason problems in years before:
I don't know if we ever left that category, but definitely beating Minnesota is always a good feeling to get out of the first round. You almost feel like the belief in the group increases every win that you get. And then again when 'Bozie' scored the overtime goal there (in Game 5 against Colorado) and if we would have just got one more win, I think we there's a chance we win that series obviously. So I think we're in that group. yeah.

On the fine line of wanting to be skilled, up-tempo, transition team and wanting to be a physical, gritty, get both elements at same time:
I think we can score many ways, we can play different ways. I think that's one thing that maybe we were missing times in the playoffs, just kind of going wave after wave, a little bit more, kind of building that momentum that we can feel like we're taking control of a hockey game, even if the score’s tight. That's definitely one thing I think we can get better at as a group, but there's a lot of things to like obviously in the regular season. We scored a lot of goals, we scored in many ways and that's good stuff right there.

Despite the rough year physically, were you happy with your season:
I thought it was one of my better years that I've ever had. I think two years ago I had a pretty good year. I think I was able to build off of it. When you look back at the month of January, it was only like, I don't know, eight, nine games where it didn't go as well. I was coming back from injury, I had COVID in that time too, just a couple bumps and bruises that I had to get over with and I was able to do that and then really build off of it and really good last three, four months really so I'm proud of that.

On unrestricted free agent status, any talks, want to be back:
I'd love to be back. The desire has been there for me last year, during the year and right now. So … it’s what it is.

On if anything is going on right now contract-wise:
Again, I don't really want to talk about that publicly. So I'll just kind of defer to that.

On St. Louis being your second home, does that factor in:
It's a lot for sure. Just for our kids, they're in school right now, they love the city, just like we do, just like I do and obviously playing with this guy beside me (Ryan O’Reilly), the whole group I'd love to keep going. I feel like I've built myself as a player over the years and I want to keep this going for sure.

One or two areas of improvement for next season:
I mean, personally, just like I said, just a little bit more maybe momentum between lines after line, just kind of building our game a little bit more. Kind of having more control over games at times, but I think it was there at times, too. So I think it's just a way to do it more consistently.

On how young do you feel, putting up numbers as you get older:
It depends which time of the year, how many injuries that you're going through, but no I feel really good. I feel I found a way to play the game right now where I feel like I can be consistent every night. I feel like I can have an impact on the game and kind of bring a lot of positives to the team. I think I got a few years where I'm going to feel like that still.

Different offseason things to make that happen:
No, I mean, some stuff. You always want to get better, training-wise all that stuff, but I've been pretty consistent in my training. What I've been doing over summers, now I've just kind of keep going.

On when Binnington goes down in Game 3 vs. Avalanche, still playing if that doesn't happen:
I mean, you'd like to look back and think that way, but that's the way it happened. I don't know. Did we turn the page? I think we probably needed a few more days or a week, whatever. But at the same time, we're proud of our group, we lost to a good team. And there's no point just overthinking everything. So I'm proud of the guys, the way they played this year and that's what I think.

Saturday, May 28, 2022

Blues season comes to an end in crushing fashion

Helm scores with 5.6 remaining in regulation to give Avalanche 
3-2 win, series win, ending second-round series in six games

ST. LOUIS -- What a brutal ending.

It may have been one of the most gut-wrenching endings to a game -- and season -- in Blues history.
(St. Louis Blues/Scott Rovak)
Goalie Ville Husso (right) makes a lunging save on a shot attempt in front
of teammate Niko Mikkola in a 3-2 loss against Colorado Friday.

With their season on the line again, the Blues were looking to duplicate what they accomplished in Game 5 in Colorado. Even as badly as they were being outplayed by the Colorado Avalanche in Game 6 at Enterprise Center on Friday, the Blues were on a one-shot game that seemed destined for overtime.


Or so they thought.

But Darren Helm -- Darren Helm? -- spoiled it all. His goal with 5.6 seconds remaining in regulation gave the Avalanche a stunning and series-clinching 3-2 win in the Western Conference second round to send Colorado to the conference final for the first time since 2002 and a date with Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers.

The Blues were looking to force a Game 7 on Sunday, hoping for the chance to win a series for the third time in franchise history when trailing 3-1. 

But alas, it wasn't meant to be. 

A seeing-eye shot from the left circle on what looked like a nothing play eluded the glove of goalie Ville Husso, piercing the net and piercing the hearts of the Blues, this ending their season.

It’s kind of in front of the net and (Cale) Makar made the play up and they had four guys on the rush," a dejected Blues forward Brayden Schenn said. "Got to find a way to get that one to overtime. Probably a little bit of my fault. I don’t know if that was my guy. I got to look at the replay again. But yeah, that one stinks."

That's as hard a body blow as one can take. It came in the form of a Mike Tyson full-fledged uppercut right to the stomach, and the Blues absorbed it and fell to the canvas.

Just 5.6 ticks left in their season, and no chance to try and save it now.

"I think early on up the ice, we're kind of in a set forecheck, we let their D get by us and carry the puck up the ice, created a little bit of an odd-man rush, made a play to the weak side," Blues coach Craig Berube said. "They shot it, went through some people and it went in. But up ice, we could have done a better job.

"It's tough, a tough way to end it. That's the way it goes. Our guys battled hard."

But let's face it, that play was a microcosm of the game itself. The Avalanche were playing like this was its Game 7, and to an extent, it probably was. Can you imagine if this had gone to a winner-take-all game on Sunday, a series on the brink that they were expected to win handily? All the pressure in the world would have been on them, and the Blues would have been playing with house money trying to spoil the party. 

Not so.

"Obviously the game, we had a chance to take it," Blues captain Ryan O'Reilly said. "I thought Huus' gave us a chance, he made some huge stops, gave us a chance all game. I thought we started a little slow, which hurt us. That was kind of the feeling that we had all series at home. We didn’t play the way we needed to here, which made it difficult to win. Lost every game at home here … just very disappointing. 

"Overall, it’s a very disappointing season. I think we’re better than what we’ve shown against these guys. I thought we could’ve got that to seven, but yeah, when we lost Binner, I think there was a good chance there. It’s on myself, too, to kind of find a way to rally the group and respond the right way. Yeah, it’s disappointing."

The Avalanche, which is 5-0 on the road in the playoffs, outshot the Blues 39-20 in the game, had a territorial advantage in zone in puck possession and zone time, while the Blues -- again -- played passive and dismissive with their puck play.

Husso, who was both great and had fans shaking their heads with the final two goals allowed, getting beat again on the tying goal on the short side, did his best to keep the Blues in it with a number of clutch saves. He had to play near-perfect for the Blues to force Game 7 since the offense was pretty much anemic against a wobbly goalie at best, Darcy Kuemper.

"'Huus' gave us a chance to win," Schenn said. "Not an easy situation for him to come in the series. He found his groove.

"Just couldn’t find ways to generate enough offensively. We feel we got a good team and let that series slip. They’re a good team. You've got to hand them credit. But we feel like we got good pieces in here, too. And we challenged them a lot better than we did (last year). It’s hard to come back from 3-1. We know that. Games 3 and 4 really hurt us, and it’s tough to come back in a series like that."

"We didn't make enough plays," Berube said. "I thought we defended well. We didn't transfer the puck from defense to offense tonight. We just kind of put pucks out to the neutral zone and they did a good job of countering. They came with a lot of speed. I thought their D played extremely well tonight and carried the play for them."

Earlier in the series, after Game 1, Schenn said the Blues were just "chucking pucks" back to the Avalanche, and it led to an onslaught of wave after wave after wave of Colorado attacks.

"Well, that's a highly-skilled team over there," Berube said. "They've got a lot of offense, they got a lot of good players. I guess you could ask ... you want more from some guys maybe, but I thought we played them pretty well, I really did. I didn't like Game 1, but other than that, we were right there in all the games."

The Blues scored the first goal for the fifth time in six games in this series when Justin Faulk made it 1-0 with one minute left in the first.

Husso kept the Blues in the lead with several key saves; he faced 13 shots in each period Friday.

J.T. Compher scored the first of two goals, depth guys for the Avalanche getting the job done, when he scored off a rebound at the net at 5:19 of the second to tie it 1-1.

But the Blues scored off a 2-on-1, with Jordan Kyrou converting a Schenn pass to make it 2-1 at 9:34 following a Jack Johnson turnover. It was another lead for the Blues, that could have been increased when Kyrou inexplicably didn't shoot with Kuemper out of position on his forehand, went to the backhand and had his shot from the slot blocked by Josh Manson. Kyrou then missed a breakaway with 59 seconds left, and the Blues missed out on a chance to go up by two or three goals.

"Jordan Kyrou could have had three tonight," Berube said. "Just the way it goes. We didn't get the breaks."

With a one-goal game and 20 minutes left, there was no chance the Avalanche were sitting back like it did in Denver on Wednesday. Colorado was coming with an onslaught.

The Blues were weathering every storm imaginable until Colton Parayko, who struggled throughout, flipped an uncontested puck into the stands for a delay of game penalty at 8:19. 
The Blues had it all but killed off, but Compher tied the game with one second left on the power play, a shot from the right circle that beat Husso again high short side, which seems like his Achillies' heel, getting beat short side. The goal came at 10:18 and tied things at 2-2.

"Well, obviously the power play goal, we almost had that killed off," Berube said. "We made a little bit of a mistake in the neutral zone and gave them a free look, they score. Then again, like I said up ice, we've got to do a better job on that set forecheck."

The Blues had little to no good looks on the offensive end in the third period, so naturally, their best shot was to get this to overtime. 

And they nearly succeeded.
(St. Louis Blues/Scott Rovak)
Blues defenseman Justin Faulk (72) moves the puck away from Avalanche
forward Andre Burakovsky in Game 6 on Friday at Enterprise Center.

"They’re a good skating team. Their D are mobile, active," Schenn said. "They break out the puck pretty well. Actually really well. You have to have a good forecheck when you have D like that. And that takes sustained O-zone time. And we didn’t have enough of it. We showed it in spurts, but that’s not good enough to win a series."

It surely wasn't enough to win this game, and in the end, Helm's shot was a bitter pill to swallow.

The teams shook hands at the conclusion, and the remaining crowd on hand saluted the Blues on their season.

"I don't say a lot," Berube said. "We talked, we had a great season, proud of the guys, they worked really hard, but we really came together as a team throughout the season and the playoffs, battled hard in the playoffs, beat a real good team out in Minnesota and we're right there with Colorado. It's tough to lose. You can't say much. They don't want to hear anything."

Friday, May 27, 2022

(5-27-22) Avalanche-Blues Game 6 Gameday Lineup

ST. LOUIS -- Another do-or-die scenario for the Blues, as they avoided one knockout punch, and they'll be looking for another one when they host the Colorado Avalanche today (7 p.m.; TNT, ESPN 101.1-FM) in Game 6 of the Western Conference second round.

After avoiding being eliminated Wednesday with a 5-4 overtime win, coming back from behind on Tyler Bozak's OT goal after coming back from 3-0 and 4-3 deficits, the Blues feel there's some momentum going into a home game now but they can't take it for granted.

The Blues have lost Games 3-4 in this series at Enterprise Center ice but are 2-1 at Ball Arena.

"I really don't know what to make of the home and road stuff that's going on," Blues coach Craig Berube said. "That's hockey. I thought that Game 3 at home we started off extremely well. And I liked our start in the game and some things happen, changes. Game 4, not as good for sure. We were on our heels in the first period, but we weathered the storm. We just got to go and play. We're not going to worry about that kind of stuff. We got to have a good start to the game here tonight. They've started extremely well the last two games. They've been the better team in the first period. So we got to turn that tide here tonight. I think it's important that we come out we have a real good first."

That would be the kind of start that would set a precedent to getting this series to a winner-take-all Game 7.

"I think you kind of saw it late in the second (period of Game 5) and the third period," defenseman Nick Leddy said. "I thought we were skating well. I thought we got pucks in deep. We did a lot of things we’ve done since I’ve been here throughout the back part of the year. You know, we created a lot, we had a lot of chances and I think the determination was really there throughout that full back half of the game."

- - -

Alexei Toropchenko's persistent and vibrant energy continues to rub off in a positive way, and Berube will, at least at the start, use the big Russian on the third line with Brayden Schenn and Jordan Kyrou, sliding Ivan Barbashev down with Bozak and Nathan Walker.

"I thought he had a heck of a game; he was involved in two of the goals we scored with his play in the offensive zone and his forechecking abilities," Berube said. "I'm going to start him with Schenn's line tonight and go from there."

Toropchenko's play was at a high, even when the Blues were trailing in Game 5 and he was continuing to create positive energy on the ice. He finished with one assist in the game on Kyrou's goal that tied the score 3-3 but was also on the ice for Vladimir Tarasenko's goal in the second period that made it 3-1 when Berube had Toropchenko, Schenn and Tarasenko out on the ice at the time.

"Yeah, I mean, it’s awesome," forward David Perron said. "Usually like you said, the younger guys bring a lot of energy, they bring a lot of physicality to a match, to a game where sometimes you’re going to need that kind of spark. He certainly did that last game and it was awesome to see for him to step up and play the way he did. Looks like he’s getting another chance with those guys, and we want them to contribute again."

"He's a great person, very likable, happy guy, 24/7, that rubs off on people and that good energy he provides really rubs off on people and on the ice," Berube said. "Every shift is energy, every shift is skating and hard play and forecheck. So it's important and very important to playoff hockey."

Barbashev has two assists in the postseason thus far but did pick up a helper on Bozak's OT winner in Game 5, and flipping the two wingers has nothing to do with struggling play by Barbashev.

"Not really, no," Berube said. "That line got us the game-winning goal. They were out there together. 

"Barby’s a versatile guy, we use Barby in a lot of different scenarios, power play, penalty kill, he gets his minutes and again, there's a lot of mixing and matching that goes on in the game. Moving him around."

- - -

Nathan MacKinnon's highlight reel goal that put the Avalanche up 4-3 with 2:46 to play in the game is still the talk of the series.

Leddy was defending on the play and was the last line of defense as MacKinnon, who had a hat trick in Game 5, went coast-to-coast to score.

It's been a heck of a challenge for Leddy and the Blues D to contain the Avs center, and aside from Game 5, they've done a pretty good job of limiting his offensive prowess.

This, after Leddy and the Blues had the task of defending Minnesota's Kirill Kaprizov in the first round.

"Well, I think he’s definitely a little bit different than Kaprizov in a few ways, but I think at the end of the day, (with) those guys, you need a team defense," Leddy said. "It’s not just one or two guys, it’s the whole team. Just being hard on them when you can, taking away time and space. Those players are going to get chances. They’re amazing players, but you’ve just got to try and limit them."

Berube said the Blues need to get back to limiting MacKinnon's time and space to have success.

"We let him get too much separation (Wednesday) night," Berube said. "The third goal he scores, there’s too much separation. The first goal, Leddy gets his stick on it, it's a good play, it just goes in off a stick. Not all the goals so much, he just had too much room. Got to be tighter to try to get the puck out of his hands and give it to somebody else. We just got to get over top of him better.

"Take time and space away from him because once he gets going, like the third goal, you're just putting Leddy in a tough spot. Very good player coming at you 100 miles an hour."

- - -

Berube will stick with Colton Parayko on the second power play unit because of one aspect.

"Right now I like the way Colton is shooting the puck," Berube said. "That's probably the difference."

There's been consideration of using Leddy there, but Parayko's ability to get his heavy shot off can be a difference maker.

"We want our D to shoot, get it off quick and get it to the net," Berube said. "He's always used his shot pretty well in my opinion and he's produced for us. He’s produced on the power play for us in the past years where we've used them more on the power play than this year. He's just on his toes right now in my opinion, he's playing some real good hockey and again, he's getting a lot of shots off 5-on-5. And so I think on the power play when he has an opportunity to shoot one tonight, and he did last game. We didn't have a good enough net front on it, but it was a great shot. We've got to get guys in front of the goalies eyes and he's going to use his shot."

- - - 

The Blues' projected lineup:

Brandon Saad-Ryan O'Reilly-David Perron

Pavel Bucnnevich-Robert Thomas-Vladimir Tarasenko

Alexei Toropchenko-Brayden Schenn-Jordan Kyrou

Ivan Barbashev-Tyler Bozak-Nathan Walker

Nick Leddy-Colton Parayko

Niko Mikkola-Justin Faulk

Marco Scandella-Robert Bortuzzo

Ville Husso will start in goal; Charlie Lindgren will be the backup. 

Healthy scratches include Logan Brown, Calle Rosen and Scott Perunovich. Torey Krug (lower body) is out.

- - -

The Avalanche's projected lineup:

Gabriel Landeskog-Nathan MacKinnon-Artturi Lehkonen

Valeri Nichushkin-Nazem Kadri-Mikko Rantanen

Andre Burakovsky-J.T. Compher-Nicolas Aube-Kubel

Logan O'Connor-Darren Helm-Andrew Cogliano

Devon Toews-Cale Makar

Jack Johnson-Josh Manson

Bowen Byram-Erik Johnson

Darcy Kuemper will start in goal; Pavel Francouz will be the backup. 

Healthy scratches include Nico Sturm, Alex Newhook, Ryan Murray, Kurtis MacDermid and Trent Miner. Samuel Girard (sternum) is out.

Thursday, May 26, 2022

Left for dead, Blues rally to keep season alive with improbable 5-4 OT win over Avalanche

Bozak goal caps rally from three goals down to keep Colorado from 
clinching, send series back to St. Louis with Blues trailing now 3-2

DENVER -- When Gabriel Landeskog tipped in a shot for the Colorado Avalanche four minutes into the second period, it felt like the death knell of the Blues.

With their season on the line and now down three goals, in a building the powerful Avalanche never seem to lose in, the Blues were in a world of trouble and all that was left were the handshakes when the third period buzzer ticked down to zero.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues (from left) Colton Parayko, Tyler Bozak and Alexei Toropchenko
celebrate Bozak's overtime goal in a 5-4 win at Colorado in Game 5.

Call it the unthinkable, call it whatever you'd like, the never-say-die Blues have been down this road too many times this season, and if they were close to using their Nine Lives, they didn't quite use them all up.

Not on this night.

The Blues won't go down without a fight. Somehow, someway, they saved their season ... at least for another game, for another two days.

Tyler Bozak made sure of it when he capped a comeback for the ages by scoring at 3:38 of overtime to give the Blues an improbable 5-4 win in Game 5 of the Western Conference second round series at Ball Arena on Wednesday.

We'll get to the Bozak goal in a moment, but from the time the puck dropped to the moment Nathan MacKinnon, who did little in the series to this point in offensive production, scored his third goal of the game with a highlight reel goal, this had an Avalanche series win written all over it. 

But there's this saying, heard time and time again, that's why you play the game, and in this case, that's why you play the game until the very last second needed.

The Blues, who will now play host to Game 6 on Friday at Enterprise Center at 7 p.m., felt they had nothing left to lose but throw the kitchen sink out there. What else was there to leave at that point?

The answer: nothing.

"You've got nothing to lose, so you might as well throw it all out there," said center Robert Thomas, whose second goal of the game with 56 seconds remaining in regulation tied the game. "I think that was our mentality. It seemed to work tonight."

It didn't seem to work, it did work.

"We just talked, get one goal and get back into it," Blues coach Craig Berube said. "Again, it’s just a gutsy win. Guys battled and kept battling. That’s really what it boils down to. We didn’t get off to the start we wanted, being down that quick. But I thought the second half of the second period we started to really come with our game, how we wanted to play and it carried over into the third."


"Well, just getting to the goal line, getting numbers there and winning battles down there," Berube said. "And our D were very active, keeping pucks alive and it was a five-man zone and forecheck. We did a real good job of that. We went north. That’s what it really boils down to."

"I think there's a couple things," Thomas said. "I think we were harder on pucks, we were winning battles, we were forecheking well, we were hemming them in the o-zone. There's a bunch of different things, but yeah, it's something we can try and use as momentum and we know what works. We know how we can have a chance to win any night."

It would beg one to ask the question why did it take so long to find this? Why was this team so flat, so out of it when their season was on the line?

No matter what the answer is, or was, something sparks this team when the dobbers look like they're down.

"It’s just character and leadership," Berube said. "We've got a lot of character in that room, we all know that. This team has come from behind quite a bit this year in games, so they don’t give up. You’ve just got to keep playing and keep battling and they did that. That’s all on them."

The rebuild started with Vladimir Tarasenko, whose goal at 14:42 of the second period gave the Blues some life.

"It's obviously a big boost and it gives you a lot of confidence to get that next goal," Bozak said. "I thought we took over the game a little bit after that and started playing a lot more in the offensive zone and making a lot more plays. Maybe we were a little nervous earlier in the game to make mistakes and when we got down, that kind of went away and Vladi got us going with that big goal."

Nervous is an understatement, but those nerves were quickly dissipating.

Colorado began the third playing a prevent defense style, and that's a recipe for disaster. The Blues obliged and took full advantage.

When Thomas scored at 9:57 off a speed rush play by Pavel Buchnevich from the neutral zone and backhand pass to the low slot for the quick shot to make it 3-2.

"He deserves all the credit for that," Thomas said of Buchnevich. "That was an unbelievable play. I think it really sparked our team. We got right back after them and that's what we've got to continue to do."

The spark needed to make this a one-shot game. Ten minutes to go ... that's what the Blues wanted, and needed. 

They kept pushing and pressing, knowing their season was still on the line. 

Berube moved rookie Alexei Toropchenko up from the fourth line to a line with Brayden Schenn and Jordan Kyrou, because it was Toropchenko who kept pushing, fighting and playing hard when the Blues' chips looked like they were down. He would factor in the tying goal scored by Justin Faulk, then credited to Jordan Kyrou with 4:46 remaining to tie the game 3-3.

"He’s such a good skater and he plays so direct," Berube said of Toropchenko. "Whatever line he goes to, they have a good shift, that’s what it seems like to me. I just made that switch (with 5:25 remaining in the game) and they ended up getting a goal. I thought he had a heck of a game."

With the Blues pressing with o-zone time, a puck got to Toropchenko and he was able to get enough of it to the crease for Faulk and Kyrou to do the rest.

Advantage Blues, right?

Well, MacKinnon, who scored two first-period goals, would go coast to coast past a wave of Blues, past Nick Leddy, who would factor in at the end of the game, and beat Ville Husso short side high off his shoulder and in to give the Avs a 4-3 lead with 2:46 remaining.

The Blues were on life support again, and as the hats reigned down from the 18,117 at Ball Arena, the Blues had enough time to compose themselves again.

"Yeah, it’s tough," Berube said. "We battle back and then we give up that goal like that. It could be really deflating, but our team has got a lot of guts and they’re a resilient bunch of guys. I thought they were positive. We talked about what we were going to do with the goalie and stuff and it ended up working out."

There are 10 skaters, including Jordan Binnington, who is obviously out for the series, who have championship pedigree. They weren't going down without a fight. Not after battling back to get back into the game.

"It was an amazing hockey game," Bozak said. "I'm sure everyone that was watching thought the same thing. Obviously MacKinnon's one of the best players in the league and makes plays in crucial moments and did it there, but we have great leadership on our team. We have a lot of guys who have won before. We knew there was still lots of time. The guys got it done and got us to overtime and then it's anybody's game when you get there.

"Just stick with it, there's a lot of time left. We've got guys that can score. We know we can make plays and it's not over until it's over."

Leading up to Thomas' tying goal, Faulk made two crucial plays to keep the Blues' season alive.

With 1:51 remaining, he skates to the center ice wall and cuts off Landeskog from scoring into an empty net that would have sealed Colorado's win and ended the Blues' season; Faulk then kept a puck alive at the blue line on Devon Toews' backhand clearing attempt to keep the puck in the offensive zone before the Blues worked it around to Tarasenko to the right of goalie Darcy Kuemper. Tarasenko's shot hit Kuemper's facemask and fell in the crease for Thomas to whack it home with 56 seconds left to tie the game 4-4 on Thomas' sixth shot on goal of the game.

"That was a heck of a play," Berube said. "That was a tough draw … came to the inside and they got possession right away. 'Buchy' made a good play too (on Cale Makar's initial pass) by pressuring and then 'Faulker' read it and was right over the top of him, killing the play. That’s important, you’ve got to have that."

The Blues are the first team to score two game-tying goals in the final five minutes of regulation when facing elimination. The only other team to do so in any playoff game: Buffalo in Game 1 of the 2006 Conference Semifinals at Ottawa.

"Better late than never I guess, but I was on the receiving end on some nice plays by Buchy and Vladi," Thomas said. "They deserve all the credit."

Ball Arena was stunned again, and it would be stunned for a third time.

Bozak's wife Molly, would send out a tweet saying: Who else is FREAKING OUT at 9:48 p.m. St. Louis time. Little did she know her husband would bring the series home.

On the play, Leddy, who had three assists, killed a Colorado rush play at the Blues' blue line by getting the puck to Ivan Barbashev. Barbashev dumped the puck into the right corner, where Bozak, who was on the ice for his first shift since the 10:44 mark of the third period, skated in with fresh legs and won the puck back to Leddy. Leddy's shot caromed off Valeri Nichushkin to Bozak in the high slot, and his slap shot through traffic beat Kuemper clean to cap the comeback.

"Just got a little bounce up top and saw a lane to the net," Bozak said. "In overtime, there's definitely no such thing as a bad shot, so just tried to get it through on the traffic and it went in. It was awesome.

"Obviously feels great. Just a resilient group of guys, got down and didn't want the season to be over. Fought hard, got some big goals late. Was lucky enough to be on the end of the one in overtime, but yeah, it was awesome. We're excited for the next game."

Berube had the confidence to put that fourth line out in overtime in a one-shot game, or for the Blues, a one-shot season game, and it came through.

"Well, I think in the third, it’s just about getting back and tying it, so I’m rolling three lines most of the time," Berube said. "It’s not that you don’t want to play these guys, but you’re trying to catch up here and win a game and tie it up. But in OT, you get into OT, I think you’ve got to start over again. You’ve got to get your guys out there and rotate them and get playing because if you don’t, you’re going to burn your top nine out. They’re just going to play too much."

And let's not forget the play Robert Bortuzzo made 2:20 into overtime, being in the right place at the right time to keep a Landeskog shot from hitting the net and keeping the game, and season, alive.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Robert Thomas (third from left) celebrates his game-tying goal in the final
minute of regulation of a 5-4 OT win over Colorado in Game 5 Wednesday.

Is this momentum now? Should this be momentum now?

"Obviously we want to use this as momentum, but at the same time, they're a really good hockey team over there, we know they're going to push," Bozak said. "We're going to have to be at our best if we want to beat them next game."

But as for this goal, the one that saved the season, Bozak was waiting for a message he didn't get after the game from his wife.

"I think she fell asleep actually," Bozak said. "She didn't text me after the game, so hopefully Kanon saw it, my oldest boy, but he was probably sleeping too, but I'll have to show him in the morning."

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

(5-25-22) Blues-Avalanche Game 5 Gameday Lineup

DENVER -- The Blues are going back to the conventional lineup tonight in a do-or-die Game 5 today against the Colorado Avalanche in Game 5 of the Western Conference second round (7 p.m.; TNT, ESPN 101.1-FM).

The changes implemented include putting defenseman Marco Scandella back into the lineup, forward Nathan Walker going back in on the fourth line, and both defensemen Scott Perunovich and Calle Rosen coming out.

For Scandella, it will be his first action since reaggravating the lower-body injury he sustained here in the final regular-season game April 25.

"Obviously he’s been out a little bit since (Game 4 against the Wild), and he’s feeling a lot better," Blues coach Craig Berube said.

For Scandella, he slots in with Justin Faulk.

"Just go out there and play a hard game, win my 1-on-1 battles," Scandella said. "It’s nothing special -- do or die tonight. So just play a hard, simple game is what I'm going to bring.

"Yeah, it sucks (to miss games). But I’m going to look at it today, I'm pretty excited to play. Play a hard, simple game. ... You work all year to get to this point, to get to the playoffs, earn a spot in the playoffs and to not be a part of that? Obviously, it's not easy. It's tough to watch. Being up there (in the press box), supporting the boys, I feel like you're more nervous not in the games. So I'm pretty excited about getting back."

Walker will play alongside Alexei Toropchenko and Tyler Bozak.

"He brings skating, energy and real good structure to our game," Berube said of Walker. "He's played really well for us this year. When I took him out at the time, it wasn't about his play, it was about our d-corps at the time, banged up and we needed to go seven.

"He’s a great kid and we love him. Brings a lot of energy and emotion to the game. We’re excited to have him back."

With Perunovich coming out of the lineup, that means the quarterbacks on the power play will look different.

Faulk slides up to the top unit, and Colton Parayko, someone who's been used sparingly there, will slide in and QB the second unit.

"Since I’ve been here as a coach, we’ve used him sparingly or even more than that at times," Berube said. "But you have people who are power-play guys and you have to find roles for people. This year he hasn’t been used very often on it, if at all, because his role is penalty killing and shutting down other teams. We’ve had (Torey) Krug and Faulk this year run the power play, but he’s done it in the past for us and is very capable of it."

As for going 12/6, it will be the first time the Blues implement it since Game 3 against the Wild. They are 12-9-2 this season going 11/7.

"I just think, as a whole, on forward and defense, you gain momentum, you gain chemistry, you're not flip-flopping and linemates and D aren’t flip-flopping partners all over the place," center Brayden Schenn said. "You kind of simplify everyone in a position and you go wave after wave. So you know, the cards we've been dealt where we had to go 11-7 before, but getting (Scandella) back tonight allows us to go 12-6. I think it's going to help guys sustain energy and stamina in altitude and only help guys as a second and third period goes on."

- - -

Ville Husso, despite a 1-4 record in the postseason with a 3.76 goals-against average and .884 save percentage, will get the start tonight in a do-or-die matchup, despite Blues fans clamoring for Charlie 'Chuckie Sideburns' Lindgren to get the nod.

"I didn’t give any thought to starting Lindgren, and I don’t believe Husso’s lost his confidence," Berube said. "He knows he has to play better, as our team has to play better in front of him. It goes both ways, you know? But I think Husso’s very confident." 

- - -

Berube is going back to some former combinations that have worked in the past but haven't necessarily done much in this series, namely going back with Pavel Buchnevich with Robert Thomas and Vladimir Tarasenko.

"That line’s been very successful," Berube said. "Split them up for some time, not much going on so hopefully they can get a couple tonight."

Tarasenko has just one assist in the series, Thomas has no points in the series and just three assists in 10 postseason games. Buchnevich has five points (one goal, four assists) his past three games but primarily playing with David Perron and Ryan O'Reilly.

"I think they’re a puck possession line for sure, they want to make plays and that’s a big part of how they had success this year," Berube said. "They’re very good at making plays and finding each other and Vladi’s a shooter. But this is playoff time and if you want to have success offensively, you have to have numbers on the pack and really fight through space. There’s not a lot of space out there, there are guys around you, there’s always somebody on you. it’s about fighting for space and getting to the hard areas. Just like that goal 'Buchy' scored on the power play the other night. You have to get to that paint, get a bounce here and there and that’s what it’s all about. You’re not going to get a lot of time. This team, they’re on you constantly. You’re not getting any time out there, so you have to fight through things, constantly fight through things and be patient. You can’t force it. It might not happen that shift. You have to keep working, you've got to play the game. You cant go out with the mindset every shift of, 'oh, I've got to score.' That’s not the process. The process is to go play the right way and eventually it will come through, maybe." 

- - -

The Blues are certainly not looking at it as having to win three games now to win the series. It's win one game and hope to bring it back to St. Louis for Game 6 on Friday.

"They know that," Berube said. "You have to win one game. Our focus is on tonight’s game and you have to narrow your focus even more than that. You have to focus on shift to shift. That’s very important and focus on the process of what you have to do as a team and individual to win the hockey game."

"You approach it to worry about one game," Schenn said. "You don't worry about the whole series. You know, you worry about coming to the rink tonight and playing together, chipping away and find a way to win a hockey game."

And how do you do that after such a lackluster Game 4? Simple.

"Play better," Schenn said. "I think the message is simple in our locker room. You know you have to move your feet, you have to support each other, all over the ice. You have to want the puck and skate with the puck and make plays. And when that happens, you're able to sustain more pressure and get more chances and, ultimately, that's what won us the hockey game (in Game 2). I don't think it's an overcomplicated message where we have to change a whole lot of things tonight. Just come to the rink, ready to work. Be ready to compete. Go out there and give it your all and expect to win."

- - -

Berube sat down for his media session and before taking questions, offered the following on the Nazem Kadri racist and threatening remarks made following Game 3:

"Before any questions, I just want to comment on my 'no comment' the other day. I’m not on social media, I was aware of a threat made to Nazem, not the racist stuff, and no way is it acceptable by the St. Louis Blues or anybody else for him to have to go through that. Being a native American myself, I’ve heard it all, I’ve been around it, it’s not a good thing. So, I just wanted to get that out there that there’s no room for it anywhere."

As for any more Kadri emotions boiling over in the game?

"I don’t really think that going into the game (Monday) our guys were overly concerned with getting redemption on him," Berube said. "I know Schenn tried to fight him early on in the game and I thought it was over, then Perron and him mix up, they kind of went at it a little bit. We ended up on the wrong side of it for sure, but I think that going into it, our focus was on winning the hockey game. We didn’t play very well. I mean, that’s a very good team over there, They have a lot of good players, Nazem Kadri’s a real good hockey player, they have a bunch of guys and he showed that the other night. We have to play better."

"The play happened, obviously the emotions are high," Schenn said. "People are frustrated, it is what it is. And now we have to focus on winning hockey. I know we said that before last game, but that's obviously where your attention has to turn. Obviously, he had a good game last game. We can't go out there and just worry about him. We’re worried about winning a hockey game."

- - -

The Blues' projected lineup:

Brandon Saad-Ryan O'Reilly-David Perron

Pavel Bucnnevich-Robert Thomas-Vladimir Tarasenko

Ivan Barbashev-Brayden Schenn-Jordan Kyrou

Alexei Toropchenko-Tyler Bozak-Nathan Walker

Nick Leddy-Colton Parayko

Marco Scandella-Justin Faulk

Niko Mikkola-Robert Bortuzzo

Ville Husso will start in goal; Charlie Lindgren will be the backup. 

Healthy scratches include Logan Brown, Calle Rosen and Scott Perunovich. Torey Krug (lower body) is out.

- - -

The Avalanche's projected lineup:

Valeri Nichushkin-Nathan MacKinnon-Mikko Rantanen

Gabriel Landeskog-Nazem Kadri-Artturi Lehkonen

Alex Newhook-J.T. Compher-Nicolas Aube-Kubel

Logan O'Connor-Darren Helm-Andrew Cogliano

Devon Toews-Cale Makar

Jack Johnson-Josh Manson

Bowen Byram-Erik Johnson

Darcy Kuemper will start in goal; Pavel Francouz will be the backup. 

The healthy scratches include Andre Burakovsky, Ryan Murray, Kurtis MacDermid, Hunter Miska and Justus Annunen. Samuel Girard (broken sternum) is out for the season.

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Instead of overcoming adversity, Blues add to it, wilt in Game 4 loss against Avalanche to fall on brink of elimination

Focus for winning a hockey game was anything but; they allow Kadri 
to rule the day with hat trick, assist to put St. Louis in 3-1 series hole

ST. LOUIS -- Sure, all the right things were said pregame.

The Blues have overcome adversity, they've overcome obstacles thrown their way. 
(St. Louis Blues/Scott Rovak)
Colton Parayko (55) and the Blues couldn't get away from Nazem Kadri 
(91) and the Colorado Avalanche in Game 4, a 6-3 loss on Monday.

They had another one in Game 3 against the Colorado Avalanche in the Western Conference second round series when Jordan Binnington was run over by Nazem Kadri, an incident that had the feel of a not doing something intentional but since an opportunity presented itself, let's see what can happen.

The Blues said they had to focus on winning a hockey game, that they were focused on winning a hockey game and not on Kadri, who ended Binnington's series and likely his playoff season after he stepped in and played masterfully once he took over for Ville Husso in Game 4 of the first round against the Minnesota Wild.

Well ... 

Something happened between overcoming adversity and focusing on winning a hockey game.
Forget all that, the Blues were badly outplayed and Kadri had a large hand in it all, scoring a hat trick and assisting on another goal in Colorado's thorough beatdown of the Blues, 6-3, to take a commanding 3-1 lead in the best-of-7 series Monday at Enterprise Center.

"We got outskated for most of the game 5-on-5. It's pretty simple," Blues coach Craig Berube said. "I don't know why. We got outskated. They outskated us. Got to every loose puck. Lost a lot of puck battles."

One word is the only suitable one that should be used to ask the question: how?

How is it possible that the Blues, down 2-1 in the series, could lay such an egg? How do you allow one player -- for the second year in a row -- to get inside your heads like that? How does one, knowing anything less than a win, puts you in an elimination setting?

"I felt real confident coming into the game and it just didn't happen," Berube said. "I thought we'd make a better push in the second and we didn't. It got away from us."

The second ... after the Blues took a 1-0 lead for the fourth time in as many games. But let's face it, their skating ability -- or lackthereof -- and their puck play was borderline pitiful despite David Perron's goal.

"I’m not sure we ever had control of the game, even though we scored first," Perron said. "We didn’t make them defend hard enough. We had some pushes, but not nearly consistent enough to win a hockey game."

Not nearly consistent enough to win a hockey game ... that's an understatement.

And it's head-scratching.

"It wasn’t the effort we wanted," captain Ryan O'Reilly said. "I think we were just waiting too much when it started. We had some pushes at times, did some good things, but not nearly consistent enough. Yeah, it’s unfortunate but you know what, we get the next game. That’s our focus. It’s do or die, and yeah, that’s our focus."

Yes it is do-or-die, for real now. But should have it been do-or-die on Monday? Shouldn't it have been do-or-die in Game 3, when the Blues gained home ice advantage by winning Game 2 in Denver.

The answers are a resounding yes. But here the Blues are, down 3-1 in a series, and Kadri having his fingerprints all over it after the events of the past couple days that included alleged threats and racial slurs lobbied in his direction.

"I guess I needed some fuel," Kadri said. "I was pretty upset for the last couple of days, but it is what it is. We got the win and that’s what we wanted.

"You know, starting with their head coach probably. He made some comments that I wasn’t a fan of. I guess he’s never heard of bulletin-board material. I don’t know what that was about. But like I said, there were a lot of people saying a lot of things. I’ve got to tune it out. I’ll step up when I have to."

And he did after the Blues went after Kadri -- again.

Brayden Schenn confronted him early in the game looking for Kadri to settle, but of course, Kadri backed away.

"It is what it is. That's the way he is," Berube said of Schenn. "Got a lot of gamesmanship, he's a team guy and after he did that, it was over. We were just playing hockey."

Or so Berube thought.

Kadri had another incident when he bumped Perron from behind, only to see Pavel Buchnevich KO him to the ice and Perron tackle him out of frustration. But referees Kelly Sutherland and Jon McIsaac only escorted Buchnevich and Perron to the box, giving Colorado a full two-man advantage. And the Blues nearly pulled it off.

They got through the full 5-on-3 without getting scored on, but it was Kadri that scored seven seconds after the power play ended as the two Blues skaters were getting back on the ice as the back-breaking 4-1 goal.

"We were through it and guys coming out of the box, they've got to get back to an area and protect and they didn't and it was in our net again. A mistake," Berube said.

"I don’t feel it was just about him," Perron said. "It was about creating a spark. We were up 1-0, we had three shots or whatever in the first and they’re up 3-1. I just didn’t feel like we had much pushback. And I saw 'Buch' kind of there. Those things can happen that turn out to be 4-on-4. I thought the refs probably made the right call. But we’re just kind of trying to create a spark. We had a huge kill and we were talking in the box – and we’re like, if we kill this, we've got to turn this around.

"They score right after, but we felt kind of we had more energy afterward. But that was kind of the reason, not necessarily targeting someone."

The Blues did get some spark. But not from their 5-on-5 play, but from their power play when Perron scored his second of the game and Buchnevich scored his first Stanley Cup Playoff goal to make it 4-3 after two.

Same scenario as Game 3, down one, but little to no pushback in the third.

"Yeah, again, it’s two games in a row where the third wasn’t the push that we needed to have," O'Reilly said. "I think over the course of the game, like we said, we just didn’t build enough and set each other up. They make plays, they make plays from start to finish, they skate … we needed a couple big shifts in a row and set each other up and that will give us a better chance."
(St. Louis Blues/Scott Rovak)
Pavel Buchnevich (89) scored his first Stanley Cup Playoff goal for the
Blues in Game 4 on Monday in a 6-3 loss against Colorado.

That never came, and their chances of winning another playoff series took a serious hit as a result of it.

"We'll regroup tomorrow, talk a little bit, look at some stuff," Berube said. "We've got to play better. We can. 

"We went in there and won Game 2, so we're capable of doing it. The team's capable of doing it and it's just a matter of going out and executing and doing it. We've got to skate. We didn't skate tonight. We weren't heavy enough, we didn't win enough 50-50 battles. That's got to be a must. You've got to skate and you've got to win 50-50 battles and we need a lot more guys doing it, a lot more."