Wednesday, May 18, 2022

For Blues to rebound in Game 2, puck play will need to drastically be better

Schenn said Blues "chucked too many pucks away" enabling Avalanche 
to control pace, play throughout a 3-2 win for Colorado in OT of Game 1

DENVER -- It was a simple and succinct assessment from Brayden Schenn when asked about his thoughts about Tuesday's Game 1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche in the Western Conference Second Round.

"I liked our goaltending, that's about it," Schenn said Wednesday. 
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Brayden Schenn (10) and the Blues will have to be better in Game 2 of their
second round series against Valeri Nichushkin (13) and the Avalanche.

"But I think from a team perspective, guys need to be a whole lot better," Schenn went on to say. "The skaters out there, we know we have to be better in front of him."


It was a one-shot game that came down to overtime, thanks to Jordan Binnington's heroism with a career-high 51 saves, but needless to say, the Blues know it came down to a plethora of ingredients needed to enhance their chances of evening the series on Thursday or even extending it further.

"I think from just defending, last night we chucked too many pucks away, flipped too many pucks out and then you kind of let them keep on coming at you," Schenn said. "That's one way to defend is make better puck plays and you have the puck more, make them defend. I don't think we did enough of that last night, not at all. We know we've got to be a whole lot better with the puck. They come fast at you, they don't give you much time and space but that means the players out there have to be in good support for one another to support each other and gives you an option to make a play."

The Blues, outshot 54-25 in the game, were better in Periods 1 and 3 when they didn't have the long line changes in regards to throwing pucks away. Shots were 22-16 Colorado in Periods 1 and 3, 32-9 in Periods 2 and overtime, including 13-0 in overtime.

"Second period and overtime for sure," Blues coach Craig Berube said. "First period and third period were pretty good. 

"Executing, and composure with the puck and wanting to make a play more than anything. There's always adjustments and things we can do. We'll look at those tomorrow and show our team and things like that, but it boils down to wanting to make a play and using your feet a little bit more and more composure, and being connected. You can't be spread out, especially against this team."

"That was an issue last night with just our puck play," Schenn said. "You throw out pucks, you chuck pucks away, guys aren't able to get off. Obviously with the altitude and stuff like that, guys get tired and all of the sudden they keep coming at you. We got caught in a three-quarter ice game for probably 15 minutes of that second period and you can't do that against a good team like that."

The Blues will have to especially ramp up their forechecking game. It was too easy and methodical for the Avalanche to retrieve pucks and transition them. 

"It starts with the forecheck, 100 percent," Berube said. "Our forecheck was not very good last night. We didn't get numbers in there, we didn't stall pucks and when you don't do that, their D are up the ice and they're up the ice quickly.

"It was probably a little bit on our heels at times, too cautious. You've got to be aggressive still. You've got to be smart, but you've got to be aggressive. You can't sit back. They're going to go right through you.

"You play in our end and you just punt the puck out of the zone and they just look to quick-up it right away. You can't get people off the ice or if they are trying to change in the neutral zone, they catch you and they three-quarter ice you. That's the bottom line. They did that in the second and the overtime. It cost us the hockey game."

The Blues are going to need more from their top-end players, especially on the offensive side. 

Ryan O'Reilly (nine points on six goals, three assists) and David Perron (nine points on five goals, four assists) are doing a lot of the heavy lifting offensively, and Vladimir Tarasenko (five goals, one assist) has contributed although he had a hat trick in Game 5 at Minnesota, but they need more from Schenn (zero goals with four assists), Pavel Buchnevich (also no goals with four assists), Brandon Saad (one goal, two assists) and Robert Thomas (three assists) in seven games just isn't going to cut it.

It's why Berube is considering moving guys around to get some production and going to the customary 12 forwards/six defensemen as opposed to the 11/7 the Blues have been running out since Game 4 of the opening round.

"If you don't play in the offensive zone against them and you don't possess pucks and make them defend, you're going to be in your end all night like we were last night," Berube said. "... We have to play more as a team. We didn't last night. We were too spread out, we weren't connected and when we are connected and we're playing as a team, we're a pretty damn good team. We've shown that, okay. We're a hard offensive team. We forecheck hard, we possess pucks in the offensive zone, we compete on them, and that's what makes us a good team, and that's what I see we need to do."
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Vladimir Tarasenko (91) has five goals in seven playoff games for the Blues
but will need to step up more against Cale Makar (8) and the Avalanche.

As for Binnington, who is 3-1 with a 1.94 goals-against average and .944 save percentage since he took over for Ville Husso starting with Game 4 of the first round against the Minnesota Wild, the Blues are getting the goaltending needed to succeed. 

"We know we're going to have to chip away all series long, and we're going to have to respond in Game 2," Binnington said. "... We're in the second round of the playoffs and this is where you want to be, right, out there competing. Like I said, it's going to be a long series. Not happy with that outcome, so we're going to have to respond here in Game 2."

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