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."

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