After such a disappointing Game 1 of the Western Conference Final, the St. Louis Blues needed to do all they could to show life in Game 2. If they couldn’t, a strong San Jose Sharks lineup would grab on to a decisive amount of momentum as the series went back to St. Louis. Luckily for the Blues, they had the upper hand in Game 2. This is thanks to a flushed-out St Louis Blues defence that piggy-backed the team’s offence. They were the catalyst to everything offensively and were, eventually, able to shut down a dominant Sharks offence. If this can continue, the Blues have a good chance of taking a lead in the series when they return home on Wednesday.
Continuing Their Awful Power Play
The Blues had a hot start to the game, with star-winger Jaden Schwartz scoring just over two minutes into the game. This early goal helped spark a healthy amount of Blues momentum. They dominated the play with a healthy amount of speed and finesse about them. This fast play helped draw a penalty a couple of minutes later.
Yet, this penalty was where the Blues collapsed. They continued their tradition of an abysmal power play, only tallying a single shot. That shot was nowhere near a quality scoring chance, though, as the power play simply bled out with nothing to show for it.
The Blues got a golden chance to make up for the lackluster power play later in the period, though. Sharks winger Evander Kane tripped up Oskar Sundqvist, again giving St. Louis a man-advantage. Again nothing was mustered. The penalty died with the Blues not even controlling the puck for a majority of the power play.
This trend continued. The Blues didn’t get anything going on with a man advantage until… This awful play peaked when Sharks leading scorer Logan Couture scored a short-handed goal in the early minutes of the second period, only 13 seconds after his team took a penalty. He recorded countless other scoring chances while shorthanded. The Sharks offensive threat while on the penalty kill become so notable that the Blues looked especially passive during their third-period power plays.
St Louis Blues Defence Picks Up the Slack
Other than Schwartz early goal, the Blues forwards didn’t have much to brag about through the majority of the game. A pretty play late in the third period helped make things a bit more respectable, resulting in a Sundqvist goal, but even that was sparked by the team’s defence.
In fact, the defence seemed to do everything for the team through Game 2. Two defensemen scored and countless others did all they could to make up for defensive slip-ups early in the game. All-in-all, the defence was the x-factor for the Blues this game. Of the six blue-liners, none were more impressive than Robert Bortuzzo. Filling in for an injured Carl Gunnarsson, Bortuzzo netted his first career playoff goal, and his first playoff game-winner, to give the Blues a 3-2 lead in the second period. He was also the team’s best player defensively, recording multiple blocked shots and absolutely shutting down a fast Sharks team.
Overall, nothing could stop the defence. A defenseman recorded an assist on every single Blues goal as they worked wonders to both quarterbacks the team’s momentum and annihilate any hope the Sharks had. They were relentless, heading a game that marked a great comeback for St. Louis.
Goaltending Dominance Flips Sides
In Game 1, Sharks goalie Martin Jones was prolific. He stopped 28 Blues shots as the Sharks started the series off right, with a dominant 6-3 win. The Blues weren’t able to get anything by him that game, as he stood on his head from the minute the game started.
This crown switched sides in Game 2, as Blues goalie Jordan Binnington looked unstoppable. The incredible rookie only allowed two goals, both breakaways from Couture that the Blues defensemen simply gave up on. Other than those, the Sharks couldn’t do anything to score on Binnington. He stopped a modest 24 shots as he battled a relentless Sharks offence.
Binnington also did a surprisingly great job of handling the puck. He wasn’t afraid to leave his net to help the St Louis Blues defence spark the breakout. This has been a trait that has continuously built over the course of the playoffs and it wasn’t any different in Game 2. In a game where the Sharks weren’t able to set up anything in the offensive zone, Binnington was a key role in keeping the puck out of the defensive end.
What This Means
This game was crucial for the Blues. The Sharks looked incredible in Game 1, dominating every aspect of the game. This was a shot to the gut for a confident Blues team that had dominated in the latter part of the second round. It was clear that the Blues would need to work much harder to tackle San Jose.
They did. On the backs of their defence and incredible rookie goalie, the Blues were able to snatch the momentum from the Sharks. The two teams will head to St. Louis for Game 4 and 5 with the series tied. The Blues, and their fans, will clearly be reeling after such a strong Game 2 win. If they can win on Wednesday, and continue the momentum they’ve built up, they become a very dangerous team for the Sharks.
View the original article on Last Word On Hockey: St Louis Blues Defence Headlines Game 2 of the Western Conference Final