Don't Open That Door
For those who want a nasty playoff series, the Blues and Sharks are delivering.
Who would have thought a fight involving Kris Russell would be the tone setter for a 3-0 victory over San Jose Saturday night. It certainly was after Pavelski charged into the crease stick-first on the Blues goaltender.
Playoff hockey is a game for men and the Blues knew it was time to grow up.
There’s no time to feel your way through the playoffs. You either get your game together or go home.
Ken Hitchcock made some changes entering game two and his players responded. Either buy in or sit out.
It’s been a while since Blues fans have enjoyed a spectacle like we saw in game 2.
You need a little luck to advance in the playoffs and the bounces went the Blues way early as Vladimir Sobotka’s wrist shot trickled through Antti Niemi’s pads before Sharks D-man Marc-Edouard Vlasic pickle stabbed the puck into his own goal.
Sobotka started the game and helped finish it off with a series of blows to the face of Harvard grad Dominic Moore. Is this what a Havard education gets you?
The altercation left Moore with a broken nose according to Shards Head Coach Todd McLellan who also accused Sobotka of throwing a sucker-punch.
Sobotka was one of the best players on the ice for St. Louis. He won all seven of his face off’s including several in the offensive end. There’s been talk of the Blues needing more from their bottom six forwards although he wasn’t the issue in the series opener.
Roman Polak looked more like renowned Czech boxer Lukas Konecny than a hockey player late in the game. A series of lefts and rights on Justin Braun nearly took the roof off the Scottrade Center. If Cory Spinks or Devon Alexander could throw like that we’d see more fights booked inside the Scottrade.
I don’t think Ken Hitchcock even knew what Polak was capable of doing.
“Don’t open the Roman Polak Door. Don’t ever open that door” said Hitchcock.
Even with the fluke goal the game lacked flow in the first period. A broken bench delayed the game for several minutes followed by a series of television timeouts. The Blues were being outshot by a wide margin before a late power play got St. Louis going.
Alex Seen was strong up top unleashing a series of bombs, one that caught Andy McDonald square in the chest.
It was a rough night for McDonald whose helmet nearly cracked in half thanks to a T.J. Galiardi charge. McDonald was happy to show the evidence of his broken helmet after the game.
Considering McDonald’s history of head injuries he takes exception to hits up high. And he should, he knows his career could end with another concussion and he has little patience for those who cross the line.
McDonald was caught in a vulnerable position with his head down trying to locate the puck which was trapped in his skates. Personally I didn’t have a problem with Galiardi taking a run at McDonald but you have to show some control. His hands and elbows came in high at 100 miles per hour and the result was a dangerous play.
Several San Jose players complained afterwards of a McDonald slewfoot on Logan Couture. McDonald gave this response.
“It wasn’t intentional. My leg got caught behind his and thought he had the puck. I didn’t know it went out of play.”
McDonald wasn’t penalized on the play.
It will be interesting to see if Brendan Shanahan has something to say about the Glaiardi hit or the Brent Burns elbow to the back of Scott Nichol’s head.
The Burns elbow forced Nichol to drop to one knee in obvious pain. This was about as blatant as it gets as Burns showed zero interest in playing the puck. If this isn’t suspendable then I don’t know what is.
Then again Shea Weber escaped a suspension after slamming Henrik Zetteberg’s head into the glass.
Only in the NHL can a Head Coach get fined $20,000 for making comments about an official but a player gets $2,500 for ramming a players head into the glass.
T.J. Oshie helped the Blues go up 2-0 with one of the prettier setups you’ll see. Oshie skated through a Jason Demers check on the boards before sidestepping Patrick Marleau, dancing Joe Pavelski and feeding David Backes who on-timed the puck into the empty net.
This wasn’t a play Demers or Marleau should be proud of. I have no idea what Marleau specifically was trying to do. Hopefully for his sake Jeremy Roenick wasn’t watching.
I thought Oshie was a little silent up to this point but this is the advantage of having a player who can change a game with one play.
Maybe the biggest storyline was the injury to Jaroslav Halak. He left the game early in the second period after D-man Barret Jackman inadvertently ran into him. It looked like Halak would try to stay in the game before skating off the ice on his own power. Halak was sharp up to this point stopping all 12 of the shots he faced.
Most believed his head took the brunt of the collision but after the game Hitchcock called it a lower body injury.
On the replay you can see his body got twisted as a result of the contact. Peoria goaltender Jake Allen will head to San Jose with team.
Elliott was poised in relief making 17 saves. He was on top of his crease and demonstrated his usual calm rebound control.
Joe Thornton made several world class feeds in front only to be denied by Elliott who I expect to start Game three on Monday.
Barret Jackman played the way he has to play if he’s going to have an impact on the game. He was in the face of San Jose players from the opening face off and didn’t pass up an opportunity to get an extra jab to the ribs or the arms of a San Jose player. I didn’t think Jackman was very good in Game 1 but may have been at his best on Saturday.
The Blues as a team delivered the passionate style of hockey that makes them go. Outside of the first period their overall game was crisp and much cleaner than the series opener. They don’t take extra penalties and they’ll need this trend to continue.
Carlo Colaiacovo and Alex Pietrangelo combined for nine shots on goal. Pietrangelo was way more involved than he was on Thursday and may have been the Blues best D-man.
I want to give B.J. Crombeen a shout out as well. He gave Hitchcock exactly what he needed. Crombeen understands his role much better than given credit for and demonstrated it on Saturday. He’s gritty-smart and sometimes those are the best players to have in a lineup. Crombeen, Nichol. D’Agostini played a hard game.
Moving Jamie Langenbrunner up in the lineup rounded out a solid third line for the Blues. These guys played responsible and gave the Blues the energy they needed. Again Sobotka played one of his better games in several weeks.
Backes once again was dominant defensively. His ability to use his reach and lift sticks limited San Jose a number of times inside the Blues end. Backes is a major reason why we've yet to see Marleau appear in the series.
The Blues hadn’t won a playoff game since 2004 and this is the first playoff win since Dave Checketts and John Davidson came on board in 2006. Checketts attended the series opener but did not take the stage for the pre-game pep rally.
This is obviously the first playoff win for GM Doug Armstrong since taking over the team last season.
This was the first playoff win for 16 players on the Blues roster.
Blues Director of Player Development Tim Taylor witnessed his first game in St. Louis since the pre-season. Peoria GM Kevin McDonald was also in the building.
More to come,
The Latest Truth
Post about tonight's Blues-Kings game with your fellow TrueHockey.com fans. Read more
Blues Look to Rebound in LA
Post about this afternoon's Blues-Sharks game with your fellow TrueHockey.com fans. Read more
Post about tonight's Blues-Avs game with your fellow TrueHockey.com fans. Read more
Post about tonight's Wild/Blues game with your fellow TrueHockey.com fans. Read more
Much like the preview leading up to the NHL regular season, TrueHockey.com will examine how each division is shaping up a fourth of the way through the season.
Up next is the NHL's Metropolitan Division Read more