The Blues pushed their road playoff record to 5-1 and forced a game seven Tuesday night in St. Louis with a 4-1 victory over the Dallas Stars.
The Blues jumped out to an early lead as Alex Pietrangelo would score on from the point as Ben Bishop was leaning the wrong way around the screen, giving the Blues the lead just over a minute into the game.
What is missed in all of the highlight clips is Oskar Sundqvist’s back-check which was crucial to the goal. Sundqvist hunts the puck down in the neutral zone, gaining possession with a stick-lift, back-check. This takeaway creates the possession that eventually leads to Pietrangelo’s goal. You won’t see it on the score sheet but he played an integral part in creating the goal.
Dallas would tie the score a little over 10 minutes later on a power play goal from Tyler Seguin. Ryan O’Reilly can’t reach far enough to break up the pass to Seguin who one-times a shot just through Jordan Binnington’s five-hole. While not a soft goal, Binnington more often than not has stopped shots of this caliber this season.
The Blues played a very strong 1st period, outshooting the Stars 10-7 and controlling the majority of the play. The Stars would push back in the second period, controlling a lot of the play but and outshooting the Blues 9-4 but the Blues would be the only team to score, taking the lead with under five minutes left on a goal from David Perron.
Carl Gunnarsson made a long pass for a dump-in deflection by Ivan Barbashev. Esa Lindell tried to catch the deflected puck but it was too hot to handle. Sundqvist picked up the loose puck and made a brilliant pass to Perron for the re-direct into the net.
The score would stay 2-1 until a little over a third of the way into the 3rd period. Colton Parayko blasted a howitzer of a shot from the right point, catching Ben Bishop in the left clavicle.
Bishop goes down as the rebound is corralled by Alexander Steen. Steen fires the puck toward the net where Jaden Schwartz deflects it into the open net.
Many of the Stars fans were in an uproar on twitter, saying that play should have been stopped. Unfortunately for them, the rules don’t allow for a stoppage in play in this situation.
Under Rule 8.1 – “When a player is injured so that he cannot continue play or go to his bench, the play shall not be stopped until the injured player’s team has secured control of the puck. If the player’s team is in control of the puck at the time of injury, play shall be stopped immediately unless his team is in a scoring position.
In the case where it is obvious that a player has sustained a serious injury, the Referee and/or Linesman may stop the play immediately.”
Again, play can only be stopped when it is believed that a serious injury has occurred. In looking at this play I think one should consider the following:
1) Bishop was not hit in the neck nor the head. He was hit in his padding on his clavicle. If you look closely, you can even see the left shoulder of his sweater move up as the shot hits him.
2) The historical standard for serious injury suggests most broken bones don’t count – See Ehlers broken foot, see various players broken legs, etc. If you look at the history, these plays are stopped due to a normal whistle, a whistle after the puck has cleared the defensive zone or their team has touched the puck or the player somehow gets off the ice. Pucks to the face or head seem to get a quicker whistle but everywhere else does not.
3) Bishop didn’t sustain a serious injury as he continued in the game and is expected to play in Game 7.
4) As a goalie, I know that a shot like that is going to hurt but it isn’t going to put you in a serious injury/immediate distress situation. A bruise perhaps or a bruised bone perhaps. Could it possible break a bone? Perhaps but unlikely and even then I don’t believe that would qualify as a serious injury under the current standard. Presumably, the referees have similar knowledge on these matters.
5) You can see the goal line referee skating toward Bishop to check on him. Schwartz scores before he can even get to Bishop to fully assess him.
6) It only took between 3 or 4 seconds for the referees to stop play (due to the goal of course). Compare that to Joe Pavelski’s more serious and more obvious head injury where it took them 5-7 seconds to stop play.
7) As a Stars fan, this situation stinks whether it falls into the rules or not as it’s natural to feel cheated by the play.
Officiating Supervisor Kay Whitmore stated “the scoring chance is imminent…..It wasn’t a long duration of time. The rule is pretty clear in that situation – they’re not going to kill [the play]…..in the situation, they [the referees] didn’t deem it serious enough to kill it immediately…..It’s pretty clear on how that rule works.”
Some will point to Kerry Fraser’s comments after the game but Fraser’s comments don’t mirror the rules, nor how the game is being officiated in these situations. Kerry is confusing what he wants to see happen with the actual rules. Look at Rule 9.6 which specifically states that a referee is not allowed to blow the play dead when a goalie loses his mask if there is an "impending scoring opportunity". I would argue that it is much more dangerous to face a shot without a mask than laying on the ice.
I agree with Fraser in that I don’t like the position that Bishop is in while play is continuing but the rules don’t care or consider this. I also would rather the NHL error on the side of caution with consequences to the injured goalie's team rather than risk of consequences to the injured player. More on that in my proposal below.
Sammy Blais would cap the scoring less than a minute later with a blast of a shot while on a breakaway, sending Bishop back for x-rays and treatment, something that was an easy call in a now 4-1 game as it’s much better to start getting it treated to make him more effective in Game 7 than to have him keep playing and hope for a 3 goal rally.
The Blues won the shot battle but more importantly, Bishop’s save percentage fell back down, settling to a series low of 80%. The Stars won the special teams battle but the save percentage difference was too much. Note that the save percentage isn’t really on Bishop as there was little he could do about the 2nd and 3rd goals and the 4th goal was a very good shot.
More concerning for Stars fans might be the 22 giveaways the Stars had and that Roope Hintz, who only played 12:58, was seen in a walking boot, the result of a shot block.
In looking at the box score, I didn’t love seeing that O’Reilly still played over 20 minutes though I did like that no other Blues forward hit 18 minutes.
Goalie injury rules
For years, I have had issues with the rules surrounding goalie injuries. As an example, Mike Liut was once scored on while knocked out on the ice. I’d like to see the NHL adopt a rule that protects the goalies while recognizing the advantage the attacking team might have lost and really neutralizes any reward for embellishment. As a result, here would be the premise of my thoughts:
1) The rule would stay the same in regards to if the injured goalie’s team has possession after the injury.
2) The rule would be amended, only for goalies, in regards to if the other team has possession:
a. If the other team has possession on their defensive half of the ice, the play is blown dead and the resulting face-off would be in the injured goalie’s defensive zone.
b. If the other team has possession in the injured goalie’s defensive half of the ice, play is blown dead and one of the following is applied:
i. The continuous goal rule is applied (see the Predators game from early April)
ii. The injured goalie’s team declares the injured goalie ineligible for the rest of the game and receives a minor penalty for delay of game.
iii. The injured goalie’s team elects to keep the injured goalie in the game and receives a double minor penalty for delay of game (goes in hand with potentially turning embellishment into a double minor too).
I know this is complicated and far fetched but I'd like the NHL to approach the situation using this kind of thought process in order to create a framework for a better solution.
Game Seven and elimination game notes
Bishop has only appeared in two Game 7s, pitching shutouts with Tampa Bay over Detroit and the New York Rangers, stopping all 53 shots he has faced. Bishop has a 96.3% save percentage in NHL elimination games. Given this and the third period of Game 6, I think it is very important that the Blues get a goal by Bishop fairly early.
The Stars are 0-1 in road Game 7s and 2-3 in Game 7s overall. The Blues are 8-8 in Game 7s and 4-2 in home Game 7s. The Blues have won their last two Game 7s while the Stars have lost their last two. The Blues beat Dallas in Game 7 in Dallas in 2016 and were 2-1 in Game 7s against the North Stars.
Will Blues fans get to hear Gloria again and keep Charles Glenn singing past Mother’s day?
It should be interesting to see what the lineups look like today? Is Blais still in? Will Hintz be able to play? Is there swelling in Bishop’s shoulder and will that impact his movement?
In an odd twist of fate, with a win, the Blues would go on to face one of their last two Conference Final opponents.
NHL Champions for Charity
Given that the Predators pulled out the division title, all be it not without some controversial officiating in the last couple of games, Best Buddies Tennessee https://www.bestbuddies.org/tennessee/
is the beneficiary. Best Buddies Tennessee is dedicated to establishing a volunteer movement that creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment, leadership development and inclusive living opportunities for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. As a side note, I recently got to experience a Best Buddies even in the St. Louis area that was led by the Eureka high school football team. It was a lot of fun and brought a lot of joy to those involved.
It’s a great day for hockey.