The Blues pushed their 2019 elimination game record to 3-0 with a 2-1 victory over the Dallas Stars Tuesday night, propelling them into the Western Conference Finals against the San Jose Sharks.
Much like their series clinching win against the Jets, the Blues dominated most of the play Tuesday night. Unlike the Jets game, the Blues never could take control of the scoreboard, needing double overtime to finally put a second puck past St. Louis’ own, Ben “Mr. Game 7 II” or “Mr. Game 7 Jr.” Bishop. More on Bishop later.
The Blues started the game strong, taking the lead with 6:30 left in the 1st period. Vince Dunn lets what appears to be a harmless shot go from the left point. His released is a bit disguised by the legs of the on-rushing Mats Zuccarello. Bishop’s view is then obstructed as Pat Maroon cuts across Bishop’s sightline as the shot is approaching the net. The combination causes Bishop to miss the shot.
I think everyone in the building though Maroon deflected the shot but it appears he did not. What many may not realize is that a play like Maroon’s is actually much tougher on the goalie than a forward being camped out right in front of you. The movement impacts your sightline and reactions more than a forward parked directly in front of you. If you don’t believe, St. Louisan and former NHL goalie Mike McKenna said as much on twitter a couple of weeks ago.
The Stars would get the goal back a little over two minutes later on a bizarre play. Alex Pietrangelo loses possession of the puck, failing to get a zone clear and things devolve from there culminating in one of the weirdest goals you are likely to see in a Game 7. The goal sequence starts with Tyler Seguin hooking the stick of Jordan Binnington out of Binnington’s hands. As David Perron gets the puck, he tries to rim the puck behind the Blues net. Inexplicably, referee Marc Joannette has decided to move behind the net on the play rather than drifting to the side wall, putting him directly in Perron’s way. Joannette tries to dance around the puck but lifts the wrong leg and his skate sends the puck off the side of the net and out front to Zuccarello while Binnington is caught moving and looking the wrong way and has to try to react back the other way. Meanwhile, Joel Edmundson steps on BInnington’s stick and trips.
I was mildly surprised the Blues didn’t challenge for goalie interference based on Seguin’s contact with Binnington though the easily could have deemed Binnington reset and not consider the loss of his stick worthy of overturning it before you even consider whether or not he was pushed or guided into Binnington.
The more important aspect was how the Blues responded. After being outshot 13-10 in the 1st period, the Blues would outshoot the Stars 31-4 over the next two periods. The only reason the game stayed even was because of the brilliant play of Bishop and a key save by Jay Bouwmeester with about a minute left in the game. Watch Bouwmeester get a stick on the Roope Hintz wrap around attempt.
Dallas seemed to finally get their legs going in overtime, matching the Blues intensity and almost matching their shots (11-10 Blues) but the killer B’s (Bishop and Binnington) would slam the door and set up the dramatic stage for double overtime.
St. Louisan Pat Maroon would send the locals into a happy frenzy less than six minutes into the 2nd overtime, scoring the series winning goal in front of his family, friends and neighbors. Take a look at the series winner from two different angles.
It’s a set play on which Maroon runs slight interference but without setting a pick. Usually Robert Thomas wouldn’t have this much room but he takes advantage and rings his shot off the post (one I thought was going in at first to be honest) and Maroon cleans up the garbage.
I know it has been a trying year for Maroon at times but what a reward that must have been. His interviews as well as the interaction with his son, family and some of the players’ wives were special to see after the game. Blues fans were really given quite a treat as to how all of the circumstances unfolded. I won’t rehash them but if you are a Blues fan and haven’t seen them do yourself a favor and check out some of the Blues twitter posts after the game.
One of the best post celebration sequences I saw was Sammy Blais falling off the bench.
Blues fans also should be thankful Jamie Benn’s hands turned to stone. Benn had two glorious chances and missed the net completely on one and shot the puck back into Binnington rather than into the empty net on the other.
As for Bishop, he did everything he could. He now is 2-1 in Game 7s with an absurd 98.1% save percentage in Game 7s and a 96.3% save percentage in elimination games.
Robert Thomas was the best non-goalie on the ice and really seems to be finding another gear. Thomas had two assists in almost 23 minutes of ice time. Brayden Schenn may have been the 2nd best and easily could have had a hat trick without some great saves by Bishop. Schenn had 8 shots and won 53% of his faceoffs, winning multiple in a row in the defensive zone at one point after various icings.
Sammy Blais had 8 hits and one shot in under 18 minutes of ice time. What is striking in the box score is that the Blues held Benn, Tyler Seguin and Alexander Radulov to a combined 6 shots in over 4 periods of hockey while Benn had three giveaways.
Today we learned that Roope Hintz suffered a broken foot just like Ehlers did in the first round.
I’ll be back tomorrow with a series preview against the Sharks.
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.