The Blues improved in Game 2 relative to Jammer’s keys to the series, delivering on all four keys and winning the game. They were able to score first, survive the 1st period, keep the game close, win the goaltending battle and were disciplined while keeping the special teams score even.
The Blues opened the scoring two and a half minutes into the game. While Jaden Schwartz would get the goal, the key to the goal was the puck hunting back checking that occurred in the Blues own end and the strong transition on the attack the other way. Unfortunately, the goal clips I saw didn’t show this aspect of the play and I don’t have full video access yet so you’ll be left seeing the good play by Schwartz, moving the puck to his stick with his feet and placing a strong shot by Martin Jones.
Vince Dunn would extend the lead to 2 just a little over four minutes into the 2nd period. While Jones is able to pick up the shot release somewhat, he appears to then lose the puck as it gets to the net, thanks to the brilliant net front presence of Sammy Blais. Jones doesn’t get enough lateral movement on the shot and is caught reaching for the puck as it passes through traffic, a recipe for failure.
Unfortunately for Blues fans, the happiness would be short lived as the Sharks would score a short-handed goal 39 seconds later. Alex Pietrangelo makes this weak play on the offensive blue line, giving Logan Couture a breakaway.
The situation is compounded by uncharacteristically poor goaltending by Jordan Binnington. With Pietrangelo backchecking hard, Couture doesn’t have an option on his forehand as Pietrangelo has effectively taken it away. Binnington doesn’t read that and overplays to Couture’s forehand and Couture banks it in off his leg. I’m surprised more haven’t commented on this but I was surprised Binington didn’t play the backhand a lot stronger.
Things got progressively worse when the Blues failed to get the puck deep from the Sharks blue line about two minutes later. Pietrangelo assumes the puck is going deep and is trying to fly into the zone when the turnover occurs and he can’t recover fast enough, getting beat back by Couture. Couture scores on a decent shot from the left circle, but again, this is a shot Binnington has routinely been saving.
At this point, yours truly was very concerned given the momentum changing events and the somewhat ordinary goaltending I was seeing. Part of this was also due to the ghosts of teams past.
About 10 minutes later, the Blues would again prove to me that this team isn’t like those of prior years, rallying and scoring an improbable goal from Robert Bortuzzo. What a read by Bortuzzo and a pass from Joel Edmundson, culminated in an even better backhand from Bortuzzo.
The Blues would play a strong third period, highlighted by another backhand goal, this time off the stick of Oskar Sundqvist. Full credit to Alexander Steen for a great pass to Sunny.
Binnington held the Sharks scoreless in the third, making a number of good saves, especially the save sequence on Timo Meier.
In looking at some game notes, Jones had a 84% save percentage to Binnington’s 92.3%. Kevin Labanc and Joe Thornton were a combined -5 with only 4 shots. Evander Kane only had one shot in almost 19 minutes of ice time.
Sammy Blais had six hits, the screen and one block in a little over 10 minutes. Robert Thomas and Pat Maroon had an off nice, combining for only 21:25 in ice time and 1 shot on goal.
The Sharks top 4 defensemen ate almost 96 of 117 minutes of ice time (4F/1D power play reduces it from 120). Will logging all of these minutes take a toll as the series goes on?
The Blues lineup is not expected to change but the Sharks likely are making a few game time adjustments by the sounds of it.
In four of the five Blues/Sharks series, the series have been split 1-1 after two games. The team that won Game 3 won all four of those series. In those four series, the team that lost Game 1 and won Game 2 won three of the four series.
NHL Champions for Charity Playoff Edition
In what I hope becomes a Hockeybuzz tradition, Hockeybuzz Sharks blogger Steve Palumbo
and I placed a wager on the series. If the Blues win, Steve has agreed to make a donation to the Gateway Area Multiple Sclerosis Society
(@mssociety on twitter) whose mission is help each person affected by MS in St. Louis address the challenges of living with MS. They help by raising funds for cutting-edge research, driving change through advocacy, facilitating professional education and providing programs and services that empower people with MS and their families to move their lives forward. If the Sharks win, I will donate to the Hydrocephalus Association
(@HydroAssoc on twitter) whose mission is to connect individuals to larger communities that can provide support and understanding, to educate national and state policymakers, the medical community, and the general population, and to advance treatment and eventually find a cure for Hydrocephalus.
I hope that our wagers will inspire players and fans to pledge donations for each win their team makes in the NHL playoffs.
NHL Champions for Charity Regular Season
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.