April 27, 2015

Another “one and done” for the Blues. Knocked out in six games by Minnesota

Minnesota Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk keeps an eye on a flying puck in the first period against the St. Louis Blues of Game Five of the Stanley Cup Western Conference Quarterfinals at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis on April 24, 2015. Minnesota won the game 4-1.   Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI

Minnesota Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk was on top of his game in the final two wins of the series. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI

Zach Parise scored twice and Devan Dubnyk made 30 saves to help the Minnesota Wild defeat the St. Louis Blues 4-1 in Game 6 to clinch the Western Conference First Round series at Xcel Energy Center on Sunday.

The Central Division-champion Blues have now been eliminated in the first round of the playoffs in three straight seasons.

Down 2-0 in the second, Blues coach Ken Hitchcock pulled Jake Allen in favor of Brian Elliott.  T.J. Oshie cut the deficit to 2-1 heading into the third.  Parise’s second of the game came 1:01 into the third to put the game out of reach. Nino Niederreiter added an empty-netter.

The Blues offense tanked after busting through for six goals against Dubnyk in game four.  The Blues scored just twice on 68 shots over the final two games.

“It sucks,” said captain David Backes.  “There’s no other summary for it.  Rather than go up a notch, we’re on a heels too much.”

The disappointments for the Blues offensively were:

Paul Stastny, 1 goal, 1 point, -3
T.J. Oshie, 1 goal, 1 assist, -3
Jori Lehtera, 0 goals, 2 assists, -2

Despite leading the Blues in scoring with six goals and one assist, Vladimir Tarasenko was also a -4.  Patrik Berglund and David Backes were the only top forwards on the top that were positive on the +/- side.

Hitch rips apart top line as Blues go down 2-1 to Wild in the series

Vladimir Tarasenko, who scored a hat trick in game two, was shutout in game three (photo/NHL.com/Blues)

Vladimir Tarasenko, who scored a hat trick in game two, was shutout in game three (photo/NHL.com/Blues)

It was repeat of game one.  The St. Louis Blues top line was ineffective for the second game in this playoff series with Minnesota and it proved costly as the Wild won on their home ice 3-0, to take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven.

The line of Alex Steen (two assists), Vladimir Tarasenko (three goals) and Jori Lehtera (one assist), which led the Blues in Saturday’s win, did not register a shot on goal through the first two periods.  In an attempt to spark the team, Blues coach Ken Hitchcock broke the group up.

It didn’t matter.

“They skated a lot and wanted to assert their game and we let them by sitting on our heels and playing passive,” Blues captain David Backes said. “We let them come at us, come at us, come at us and the Granlund line scored two goals for them. They’re dynamite on the rush, they’ve shown that all series and they made us pay tonight.”

Zach Parise, Jason Pominville and Mikael Granlund combined for six points and Devan Dubnyk made 17 saves in the win.

Game 4 is Wednesday night from St. Paul with an 8:30 p.m. start.

Tarasenko shows up and scores a hat trick as the Blues even up their series with the Wild

St. Louis Blues Vladimir Tarasenko of Russia sneaks past Minnesota Wild Mikko Kolvu of Finland in the first period of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup playoffs at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis on April 16, 2015. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI

St. Louis Blues Vladimir Tarasenko and Mikko Kolvu of Minnesota Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI

The Blues leading scorer Vladimir Tarasenko, who did not register a shot on goal in the series opener, scored three times including an empty-netter to give the Blues a 4-1 win and tie up their Stanley Cup Playoff Series at a game apiece with the Minnesota Wild.

Tarasenko scored the Blues first two goals in the first period.  He gave the Blues a 1-0 lead on a tip-in off a shot from Kevin Shattenkirk.  His second came on a power play goal late in the first with an assist again from Shattenkirk.  The defenseman now has four assists in the first two games.

After a scoreless second period, Minnesota scored a goal early in the third, and after holding off a fierce charge by the Wild, Patrik Berglund scored with just under two minutes to go in the game to ice the victory.  Tarasenko added the fourth goal moments later.

Game three of the series will be in St. Paul on Monday night at 7 p.m. CT.

Blues find some offense, but it comes too late as the Minnesota Wild grab game one in opening playoff series

Minnesota Wild Jason Zucker wraps around the goal putting the puck in against the St. Louis Blues during the first period of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup playoffs at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis on April 16, 2015. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI

Minnesota Wild Jason Zucker wraps around the goal putting the puck in against the St. Louis Blues during the first period of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup playoffs at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis on April 16, 2015. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI

The St. Louis Blues needed over two periods to begin to figure out how to generate some offense against a very stingy Minnesota Wild defense, but it wasn’t enough as the Blues lost 4-2 in Thursday night’s series opener at Scottrade Center.  The Blues got goals from Jaden Schwartz and Alex Steen in the third.

The Blues were held to just 11 shots through the first two periods, including only four in the second, which included a power play opportunity.  Minnesota did a good job of collapsing all five skates in between the circles taking away shooting lanes.  The Blues also lost many battles along the boards for pucks in the corner and down deep.

Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk made 19 saves in his Stanley Cup Playoff debut, and Minnesota got goals from Jason Zucker, Matt Dumba, Mikael Granlund and Jason Pominville. Zucker scored on a wrap around after Blues goalie Jake Allen made the initial save, to put Minnesota up 1-0 early in the first.  Dumba added a power play goal from the point to put the Wild up by two.

St. Louis Blues Vladimir Tarasenko of Russia sneaks past Minnesota Wild Mikko Kolvu of Finland in the first period of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup playoffs at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis on April 16, 2015. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI

St. Louis Blues Vladimir Tarasenko of Russia sneaks past Minnesota Wild Mikko Kolvu of Finland in the first period of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup playoffs at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis on April 16, 2015. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI

Just over seven minutes into the third, the Blues started traffic in front of Dubnyk, as Kevin Shattenkirk’s low hard shot was deflected by Schwartz cutting the lead to 2-1.  The Blues registered ten shots on goal in the third, but were down 3-1, when the Wild scored an empty-netter.

Off the ensuing face-off, David Backes was sent off for a penalty and with 58 seconds to play, Alex Steen scored a shorthanded goal to make it 3-2, but Minnesota added a second empty-netter with just over 20 seconds to play to ice the game.

“Killer instinct comes in a number of fashions. One of the fashions is you really have to simplify your game in the playoffs,” said Blues coach Ken Hitchcock. “I thought when we didn’t get the shots through at the start, we started to play a very complicated game that made us at times look slow. We were in to make the next play instead of play it off the goalie.”

Allen got the start over Brian Elliott and made 27 saves.  Hitchcock said Allen will start game two on Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m.

Blues beat Wild on final game of the regular season and will get set to host Minnesota in first round playoff series

St. Louis Blues Vladimir Tarasenko of Russia skates down the ice against the Minnesota Wild in the first period at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis on April 11, 2015. Takasenko returns to the lineup after missing five games with a lower body injury.    Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI

St. Louis Blues Vladimir Tarasenko of Russia skates down the ice against the Minnesota Wild in the first period at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis on April 11, 2015. Takasenko returns to the lineup after missing five games with a lower body injury. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI

The St. Louis Blues, winners of the Central Division and second place overall in the Western Conference, will host the Minnesota Wild in their first round Stanley Cup Playoff series.  The Blues topped the Wild 4-2 on Saturday afternoon and will next play game one on Thursday at 8:30 CT.

Rest of the series schedule:

GAME 2: SAT APR 18, 2:00 PM CT
GAME 3: AT MIN MON APR 20, 7:00 PM CT
GAME 4: AT MIN WED APR 22, 8:30 PM CT
GAME 5: AT STL FRI APR 24, TBD
GAME 6: AT MIN SUN APR 26, TBD
GAME 7: AT STL WED APR 29, TBD

The Blues won five of their final six games this season to clinch the Central Division.  Last year, they dropped their final six games and fell to second place in the division where they were bumped out in the first round by Chicago in six games.  This year the Blues face the resurgent Wild, who will ride the back of their goalie Devan Dubnyk.

The Wild are the hottest team in the league since Jan. 15th with 59 points.  Minnesota was eight points out of a playoff spot when they acquired Dubnyk in a trade with Arizona.  The team went 28-9-3 and made the playoffs by five points.  Dubynk in that time, went 27-9-2 and has been the work horse with a 1.78 GAA.

After the Blues were eliminated by Chicago, the Wild were knocked out in the second round last year by the Blackhawks.  This is Minnesota’s fourth straight year in the postseason.

Blues coach Ken Hitchcock has a decision to make at the goalie position.  Brian Elliott played strong all year, but Jake Allen was hot down the stretch.  Last year, the Blues thought they had their answer with Ryan Miller.  Before that Jaroslav Halak and Elliott.

Elliott has 14 games of playoff experience with the Blues, compared to one by Allen,  but he has been beaten by the Kings and goalie Jonathan Quick in 2012 and 2013.

A big boost for the Blues offensively is the return of Vladimir Tarasenko.  He scored in his return to the lineup on Saturday and is the Blues leader in goal scorer, points and +/-.