Really, it wasn’t all bad. I’m not the kind of bloke who searches for token prizes amid the clutter of a lost game and a missed opportunity. But Game 1 had some positive for the Blues, even if no one wants to read about it or listen to it following Nashville’s 4-3 victory at Scottrade Center.
— After being down on the scoreboard (3-1) and down in the mouth after a bizarrely detached second-period performance, the the Blues scored two third-period goals on Pekka Rinne — the hottest goaltender in the universe — to draw even at 3-3. In only 49 minutes and 22 seconds of playoff hockey, the Blues managed to get a puck past Rinne as many times (3) as the Chicago Blackhawks did in facing Rinne in four games and 256:44 during the first round.
— The Blues were superior to Nashville at even strength. Of the Predators’ 32 shots on goal, 13 came on the power play. At even strength the Blues had a 28-18 advantage on shots on goal. If you go with the Corsi numbers — which included shots that were blocked, and shots that missed the net — the Blues dominated even-strength possession with 56 shots to 31.
— Here’s how the Corsi possession ratings sussed out based on the situation:
All situations: STL 56.4 percent, NSH 43.6 percent
5-on-5; STL 64.4%, NSH 35.6%
All even-strength situations: STL 63.7%, NSH 36.3%
5-on-5 “close” situations: STL 62.2%, NSH 37.8%
Power Play: STL 22.2 percent, NSH 78.9%
— In the four-game sweep of Chicago, Rinne had a preposterous .991 save percentage during 5-on-5 situations. In Game 1 Wednesday, Rinne allowed three goals on 28 shots during 5-on-5 play, a save percentage of .892. Along the same lines, and again we’re talking about 5-on-5 play … against Chicago Mr. Rinne faced 15 high-danger shots and gave up only one goal. In Game 1, the Blues scored twice on their four high-danger shots against Rinne.
— The Blues had some exceptional performances at even-strength, most notably defensemen Colton Parayko (81% Corsi) and Joel Edmundson (77.5% Corsi). Even the worst even-ice Corsi ratings were respectable; defensemen Alex Pietrangelo and partner Jay Bouwmeester were just under 50 percent, and much of that came against Nashville’s top line of Filip Forsberg, Ryan Johansen and Viktor Arvidsson. The Blues’ line that struggled the most Patrik Bertglund, Alex Steen and David Perron. They were frequently matched against the Preds’ top line … but even then that Blues line was right around 50 percent Corsi at even strength.
On the other side of the ledger …
— The Blues lost 62 percent of their faceoffs. Mike Fisher (80%), Vernon Fiddler (70%) and Ryan Johansen (57%) gobbled up faceoffs all night. Paul Stastny, the Blues’ best faceoff man, won only 8 of 19 overall, and lost seven of 10 to Johansen, Fisher and Fiddler.
–– Foolish Blues’ penalties set up two power play goals for Nashville. And really, those power plays were the difference because the Blues actually outscored the Predators 3-2 at even strength. Faceoffs were a factor; the Blues lost all seven draws when playing short-handed … and the Blues lost both faceoffs during their lone and successful power play, early in the first period. Alex Steen was 0 for 4 on shorthanded faceoffs. Turrible.
— The Blues were vacant through too many stretches of the second period. Yeah, they were scrambling against a very effective Preds’ power play. But that doesn’t excuse the general lethargy during the middle 20 minutes. When Nashville winger Kevin Fiala was wheeled off the ice on the stretcher with a serious leg injury early in the second period, the Blues seemed more shaken and demoralized by it than Nashville. The Predators responded to the adversity of a fallen teammate by quickly scoring a goal (P.K. Subban) to take a 2-0 lead. The Blues were in a daze. Go figure. Then again, the Blues were at home … which explains a lot … they are 1-2 at home this postseason and 5-8 at Scottrade during the last two postseason.
— Nashville was more willing to pay a physical price. the Preds blocked 18 shots to the Blues’ 4. And the Preds outhit the Blues by a slight margin, 36-34.
— Blues goaltender Jake Allen gave up a softie on Fidler’s alert chip shot. Yeah, I know that Bouwmeester bungled a clearing attempt. But this shouldn’t have ended in a goal. Allen wasn’t decisive. And he whiffed on the attempted poke check. For whatever it’s worth … Allen had a .966 save percentage in the Blues’ first four postseason games; that save percentage is .899 in the last two. After allowing only five goals on 145 shots in the team’s first four playoff games, Allen has yielded seven on 69 shots in the last two games. Is this a cause for alarm? No. But let’s just say Allen is trending in the wrong direction.
Before Game 1, the Blues were 20-0 under coach Mike Yeo (including postseason) when scoring three-plus goals in a game.
That streak ended in the opening contest of this second-round series. And if the Blues’ rigid goal prevention begins to weaken, then this will be easy work for the Predators. The Blues got a lot of things right in Game 1, but a loss is a loss, and this one stung. Now the Blues are staring at a must-win Game 2.
By taking the first game as the road team, the Predators have a clear advantage going forward.
The edge doesn’t preclude the Blues from coming back.
According to the site WhoWins, road teams that snatch the first game of a best-of-seven quarterfinals NHL series have gone on to advance 58.7 percent of the time. But should the Preds capture Game 2, their probability of advancing to the next round would jump significantly. In NHL best-of-seven quarterfinals history, road teams that win the first two games have won the series 76 percent of the time.
Thanks for reading …