This Dallas vs. St. Louis second-round NHL playoff series is a mind-bending experience. Check that … this entire Stanley Cup tournament is a big, busted bracket of insanity.
The Blues take us up… then down.
They’re gonna win the Cup! … then, Same Old Blues.
Calm, rational opinions … then childish, hot-headed overreactions.
Love … hate … joy … anger …
The emotional extremes.
And it is so much fun.
This is the point of being a sports fan. Going along for the ride, holding onto the team you love, even if you’ve been let down so many times before … your heart flipping in every direction… the exhilaration, the adrenaline, the rush — then the slowing down, the decompression, the calmness …. the reflection … maybe even some sleep. But not too much shuteye.
Crank it up again!
Here are my recently recovered thoughts, on the Blues-Stars Game 4 in Dallas, pulled from the rubble of my cranium … and yeah, I need to raise a little hell before redirecting my conscious being to Game 5 on Friday night at Enterprise Center …
1. Spare me the narrative about the Blues melting down, the Blues foaming at the mouth, the Blues slashing and thrashing, the Blues speaking in tongues, the Blues blowing a gasket … the Blues frying their internal circuit breaker … the Blues falling apart and losing composure … and how this is proof that the Stars now control the Blues’ minds — and therefore the series.
2. Good grief. Gawd help me. The story and the spin from Game 4 wasn’t about the Blues going rabid and chewing on their own faces out of rage — all because they were losing a game. This wasn’t about David Perron slashing Stars goalie Ben Bishop, who reacted as if he was starring in a one-man play, “The Assassination of Lee Harvey Oswald.” This wasn’t about Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington snapping and slapping at Dallas captain and instigator Jamie Benn, or Binnington flicking a stick at Bishop as the teams left the ice for the second intermission.
3. If y’all want to take Game 4 and use it to produce your own reality TV show and feed the public hot piles of bitter, overripe, over-the-top fake drama … well, gee that’s really awesome. But you’re not being forthcoming about why the Blues are now in a 2-2 deadlocked series instead of being up 3-1 with three games to go.
4. This is what Game 4 was all about: The Blues were bizarrely uninspired and in no mood to match the Stars’ energy and intensity and GOT THEIR ASSES KICKED through the first two periods. OK? That’s the game. That’s the story. That’s the only thing that counted. The Stars built a 4-1 lead over the first 40 minutes on a stack of Jay Bouwmeester turnovers, a pile of Ryan O’Reilly’s lost faceoffs, the stationary and dormant bodies from the Blues’ top two lines.
5. Through the first two periods, at 5-on-5 play, the Stars had 64.7 percent of the shots, 62.5 percent of the scoring chances, and 78.6 percent of the high-danger shots. In other words: domination. The Blues were physically weak and lacked the spirit to compete when the Stars came out swarming. The Blues had no response while the game still mattered. The other stuff — the world-wide-wrestling stagecraft and nonsense — mean absolutely nothing. It occured after the Stars had put the Blues in a laundry hamper and shoved them all the way to Arlington. The slashes and fits of silliness made for a tidy oversimplification of what happened … even though it had nothing to do with what happened in terms of determining the outcome. But I would have prefered to see the Blues put their raw emotions and hostile intentions into, well, you know … COMPETING.
6. Losing the game? Understandable. Dallas was at home. And with a loss, Dallas would have faced elimination and a harrowing set of circumstances. I can see why Dallas would be more ravenous in pursuit of victory. But I don’t understand how the Blues — knowing that the Stars would bring a frenzy and a fury to the ice — simply failed to go to the post … declined to show up.
7. The Blues’ top two lines were owned by Dallas over the first two periods. During the game, Blues radio voice Chris Kerber, forever honest with his assessments — referred to the Blues’ No. 1 line of Jaden Schwartz, Ryan O’Reilly and Vladimir Tarasenko as “nonexistent.” And the No. 2 line of Perron, Oskar Sundqvist, and Brayden Schenn wasn’t exactly a high-energy, high-visibility presence.
8. Stars coach Jim Montgomery displayed a touch for astute timing by mixing his top two lines for Game 4. And the reordering of those lines made a tremendous difference, giving the Stars a freshness and some extra zip to go with the obvious feeling of urgency to level the series at 2-2 — instead of losing at home and having the Blues carry a 3-1 series lead back to The Lou.
9. The remodeled top Dallas line of Jason Dickinson, Tyler Seguin and Mats Zuccarello had a 60 Corsi rating, 78 percent share of scoring chances, and 100 percent of the high-danger chances during the 5-on-5 competition. They three combined for a goal and four assists and a plus 3 rating. Seguin won 13 of 19 faceoffs, or 68 percent. (Related note: the Blues’ Ryan O’Reilly won only 9 of 26 draws, or just under 35 percent.) And the second Dallas line of Jamie Benn, Roope Hintz and Alexander Radulov produced four points and a plus 3 rating.
10. The Stars’ top two lines wanted to get after it; The Blues’ top two lines wanted to get home. “I just thought we skated and competed a lot better,” Montgomery said after Game 4. “I think that was first and foremost. I think we put them on their heels because of it.”
11. According to Natural Stat Trick, Dallas had 13 high-danger scoring chances at 5-on-5. The Blues had a mere four. That’s all you needed to know about the teams’ battle for prime territory. “I thought we came out with a purpose in the first period and the second,” Dickinson said after Game 4. “We wanted to go out there and dictate the play and try and take control.”
If the Stars made it look easy — it’s because the Blues made it too easy.
12. Come Friday night, it will be time for the Blues to generate a response … a response that’s a helluva lot more animated than their yawn in Game 4.
In the Stanley Cup playoffs, teams can reinvent themselves from one game to the next. That’s one of the great characteristics of this tournament. Fall down, embarrass yourselves, regroup, recalibrate, and enter the rink for the next game like an army of conquering invaders.
After getting outmuscled in their Game 3 defeat, the Stars reinvented themselves and won Wednesday night. Now it’s the Blues’ turn to do the same after breaking down in a humiliating Game 4 loss in Dallas.
Thanks for reading …