Bernie’s Blues Bytes: Raise A Glass to Pat Maroon’s Magic Moment, One Of the Best in Modern STL Sports History

Recently regenerated thoughts after another Go-Crazy-Folks night in the crusade for the Stanley Cup, a campaign that is chewing on your nerve endings bur does not include sleep…

1. Pat Maroon’s winning goal in the second overtime was the greatest St. Louis sports moment since David Freese hit his famous homer in 2011 World Series Game 6. And really, this will be savored as one of the great moments in STL sports history, at least over the last 10 years or so. (Someone else put together an all-time list; I’m fried and would forget too many.) But this was absolutely a Freese-frame moment for Maroon.

2. I’m not saying that Maroon’s moment of hockey heroism had the full magnitude of Freese’s wallop. While huge, the Maroon goal came in the second round of the playoffs. When Freese struck his mighty blow to win Game 6 the Cardinals were playing for a World Series title; they had already made it through the playoffs. But in terms of pure electricity, emotion, ecstasy, excitement and everything we love about sports, Maroon’s late-night goal — with his young son Anthony breaking down into tears of joy in the aftermath — was just as thrilling and magical and special. It was just as much of an instant classic as the Freese homer.

3. And of course, Maroon’s killer goal had an echo. Freese and Maroon? Two St. Louis guys who dreamed of playing for their hometown team. The Freese homer and Maroon score? Both came in extra time. Overtime. Extra innings. Both were walkoffs. Or skate-offs. And both daggers landed deep in the heart of Texas — specifically the Dallas-Ft. Worth area. The Texas Rangers (Freese.) The Dallas Stars (Maroon.)

4. Dallas goaltender Ben Bishop was a brave guardian of the gate in Game 7. Just phenomenal in stopping 52 of 54 Blues’ shots. But once again — at least outside of St. Louis — Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington delivered an overlooked but winning performance.

5. As for the volume of shots, Binnington wasn’t challenged as frequently as Bishop. But this part is being ignored: Binnington faced just as many high-danger scoring chances at even strength (nine) as Bishop. And both goaltenders stopped eight of those nine shots. The one goal against Binnington came after a deflection off a referee’s skate that redirected the puck in front of the net — where two Stars were waiting. Binnington had no chance.

6. As the series roared to its finish, Binnington had the task of prevailing in TWO must-win games. The Blues, down three games to two in this brawl, faced elimination in Game 6. But the sixth game  wasn’t an eliminator for Bishop and the Stars, who still had Game 7 insurance in hand.

7. And while dealing with potential elimination in Games 6 and 7, Binnington allowed one goal on 52 shots for a save percentage of .981 at even strength. (And that goal wasn’t his fault.) In the final two games of the series, Bishop stopped 63 of 69 even-strength shots for a save percentage of .913.

7a. In the final two games, Binnington had a remarkable .933 save percentage in high danger chances at even strength; in the same category Bishop came in at .727.

8. For the series, Binnington had the superior save percentage in 5-on-5 play (.946 to .923), at even strength (.931 to .928) and in high-danger save percentage at 5-on-5 and even strength.

9. Binnington made the save of the series in the second OT of Game 7, somehow extending across the goal mouth to deny Jamie Benn on a wraparound attempt. I would have bet $1,000 on Benn to score on that opportunity.

10.  Here’s Pat Maroon: “No one’s really going to talk about Binner’s save on Jamie Benn, but what a save that was and what a turning point that was. We found a way to capitalize.”

11. Game 7 was stunning for another reason: the Blues’ maniacal control of possession and shots for all but the second overtime. But even if we include the second OT, the Blues had a 64 percent share of the shots on goal and a 59 percent of the scoring chances at 5-on-5. The Blues directed 103 total shots at the Dallas goal; the total includes shots that were blocked or missed the net.

12. Robert Thomas … goodness. He had an assist on both STL goals in Game 7. His surge to the net — for a shot that struck the crossbar — set up Maroon’s rebound for the win. Over the seven-game series, among Blues who were lineup regulars, Thomas had the team’s best Corsi (possession) rating at 61.3 percent. And when Thomas was on the ice at 5-on-5, the Blues outscored the Stars 7-3. And he is only 19. Thomas was often sensational on that Blues-defining third line that included Maroon and Tyler Bozak.

13. Though they didn’t score in Game 7, the line of Jaden Schwartz, Brayden Schenn and Vladimir Tarasenko certainly did their part to wear the Stars down. In 19 minutes and 19 seconds of 5-on-5 play, that Blues’ line had a 73 percent Corsi rating, an 86 percent share of the scoring chances, and a 75 percent share of the high-danger chances.

14. The Blues outplayed Dallas at 5-on-5 over seven games, and that was a substantial factor in their triumph. The Blues outscored the Stars 15-9 during 5-on-5 action for the series and had a 54 percent share of shots on goal. In the final two games, the Blues outscored the Stars  by five goals (6-1) when cycling like mad men in 5-on-5 competition.

15. In a related development, the top Dallas line of Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and Alexander Radulov scored one 5-on-5 goal in seven games. The unit produced three power play goals but did little at even strength. When not skating on the power play Benn, Seguin and Radulov combined for a goal and six assists … now contrast that with the Stars’ six-game triumph over Nashville when Benn, Seguin and Radulov combined for six goals, 10 assists and 52 shots on goal at 5-on-5.

16. Kudos to St. Louis defensive pairing of Colton Parayko and Jay Bouwmeester for their work in suppressing the big line.

17. And high praise to defenseman Alex Pietrangelo for his outstanding overall play against Dallas. When Petro was on the ice at 5-on-5 in this series, the Blues outscored Dallas 9-4, controlled 59 percent of the shots on goal, and 59% of the scoring chances. And Pietrangelo had two goals and two assists against the Stars.

18. Back to Jaden Schwartz … he was fantastic in this series. Let’s start with his four goals and two assists. But in 5-on-5 action, the Blues outscored Dallas 7-2 with Schwartz on the ice and had a 59 percent share of the scoring chances. Schwartz had the second-best Corsi percentage (60.9) to Robert Thomas among Blues’ regulars.

19. Including the postseason the Blues are 38-13-5 since Jan. 3 … and they’ve gone 20-7-5 on the road.

20. Hail to The Chief.

21. That would be Craig Berube.

22. This is an order: Y’all get some rest before the next round begins.

–Bernie