Bernie: The Blues Are Rolling Down Thunder Road During The 2019 Postseason

I had a fever while watching Game 2. No, really … I did. I wasn’t running a high temperature before the Blues and Sharks got underway in San Jose on Monday night, but the hot-forehead sweat trickle began right around the time that the Blues yacked up a 2-0 lead by failing to take responsible care of the puck — or the lead.

This is why the Stanley Cup playoffs are the best. There’s nothing like it. These games can cause discomfort. Maybe even some pain. And of course, on the other side of this unmoored Tilt-a-Whirl are the indescribable rushes of exhilaration.

If you have a team involved, a loyal rooting interest that feels like family loyalty, just watching these intense, crazily swirling games — with the internal gravity drops that flip the stomach and sicken the spirit, followed by the releasing of party balloons inside your head — are exhausting.

And a helluva lot of fun.

The Blues gave me a fever on Monday night. A fever, created by overheated emotion, anxiety, dread, despair … and finally, liberation through survival and a 4-2 victory.

Thanks for the fever, Blues.

You too, Alex Pietrangelo.

The goofy thing is, I actually enjoy feeling so much pressure inside my head that I could have blown up my new TV, just by sitting too close to it.

Blue Notes:

1. The Blues are absolutely, positively, insanely, ridiculously and freakishly great on the road during this Stanley Cup tournament. After going all Chief Martin Brody on the Sharks last night, winning 4-2, the Blues are 6-2 in the role of postseason road hunters.

The only other team left in the postseason that comes close to rivaling the Blues road conquests are the Boston Bruins — with a 4-2 record as they head into Carolina for Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals.

2. At 5-on-5, the Blues have outscored the home teams (Winnipeg, Dallas, San Jose) by a stunning margin of 23 to 13. The Bruins, an excellent team, have outscored the home teams 11-8 when playing five vs. five.

3. Not only are the Blues 6-2 on the road, but they’ve outscored home teams 13-3 in the third period. And in the six STL wins, the third-period scoring margin is 11-2 Blues. Seriously … this abnormal. This is rare, rare stuff. But it’s no fluke. In Game 2, the Blues dominated San Jose in the third period at 5-on-5 on a number of fronts including goals (1-0), shots (5 to 1), scoring chances (5-3), and high-danger chances (4-1.)

4. When competing at 5-on-5 on the road this postseason, the Blues have a 51 percent Corsi possession rating, have a 57.1 share of the high-danger goals scored, and have scored 63.8 percent of the goals overall.

5. The Blues outscored San Jose 4-1 at 5-on-5 in Game 2 … and outscored the Sharks 7-5 at five-on-five in the first two games.

6. Jordan Binnington now has a .931 save percentage and 1.95 goals-against average in even-strength situations on the road this postseason. The only goaltender who can top those figures is Boston’s Tuukka Rask (.953, 1.61.) Binnington is 4-2 with a .932 save percentage in the playoffs in the games following a Blues’ loss.

7. No surprise to see the Blues get their four goals in Game 2 from a diverse mix of gentlemen: forward Jaden Schwartz, defenseman Vince Dunn, defenseman Robert Bortuzzo and forward Oskar Sundqvist.

8. Schwartz was the poor bloke who struggled to purchase or even rent a goal during the regular season, finishing with a modest total of 11. Now he’s a big pile of postseason cash, with nine goals in 15 games.

9. Dunn is the stylish and underrated defenseman with a slick game. He was fantastic last night, with a 55.1 Corsi rating at 5-on-5; the Blues outshot the Sharks 10-3 with Dunn on the ice. And the beast Bortuzzo is a crashing, physical, hostile enemy of opposing-team forwards and perhaps the least likely Blue to bank the game-winning, series-tying goal in Game 2.

10. The Blues ‘ monstrously important third goal — aka Bortuzzo’s career-highlight moment — came late in the second period . And man, oh man … how the Blues desperately needed it to recharge their momentum after being zapped for two quickie San Jose goals by the dynamo Logan Couture that tied it at 2-2. When Bortuzzo scored, St. Louis could exhale … and I’m talking about the fans.

11. And for Bortuzzo to team up with defenseman Joel Edmundson on a hockey version of a basketball-style backdoor cut to skate by 900-year-old Sharks forward Joe Thornton, and then rip a backhander past San Jose goaltender Martin Jones. This wasn’t in the script, right? Edmundson-to-Bortuzzo, on a backdoor cut, as a tribute to the Golden State Warriors? It’s preposterous.

12. And Sundqvist? When Doug Armstrong acquired the obscure “Sunny” from Pittsburgh as part of the deal that sent fan fave Ryan Reaves to the Steel City in the summer of 2017 … well, let’s just say that Armstrong was fired by 95 percent of thei team fans … at least in their minds… and I say that based on the comments sections and forums related to the Blues. I don’t think anyone is whining now. Oskar has been one of the team’s best road dogs (as in attack) during this tournament. In Monday’s 4-2 win, Sundqvist knocked the Sharks out with his goal that came with 3 minutes 8 seconds remaining. But he also had four hits and four blocked shots in the game.

13. Back to the Blues defensemen for a moment. Bortuzzo, Pietrangelo, Dunn and Edmundson combined for five points — two goals, three assists — in Game 2. I think most folks would have wagered a few dollars on the probability of San Jose defensemen Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson being the most likely to score goals in Game 2. And not the Bortuzzo-Dunn exacta. Bortuzzo also had five hits and two blocked shots in his team’s win.

“We want our D to be active, and they’ve produced for us all year and they’re producing for us now in the playoffs too,” Blues coach Craig Berube said in the post-game news conference Monday.

14. Should we be surprised? Blues D-men have 38 points — seven goals, 31 assists — in the playoffs. That’s tied with San Jose for the NHL lead, but the Sharks have played one more game than the Blues.

15. The Blues’ scoring balance continues to be a major factor — and a substantial, team-defining plus — in this postseason run. And that’s really true when the Blues play on the road. A total of 10 Blues forwards have scored a total of 21 road goals so far (at all strengths). And Blues defensemen have chipped in five road goals.

Here’s the breakdown of the road scorers:

Schwartz, 4
Tyler Bozak, 3
Ryan O’Reilly, 3
Sundqvist, 3
David Perron, 2
Pat Maroon, 2
Vladimir Tarasenko, 1
Robert Thomas, 1
Sammy Blais, 1
Brayden Schenn, 1
d-Pietrangelo, 2
d-Edmundson, 1
d-Dunn, 1
d-Bortuzzo, 1

16. In their six road triumphs the Blues have received only one multiple-goal game from a player. Sundqvist had two in Game 2 at Winnipeg.

17. Can Brett Hull come out of retirement to tee it up on the power play? As you know, the Blues were 0-for-5 on the power play in Game 2 … and are 1-for-26 in their past eight games.

18. That was a brutal turnover by Pietrangelo, who had a mental-lapse pass intercepted by Couture for the shorthanded breakaway goal that cut the Blues’ lead to 2-1. But Petro did a lot of things right in Game 2. And when Pietrangelo assisted on Sundqvist’s late goal he tied the Blues’ franchise record for points by a defenseman in a single postseason with 12. The other 12-point playoff defensemen were Joe Micheletti (1981), Jeff Brown (1990 and 1991) and Al MacInnis (1999.)

19. Here’s Brayden Schenn on Bortuzzo: “He’s a gamer. Absolutely. He’s a warrior that no matter the circumstances, in or out, he’s a team guy, a locker room guy, a glue guy that you need on your team. When he has a big game like that tonight, you got to be pumped for him.”

20. The Sharks will be in St. Louis for the next two games, Wednesday and Friday. San Jose is only 2-4 on the road this postseason, getting outscored 21-12 as the visiting team in competing against Vegas and Colorado. At 5-on-5, the Sharks have been outscored 15-9 on the road — and have only a 45 percent share of the shots on goal, and a 44.7 percent share of high-danger shots.

Thanks for reading …

–Bernie