Bernie On The Blues: The Note Can Win Game 7, But Have To Clean Up Several Key Areas.

The Blues.


It’s always something.

But do not despair, disengage, or drive your blue bandwagon into the ditch.

I’ll repeat what Blues owner Tom Stillman told us during an in-studio visit at 101 ESPN back in the dark days of the regular season … a time when some Blues fans and media were wondering if it made sense to dynamite the roster, go into the tanking mode.

You know … lose as much as possible to compete for the No. 1 overall draft choice (and Jack Hughes.) The “Lose For Hughes” movement was forming.

The Blues’ playoff chances were all but kaput. So why not plan for a swift rebuild instead?

“Don’t count us out just yet,” Stillman said that day.

He was right.

And the words apply now.

The Blues had the fewest points in the NHL on Jan. 2. Since Jan.3, they’ve won 30 regular-season games … and have won three postseason rounds … and have won 15 postseason games … and have beaten the Boston Bruins three times in the Stanley Cup Final.

When you’ve won so many games over the last five months, well, what’s one more?

Sure, it’s for the Stanley Cup. It’s for St. Louis. It’s for Blues history.

It’s for everything.

But don’t make it bigger. Reduce the quest to something more reasonable and doable — and less unnerving and imposing.

Which is: Just go win a game. One game.

Just go into Boston and conduct a raid for a victory … which you’ve already done twice in three previous confrontations at TD Garden during the SC Final.

It’s onto Boston for Game 7. Just another road trip. And this is why it was so critical for the Blues to win Gam 5 in Boston and take a 3-2 series lead; the victory gave the Blues two chances to defeat the Bruins for a fourth time and win the Stanley Cup.

It would have been more satisfying and exciting and communal — and fun — to win Stanley in St. Louis. It didn’t happen. But the opportunity — take Stanley — is still there.

The Blues lost Game 6 but didn’t lose their chance to win this suspenseful, twisting series and the most cherished trophy in all of sports. The prize is still within reach. Stanley is there to be grabbed, and flown back to St. Louis.

Hell, given the Blues’ 6-7 home record (yuck) and their brilliant 9-3 road record this postseason, Boston is the place to be, right?

At even strength the Blues have been outscored by seven goals (30-23) in 13 postseason games at Enterprise Center.

Away from Enterprise Center, the even-strength Blues have outscored opponents by 15 goals (34-19) in 12 postseason scuffles.

So go into Boston and do what comes naturally — win a road game. Go into Boston and pull Stanley out of the garden.

That’s the plan, and it’s hardly a crazy fantasy. But the Blues have a lot of things to clean up before they’re ready to bring Stanley home.

Here’s why the Blues lost Game 6 … and, by extension, here’s what they need to correct and improve to capture Game 6 …

1-The Bruins were ready to play in Game 6. In postponing the parade by winning 5-1, the Bruins delivered an ideal road postseason game in a must-win pressure zone.

The Blues? Well, they weren’t ready for Game 6. The moment was too big for them.

“We’re fighting for our lives, obviously,” Bruins winger Brad Marchand said. “When you play desperate, normally you see everyone’s best game and I think that’s what we had tonight.”

The Blues must do the same thing now: go on the road, stare hard at their potential demise, and use the ravenous hunger to play the best game of their lives.

2- For the love of Kelly Chase — 1,497 penalty minutes as a Blue — stay out of the damn penalty box. Avoidable penalties set up the Bruins for a 5-on-3 power play and easy goal for an early 1-0. The Bruins have netted 24 power-play goals this postseason, converting PP opportunities at a blistering rate of 33.8 percent. Do not play with fire, Blues. You’ve already been burned too many times — but it isn’t too late.

3. For the love of Brett Hull, shoot the puck, and quickly, on the power play. As I asked on my Monday radio show: why do the Blues continue to approach the power play as if they’re Jason Day taking 15 minutes to line up a putt at Pebble Beach.

The Blues went 0-for-4 on the power play in Game 6, and are a humiliating 1-for-18 on the PP in the series. This flaw is a fatal failure that can’t be repeated in Game 7. The Blues have to cease dawdling with the puck and start ripping one-timers that could catch the Bruins out of position, and-or set up rebounds. But if the Blues continue to delay and give the Bruins time to clog the shooting lanes, then the power play will sputter.

4-The Blues didn’t get their heavy forecheck, deep-cycle game going. (In fact, over the last two games, the Blues have been out-hit by the Bruins, 70-63.) The St. Louis pressure game was inconsistent. And if the Blues are the inferior side at 5-on-5 play again, the Bruins will be hoisting the Cup. In the Game 6 stink bomb, the Blues had a 47.9 percent Corsi For (possession) percentage and were outshot 26-16.

5-I respect all three of these gentlemen but given what’s at stake, the Blues’ top line of Jaden Schwartz, Brayden Schenn and Vladimir Tarasenko was awful in Game 6 — especially during the first two periods when the Blues (down 1-0) still had a chance to wrestle this game from the Bruins. Over the first 40 minutes the Blues’ No. 1 line had a horrendous 37.5 Corsi For percentage at 5-on-5 and was outshot 9-2. Relative to the Blues’ other lines, the No. 1 line was 16 percent worse than their teammates. That cannot happen again.

6. Tuukka Rask outperformed Jordan Binnginton in Game 6, and it wasn’t close. And if Rask is the dominant goaltender again in Game 7, the Bruins almost certainly will prevail. Despite being outplayed for much of the time at even strength, the Blues had six high-danger chances to the Bruins’ two. But Rask showed no weakness. He was the difference.

7-The Blues can’t be shaky with the puck. I know the ice was choppy for Game 6, but that doesn’t excuse the Blues’ ragged passing and 12 giveaways. The Bruins had only four giveaways in Game 6. In the last two games the Bruins have eight total giveaways to the Blues’ 19. The Blues have to sharpen up and cut down on puck mistakes.

8. Game 6 was a real struggle for the Blues’ possession-hog line of Pat Maroon, Tyler Bozak and Robert Thomas. That group had an alarmingly weak 33.3 Corsi For percentage and was 16 percent worse than the other Blues’ lines. (Based on Corsi relative percentage.) The rookie Thomas was a minus 2 in his return to the lineup.

9. The Blues had only three rebound shot attempts in Game 6. Not nearly enough. Not nearly enough traffic in front of the net. Not nearly enough shots getting through. The Blues have to disrupt Rask’s vision and get him scrambling with more attempts on rebounds, deflections, tip-ins.

10. Just wanted to point out something, going into Game 7. Just the facts, submitted without comment … because the facts make the point: 

Β⇒ Schwartz leads the Blues with 12 postseason goals but hasn’t scored in his last 12 games.

Β⇒ After scoring goals in four consecutive games and five out of six, Vladimir Tarasenko has one goal in his last four games.

Β⇒ Maroon hasn’t scored sine his epic, second-overtime winner to terminate Dallas in Game 7 of round two. That’s 12 straight games without a goal and Maroon is a minus 5 over that time.

Β⇒ After scoring three goals in six games against San Jose in the Western Conference Final, Tyler Bozak hasn’t scored against Boston (six games) and is a minus 4 in the series.

Thanks for reading …