Tough Loss Belies Blues’ Overall Performance in Game 1

There are many positives to be drawn from the Blues’ 3-2, double-overtime loss to the San Jose Sharks at Scottrade Center in Game 1 of their Stanley Cup playoff series, but the negatives are going to be the first thing most fans think about when they look back at this one.

When Martin Havlat beat Jaroslav Halak with a wrister just over three minutes into the second overtime, the Blues looked like a team that was running low on fuel. Although the Blues are younger and well-conditioned, San Jose looked like the team with more pep from the midpoint of the first overtime on.

Halak looked out of sorts late, too. Late in the first overtime, the Blues were fortunate that when he lost the puck in the crease after a shot by T.J. Galiardi, the Sharks didn’t punch it in right there and win the game. Barret Jackman was able to get a stick on it and save the Blues. I figured that the longer games went in overtime, the more of an advantage they would have. That wasn’t the case on this night, as the fresher Sharks took it to the Blues as the minutes passed by. Once Andrew Desjardenes scored with 5:16 left in the third, San Jose seemed to have the edge over the Blues. That goal took some wind out of their sails.

After outshooting the Sharks 14-8 in the first OT, the Blues didn’t have a shot on Antti Niemi in the second overtime. They needed to carry the play, especially at home, but weren’t able to. Havlat’s winning goal was San Jose’s third shot of the second overtime, and the Blues didn’t mount a serious threat.

Now the positives. I thought that until the Desjardenes goal, the Blues had the much better of the play. Halak was brilliant to that point, allowing only Havlat’s power-play goal in the second period. The Blues outhit San Jose, and won the faceoff battle, too. Each team was 1-3 on the power play, and St. Louis was able to stay out of the box, committing just four minor penalties.

The top line of David Backes, T.J. Oshie and David Perron was noticeable, although it’s a concern that in a playoff game, Backes didn’t have a single shot on goal. Patrick Berglund was named the game’s number one star with both Blues goals, and was effective whenever he was on the ice. Kevin Shattenkirk blasted 11 of the Blues’ 42 shots at San Jose goalie Niemi, but his teammates failed to do anything with 10 of them. Berglund did make a brilliant play to score the Blues’ first goal 54 seconds into the third period.

There were plenty of chances for the Blues to win this one. Even though they’ve lost home-ice advantage for the moment in this series, there’s no reason to believe that they won’t win it. They outplayed San Jose, but simply couldn’t convert against Niemi. If the Blues’ other guns besides Berglund – namely Backes, Oshie and Perron – can generate some pressure, if they can get more than six shots among them (Perron had five), the Blues can score against San Jose.

The defense was strong enough before it appeared to tire somewhat. Shattenkirk and Alex Pietrangelo each played just over 33 minutes and seemed fine. Nearly 32 minutes seemed to affect Jackman. Perhaps cutting Jackman back and giving Kris Russell more minutes would work well for both of them. And certainly, not going to overtime would work to the Blues’ favor.

It’s going to be a long series. I predicted in “The Fast Lane” on Thursday that the Blues would win this one in seven. I still think that’s the case. There are things the Blues can do better, but there are enough positives to make me believe they can win game two and still advance to the second round with a win in this series.