This feels like familiar territory. The Blues are back to their heavy-hitting, fast-paced, offensive-force play on the Vancouver Canucks after their 3-1 winner on Monday night. The question was could the team put two, full 60-minute, games together? The Blues not only did that, they eliminated any chance of the Canucks gaining any confidence in themselves moving forward. Let’s dive into my 5 takeaways from last night’s winner
O’REILLY IS A BEAST
This might be the largest understatement of the playoffs but it is showing in these last two games. O’Reilly might be the most influential player in the last decade for this franchise with his play taking the Blues to another level. JT Miller said last night about O’Reilly, “he’s spending all the time in our zone and none in his”. He has been a face-off king, defensive wizard (holding Petterson to 0 even-strength shots when matched up against him) and he’s creating offense. Among players this postseason that have played 5 or more games, O’Reilly has the highest Corsi rating (possession percentage) at 77%. Yeah, he’s good.
THE UNFLAPPABLE BLUES
Three games ago seven penalties in a game would have broken this team, but not the Blues. The unflappability (yeah, it’s a word) is at its peak in this series. The Blues played their best defensive brand of hockey and they never seemed phased on the ice when Vancouver had the puck on their stick. The difference from the first two games to the last two, the Blues don’t look defeated. Their heads aren’t dipping on the bench after whistles, they aren’t frazzled with sustained pressure from VAN. In the 3rd period when Parayko took a delay of game penalty with the goalie pulled, the Blues never wavered. That should be an area that the Canucks fear.
PENALTY KILL HAS BEEN SOLVED
Remember when I called the PP for the Canucks a lethal weapon? Well, those weapons were confiscated in the last two games by St. Louis. The Blues have taken away the Cancuks favorite toy and they don’t know what to do with themselves in a hockey game that is played at even-strength. The Blues are playing with fire by taking 7 penalties in a game that is only a 2-goal lead. But the PK has found its ju-ju by killing off 8 of the Canucks last 9 games. The first two games VAN went 5-9 on the PP. A very different unit on the ice which leaves Vancouver searching for answer in the final 3 games of this series.
THE TIMELY SAVES
Much like Game 3, Jake Allen was a key component to another victory with his timely saves. It wasn’t 41 shots like he saw on Sunday night, but 23 shots that could’ve altered the game made the difference for the Blues. We saw it last season with Binnginton when the Blues have confidence that their goalie will cover-up a mistake, the unit in front of him plays a more physical style. Allen making key saves on the PK late in third period is what a group of guys who have been battling adversity lately desperately needed.
BLUES OWN REAL-ESTATE IN MARKSTROM’S HEAD
This is the best part of the series, watching the spaz break-down in net for Vancouver. I said this on post game last night, the Blues are in Markstrom’s head right now. He spends more time talking to the officials about the Blues being “too close” to the crease, punching Perron in the head after a whistle or barking at his defenseman to protect the crease more. If Markstrom is that concerned about the presence in front of the net then the Blues will go right back to that method for the foreseeable future. A “spazzed out” Markstrom could turn into leaky goals and a winning series for St. Louis.
AP Photo/John Minchillo