COMMENTARY | St. Louis fans were hyped up prior to the start of Game 1; there was a feeling of expectancy within the air at Scottrade Center. Players and coaches claimed to be ready to get out there and prove that they could play a strong hockey game during a playoff series. There was just one little problem – the Minnesota Wild were hungrier and played a better hockey game than the Blues.
Former Blues forward and fan favorite, Chris Stewart, came back to St. Louis as a Wild and he had something to prove. Although Stewart did not score any points, he made his presence known when on the ice with strategic checks and vocal encouragement for his team.
Rookie goaltenders, appearing in their first playoff game, dominated the game. While the Blues’ Jake Allen was handed the loss, 2 of the 4 goals allowed by the Blues happened when Allen was not even on the ice. Wild goaltender, Devan Dubnyk, was solid in goal and showed no signs of losing his composure when the Blues rallied in the third period.
Having solid, unshakable goaltenders during the playoffs is essential for any team to win hockey games and advance towards the finals. Both Allen and Dubnyk showed their respective teams that they can handle the pressure of playoff hockey, but can they both keep the momentum going and carry their team to a series win? This will be the series to watch and analyze their stamina as well as their confidence in themselves and their teammates.
Fans cannot even blame bad calls from the referees as the reason their beloved Blues bombed in Game 1. True there were a few iffy calls, but find a game where that is not the case. The truth of the matter is that the Wild out strategized the Blues, played harder and dug deeper to pull off the win. Overall the Blues took a long time to find a groove of any kind and in playoff hockey that can spell disaster.
Blues players did not look prepared for Game 1 and they looked unsure of how to handle the determined Wild team. The Blues were able to defeat the Wild in their last game of the season and it may be that they felt too comfortable and confident in their ability to beat them again.
The most painful thing to watch during a playoff game is the empty-net goals that occur when a team, in desperation, pulls their goalie for the extra attacker. The Blues were burned not once, but twice during Game 1 when head coach, Ken Hitchcock, pulled Allen in the final minutes of the game. He was hoping for a last-minute miracle from his offense, but what he got instead was a push from the Wild. To lose a playoff game by one goal is difficult for any team, but to lose because of two empty-net goals is almost too much to swallow.
Game 2 Changes
The Blues need to step it up in Game 2 and come out strong from the first puck drop. The Wild had something to prove in Game 1 and came out with a vengeance. The Blues now have something to prove in Game 2. It will be interesting to see if Hitchcock mixes up his lines to try and get more offense going or if he will stick with what has worked in the regular season.
The Wild’s head coach, Mike Yeo, has found a winning combination and is showing that the Wild can be a contender. Now, it is the Blues’ turn to step it up and prove to St. Louis and the NHL that they will not once again fizzle in the first round of the playoffs.
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