In his first start in this playoff, Jordan Binnington played nervously in the net for St. Louis. Louis Blues Sunday. He still allowed his team to equalize their four-of-seven series against the Minnesota Wild (2-2) thanks to a 5-2 win at the Enterprise Center in St. Louis. Louis.
Posted at 19:27.
Updated at 21.07.
Binnington, who replaced Ville Husso, had lost all of his nine previous playoff starts. Stunningly, he managed to stop 28 of Wild’s 30 shots, even though overall it didn’t look nice.
The revelation of the 2018-2019 season in particular was unable to control the puck on Matt Boldy’s goal, reducing the Blues’ lead to a single goal, 3-2, in the third period. Binnington’s positional play in front of his cage also left something to be desired on a few occasions.
Although Marc-André Fleury allowed four goals – the Blues’ fifth was scored in an empty goal – it was thanks to him that Wild kept their hopes of winning most of the match. While Binnington was looking for his bearings, Fleury played with confidence after allowing only three goals in his two previous starts.
The other major contributor to Wild’s victories in games two and three in the series was Kirill Kaprizov, who scored the match-winning goal in both matches. It was the same Kaprizov who equalized the match, 1-1, on Sunday, equalizing a team mark with a fifth goal in the same series. Since there will be at least two more matches between the Blues and Wild, the chances are good that he will succeed with at least one or two more.
The Wild will likely have to continue to get strong performances from Kaprizov to be successful over the next few weeks, because on paper, this team is not the most impressive. Kaprizov, Kevin Fiala and Matt Boldy form an interesting attacking core for the present and the future, and Mats Zuccarello, Ryan Hartman and Joel Eriksson Ek are all coming after the best season of their careers. But this group pales in comparison to the Blues, at least in terms of depth.
Each of the nine strikers who make up the Blues’ top three lines have scored at least 20 goals this season. Their “big 3” in defense, consisting of Torey Krug, Justin Faulk and Colton Parayko, added 31 goals.
But of this group of 12 players, only four scored in the first four games of the series: David Perron, Ryan O’Reilly, Jordan Kyrou and Vladimir Tarasenko. That was how it was before the meeting on Sunday, and it continued. Kyrou and Perron scored a ball each, and O’Reilly scored the goal in the empty net.
Perron had some good seasons when he was in his twenties, but he has been a much better player since he was in his thirties. Quebecer and O’Reilly complement each other perfectly, and it will be interesting to see if the Blues will be able to keep Perron in St. Louis. Louis, who may become a free agent this summer.
Perron and Kyrou scored at 54-second intervals to give the Blues a 3-1 lead in the second period, and that was essentially when the match was settled. Outshot 26-9 with 7:30 left in the second period and trailing 3-1, Wild fought hard for the rest of the match and had a 21-7 advantage in shots from that point.
A hit defense
Sooner or later, Pavel Buchnevich, Brayden Schenn, Robert Thomas, Brandon Saad, Ivan Barbashev, Faulk and Parayko, all looking for their first goal in the playoffs, will have to contribute. Note that Krug is absent due to a lower body injury. Craig Berube said his absence could be long.
We particularly note the absence of Krug in numerical superiority, but the Blues have a young player with a similar playing style. It is Scott Perunovich, a second-round pick in 2018, who played his first game since mid-January on Sunday.
Perunovich was recovering from a wrist injury, and perhaps that was why he mostly stuck to distributing the puck when playing on powerplay. However, his offensive talent is obvious, and his statistics confirm it: he scored a total of 105 points in 115 games with the University of Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs, in the NCAA, then 22 in his first 17 games in the American League this season …
When Krug, Nick Leddy and Robert Bortuzzo were all missing, Berube chose to use seven defenders for Game 4 of the series. Montrealer Marco Scandella, however, left the match due to an injury to his lower body that will further weaken a hard-hitting defense.
Tight, but not tight …
Most analysts expected the Blues-Wild series to be one of the tightest and most interesting in the first round. We seem to be heading for a series that ends in seven matches, but we can certainly not say that the first four matches have been very close (one-way matches have been abnormally many since the start of the tournament).
After an opening victory of 4-0, the Blues led 6-2, 5-1. Sunday’s match was closer, of course, but we felt the Blues would win pretty early in a match that didn’t yield a great show, let’s face it. If one of these two teams meets the Colorado Avalanche in the second round, they will have to raise their game level significantly to be strong.
It was believed that the Blues were best equipped to give Avalanche difficulties in a potential matchup. Because of their depth, their style of play and the fact that they have the experience of winning the Stanley Cup three years ago.
But when you count the qualifying round of three games that preceded the playoff tournament two years ago, the Blues were 3-13 in the playoffs since they won in 2018-19 prior to their victory on Sunday …
Will this victory restore Binnington’s confidence? Will the many Blues scorers still looking for a first goal against Wild start hitting the target again? We will know more after the fifth game of the series, Tuesday night (21:30) in Minnesota.