ST LOUIS – Entering game five, the St. Louis Blues were looking forward to a return to home ice where they have been victorious in their last eight games. Despite the two losses in Los Angeles, the team still held home ice advantage and an energized crowd awaited their beloved Blues to help advance the winning effort.
Despite some late-game heroics, the evening involved a different ending when Slava Voynov netted the sudden death goal Wednesday night. Today, the Blues are in Los Angeles, hopeful of staying alive in their series with the Kings. It could be argued this game will reveal what types of players the Blues have on their roster.
With backs against the wall, game six represents an opportunity for St. Louis’ veteran players to show their true colors. The task is daunting. Not only has Los Angeles won nine straight at Staples Center, but the Blues have not won since St. Patrick’s Day 2011, a streak which has netted just one point after a shootout loss March 22, 2012.
One has to wonder where some of the Blues’ top players during the regular season have been in the postseason. In the series’ first five games, Chris Stewart, David Perron and Andy McDonald have accounted for just three assists ranking 9th, 11th and 14th among St. Louis’ 19 skaters. During the regular season, Stewart, Perron and McDonald were 1st, 5th and 8th accounting for 28% of the team’s goals and 24% of the team’s points.
Perhaps there are new leaders emerging, though. Alex Steen, the number one star in Game 1 with his two goals is the team’s leading playoff scorer with three goals after being 3rd in scoring during the regular season. T. J. Oshie who was 9th in scoring in the regular season with 7 goals and 13 points in just 30 games due to injury is third in team playoff scoring with two goals.
Vladimir Sobotka has three assists in the Kings series and Jaden Schwartz has show promise, despite failing to disrupt the game-ending scoring play with a loose backcheck allowing Voynov’s game winter.
Elliott should be solid again and if the Blues can stand up against the Kings and dictate how the game will be played, the series could easily be headed back to St. Louis for a decisive game seven. While it is a shame game five was decided on what some consider a soft goal, Elliott continues to shine far above what was expected of him in March.
The aberration of the game five overtime goal cannot overshadow Elliott’s stellar play which has kept the Blues in every game against a solid opponent who appears in same form as when they won the Stanley Cup last season. Still, a change in approach building upon the level of play is needed to force a game seven. Essentially, the Blues are close, but need to win every puck and pay the price to secure a game six victory.
St. Louis is 0-7 in their past seven elimination games dating to April 23, 2000, when they defeated the San Jose Sharks in game six of the conference quarterfinals. The Blues lost that series in seven games after having claimed the League’s top spot winning the President’s Trophy and home ice advantage throughout the playoffs.
There is some good news relative to what the Kings face. In NHL history, teams have trailed 2-0 in a best-of-seven series a total of 291 times and have come back to win the series on just 37 occasions or 12.7% of the time. Maybe the hockey gods can look favorably upon the Blues this postseason.
The series continues in Los Angeles where game six is set for Friday night at Staples Center. The puck drops at 10:00 ET.
Follow Dennis M. Morrell on Twitter at DMMORRELL