As these playoffs continue, the empty feeling I have as a Ranger fan has passed. As a passionate hockey fan, I continue to watch even if I don’t see every second. For two periods, I had no interest in the Blues and Stars. Especially with St. Louis looking in good shape thanks to three goals in the first period. They led Dallas 3-1 entering the third.
But like most teams who protect leads, the Ken Hitchcock Blues decided to be passive and sit back. Before too long, Mattias Janmark had made it a one-goal game a few minutes into the third. Even though they hardly tested Antti Niemi, who replaced an ineffective Kari Lehtonen (3 GA on 5 shots), it looed like they would get away with it.
The Stars made a strong push following Janmark’s tally. They carried the play taking it to a conservative St. Louis, who opted to sit back. What’s that they say about the two-goal lead? Or is that three goals? Defensively, the Blues were solid making just enough plays in front of Brian Elliott. They back checked effectively breaking up Stars’ chances and blocked shots when Elliott wasn’t stopping the puck.
As time wound down, it didn’t occur to me that the Stars would tie it. It just didn’t have that feeling. The Blues were doing such a good job protecting the one-goal lead that it looked like they’d win Game Two in regulation and even the series. Dallas captain Jamie Benn had other ideas. In a report from NBC rover Pierre McGuire earlier, he relayed that Benn told Lehtonen that ‘it was coming.’
One of the game’s best players called his own shot. Off a face off win in the St. Louis zone, Benn was able to get to a rebound that caromed off a body in front. With Elliott expecting a different shot from Kris Russell, the puck took a favorable hop off Cody Eakin right to Benn, who deposited his fifth with 2:36 left in regulation. The crowd in Dallas went wild. The game was tied up.
It needed overtime. So, how would St. Louis respond to blowing a two-goal lead? They also had a power play in the third they didn’t do much with. In sudden death, anything can happen. It doesn’t matter who has the momentum. One big save. One mistake. And it can end that quickly.
For the Stars unfortunately, Antoine Roussel picked a bad time to take an undisciplined penalty. He clearly interfered with Jay Bouwmeester knocking him down at the St. Louis blue line, which resulted in Ales Hemsky moving in for the kill on a potential three-on-one. The refs had no choice but to call Roussel for interference. Otherwise, the Blues might have lost and had a legit beef.
Instead, they had their second power play of OT. The first was a John Klingberg hold they were unable to capitalize on, due in large part to a sprawling Niemi. This time, the Blues didn’t waste any time. After Dallas defenseman Alex Goligoski fell down due to a blocked shot and was unable to recover, Kevin Shattenkirk worked the puck to Alex Steen for a tough low shot that Niemi kicked out. The Blues captain David Backes was in the right spot to steer home a rebound for a 4-3 win in sudden death.
For Backes, he gave himself a nice birthday present. A game-winning power play goal on his 32nd birthday at 10:58 of sudden death to tie the Western Conference Semifinal. The next two games are in St. Louis. Game Three is Tuesday and Game Four Thursday. It’s shaping up to be a pretty competitive second round between two Central rivals who haven’t had much success lately.
Originally, I took the Stars. However, the grit of the Blues might be the difference. I guess I’ll just stick with Dallas. But it wouldn’t surprise me if St. Louis prevailed. Either way, it should be a six or seven game series.
The Sharks host the Predators at 8 PM for Game Two on NBCSN. They took Game One scoring five times in a big third period to defeat Nashville 5-2. Joel Ward scored a huge go-ahead goal with a sweet backhand tuck job to beat Pekka Rinne. Logan Couture also tallied on a neat backhand deflection on the power play off a saucer backhand feed from Joe Pavelski. How often do you see that? Backhand to backhand and the finish.
That’s how skilled San Jose is. I really like them after conquering the Kings in five. And with the Ducks doing their usual fold up job losing for a fourth consecutive time on home ice in a Game Seven, Bruce Boudreau lost his job. He’s a good coach. That’s the shame of it. But something just isn’t right with that roster.
For whatever reason, Corey Perry turns into ghost during the playoffs. He didn’t even score once and was a minus-seven. Ryan Getzlaf did have two goals and three helpers. But it wasn’t enough. Ryan Kesler did his part scoring four goals. It’ll be interesting to see what Anaheim GM Bob Murray decides to do with the roster this summer. He hinted at changes. What might they be?
Gun to my head, I like the Sharks to eliminate the Preds in six. I’ll stay with it even though I could even see it being shorter assuming San Jose can win tonight. They’ve been a better road team all year. Can they win two straight at HP Pavilion against a stingy and resilient Preds club? We shall see.
That’s all for now. In the next post, I’ll get to some of the awards as they started naming who’s up for a few. Until then, it’s back to Rear Window on Sundance. Then some of Game Two between the mustard and teal.