Visions of Last Year Abound as Blues Face Elimination


Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

The St. Louis Blues suffered a crushing blow to their hopes for a long playoff run on Friday night by losing 3-2 to the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 5 of their first round series. After getting off to a 2-0 series lead, the Blues have lost three straight and are on the brink of elimination. As the Blues sit in this difficult position, things are becoming eerily similar to last year’s first round series against the Los Angeles Kings, when the Blues started with a 2-0 lead but ended up losing their last four straight and being eliminated.

Last year’s series began with an overtime win, as Alex Steen scored the winning goal in thrilling fashion. While Steen’s goal came at 13:26 in the first overtime period in 2013 as opposed to this year’s goal 26 seconds into the third overtime, both goals seemed to have a devastating impact to the opposing team at the time.

This year’s Game 2 was a high-scoring thriller that went into overtime, but it saw Barret Jackman score the winning goal just like he did in 2013’s 2-1 regulation victory. Perhaps the most striking comparison, however, came in Game 3, where the Blues were shut out in both 2013 and 2014. Chicago had one more goal than LA notched thanks to a late empty-netter, but in both instances quality goaltending was not enough to negate the complete lack of offense that the Blues experienced in their first game on the road. In both series, Game 3 really seemed to be the turning point in terms of momentum.

In the fourth game of both series, the Blues lost 4-3 as they began to see rather significant defensive breakdowns. While there were influxes of offense in both cases—T.J. Oshie’s two goal effort in 2013 and Vladimir Tarasenko’s this year—it just was not enough to negate the lack of fluidity in the defensive zone.

That lack of success on the road seemed to mess with the Blues’ chemistry in both years, as they ended up losing 3-2 in overtime during their return home each time. It’s worth noting, by the way, that Alex Pietrangelo scored his first postseason goal in Game 5 both times, and both of those goals were assisted by Jaden Schwartz.

All this, of course, is relevant because it could foreshadow how the Blues will perform going forward. Especially after the four straight losses in last year’s series, you would think that this year’s Blues team will be hurt confidence-wise by being down 3-2 after getting off to a 2-0 lead. Last year, the Blues put together a rather poor effort in Game 6, losing 2-1 in Los Angeles. Fortunately for the Blues, their lineup for Game 6 may be the healthiest one they’ve had all series, as David Backes should be even more recovered while the team sustained no new injuries in Game 5. They’ve had a lot of difficulty recently with making things click on the road, but it is certainly still possible for them to turn it around and maybe salvage what’s left of their season. With the pressure high as ever, it will be up to this group to give everything they’ve got left and try to make sure that the most successful regular season in franchise history is not for naught.