Just one year after winning the Stanley Cup, the St. Louis Blues were unable to win a round in the Stanley Cup playoffs, losing in six games to the Vancouver Canucks. Here four things that went wrong for the club.
1. The Defense Really Didn’t Show Up
Few defensemen played well for the Blues in this series. They broke down on a lot of plays that led to juicy chances for the Canucks. They didn’t get aggressive in the offensive zone in most of the series and were hesitant to shoot the puck.
Props to Marco Scandella, Justin Faulk, and Robert Bortuzzo as they all had solid series and contributed. Scandella was rock solid in all six games, while Faulk was great in Game 3 and Game 4. Bortuzzo stepped in and played well in Game 5.
Alex Pietrangelo had an overall bad series for what you would expect. He scored a fluky goal in Game 4 but was quiet regardless. Have we seen the last of Pietrangelo with the Blues?
Colton Parayko wasn’t aggressive in the offensive-zone with that heavy shot and had some defensive mishaps. Vince Dunn played poorly in this series. He just did not have it the entire time, he’s an impending restricted free agent (RFA) in this offseason.
The suffocating Blues defense that we saw in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs did not show up this year, and it was an issue.
2. Goaltending Inconsistency
Jordan Binnington did not have his stuff in this series or at any time in the Edmonton bubble. Jake Allen played well in Game 3 and Game 4 but gave up a few goals that he shouldn’t have in Game 5. You could look at Game 5 as the turning point, with the Blues blowing the 3-1 lead and their momentum. The goaltending was subpar in this series.
Vancouver had millions of scoring chances in this series, so the Blues’ goaltenders did not have the best defensive play in front of them. They still weren’t playing well overall, but Allen was better than Binnington.
It should worry Blues fans that Binnington was bad in the playoffs one year after winning the Stanley Cup, but there’s no reason to panic yet.
As for Allen and his cap hit, I’m not sure the Blues will keep him around. I think he played well enough in the regular season and showed flashes in the playoffs that they could find a trade partner for him.
3. Not Enough Depth Scoring
The big forwards like Ryan O’Reilly, Jaden Schwartz, Brayden Schenn, and David Perron showed up. A lot of the other forwards struggled and did not score enough. The Canucks depth scoring made a big difference. The Blues had four players with five or more points in the entire playoffs, including the round-robin, and it wasn’t enough.
Players like Robert Thomas, Sammy Blais, Tyler Bozak, and Zach Sanford were solid but did not score enough to make a difference in the series. Missing Alex Steen and Ivan Barbashev for a large part of the series hurt too.
Oskar Sundqvist was quiet in the series, Jordan Kyrou was as well. Vladimir Tarasenko wasn’t himself in the games he appeared in.
At the end of the day, you can’t win a series without having scoring from at least two lines consistently, and the Blues barely had that. The club needs to be healthy and regroup to have success in a quick turnaround for the 2020-21 season.
4. Not Physical Enough
The Blues’ big selling point in 2019 was their ability to hit teams and wear them down over a series, but they did not do that to the Canucks. The plan was in place, but not executed this time around.
Part of this could be due to the loss of Pat Maroon to the Tampa Bay Lightning, but that is not a valid excuse. Could it be not having the fourth line magic of Steen-Sundqvist-Barashev? That could be it, as that line physically set the tone in many series last year.
Schenn was throwing hits, Blais and others were too. It just didn’t work against Vancouver, I don’t know how to explain it. The Canucks controlled many periods and the Blues had no answer at all.
At the end of the day, it’s hard to win back-to-back Stanley Cups and the Blues could not win a round in their title defense. The Canucks simply wanted it more. The Blues outplayed the Canucks in the better part of four to five games of the series but didn’t win enough.
An interesting offseason lies ahead for Doug Armstrong and his staff with many big decisions to make. There will be a lot to cover here at THW as we head into the stretch run of the playoffs and offseason.