The St. Louis Blues came out slow in their Game 3 loss to the Minnesota Wild, and it was over fairly early after they were down 2-0. The final score was 5-1 and the Blues had no shot from the start, even as they outshot the Wild for most of the game.
Related: 3 Blues Takeaways From Games 1 and 2 vs. The Wild
The Blues have frankly been steamrolled by the Wild since their dominant win in Game 1, and it has been ugly to watch. They have issues on all three levels and special teams, which makes for an awful recipe moving forward.
Forward Lines Thrown in a Blender
Blues head coach Craig Berube was not afraid to make major changes to his top-three forward lines in this game, as he threw them into a blender in the third period. One takeaway from the changes is that they generated plenty of offensive zone time and shots, but only scored once.
It was the right move to change the lines up, as the Blues were generating very few quality chances in the first two periods. The top nine has been the same for quite some time now and desperate times call for desperate measures. They weren’t able to truly get back into the game, but they showed a few signs of life in the third period.
I see a lot of goal-scoring potential if he keeps Brandon Saad and Jordan Kyrou with Robert Thomas, but I expect Berube to change them even more heading into a pivotal Game 4. I think it could be a wise move to put Pavel Buchnevich, Vladimir Tarasenko, and Ivan Barbashev together again, as they were brilliant together for a solid stretch of the season. They haven’t gotten much from David Perron since Game 1, which is a problem since the Blues rely on his presence to create some offense with puck possession at times.
The Blues’ only goal of Game 3 was from Ryan O’Reilly, who has now scored six goals in his last five games counting the regular season. They need much more offense than they are getting, and it starts with players like Thomas and Kyrou, who can create offense out of thin air. The depth offense is not showing up in this series after a season where they had 10 double-digit goalscorers, including nine with 20 goals. The bottom line is that the correct move was made by Berube to throw the lines into a blender.
Injuries Piling up on the Back End
First, it was Nick Leddy, then it was Robert Bortuzzo, and now it is Torey Krug. Krug played a few minutes in Game 3 before suffering a lower-body injury and did not return. The Blues now have back-to-back seasons with injuries to key players on the back end, and it’s quite problematic.
After Justin Faulk, the Blues have no trustworthy blueliner, which is a major problem in this series. Colton Parayko, Marco Scandella, and Niko Mikkola look lost in the majority of their ice time, while Calle Rosen is clearly overmatched and not in a good spot. Rosen was certainly better in Game 3 than he was in Game 2, but the Blues very much miss Leddy back there.
The Blues are far removed from the times of Alex Pietrangelo, Carl Gunnarsson, Jay Bouwmeester, and a better version of Parayko on the back end. This unit, when healthy, generates more offense, but their defensive coverage lacks in a big way. The Blues’ shift into more offensive defensemen has been fun to watch in the regular season, but in the playoffs, they have struggled to stay healthy and play well together.
If the Blues don’t get at least two of these three back, it’s hard to see how they can win this series. Bortuzzo means a lot more to this unit than is known, and everyone knows how solid Leddy and Krug have been. It’s unfortunate to see injuries piling up again.
It’s Definitely Not Husso’s Fault
It’s easy to look at the box score and see Ville Husso’s nine goals allowed and .847 save percentage (SV%) over the last two games and want to blame him, but it is not his fault. Time and time again, the Blues’ defensive coverage has been completely out of sorts and they continue to allow odd-man rushes for the Wild. Both of those things were on display in Game 3 for the Blues.
He was brilliant in Game 1 when the Blues needed him to be, posting a 37-save shutout. There is no doubt that he hasn’t been as good in the last two games, but it’s hard to blame him after seeing what’s in front of him. This defensive unit has struggled all season, but Husso and timely goal scoring have covered some of it up. There is little-to-no cohesiveness when three of the six main defensemen are injured, that’s just a fact.
With all this being said, I would have Jordan Binnington start in Game 4, and that is no slight to Husso. It’s pretty clear that Husso won’t be here next season with his impending free agency, so it makes sense for Binnington, who will be here, to start Game 4. It would be nice to see a confident Binnington and maybe even spark the team to get this series back on track, but I’m not sure if Berube will make the aggressive move.
Clearly, this series is quickly slipping away from the Blues, and Game 4 will likely determine whether they will put up a fight or not. It’s up to Berube to make aggressive lineup changes and a major decision in net for the Blues to make a push in Game 4. They are about to show us what they’re made of, as a pivotal game looms at the Enterprise Center on Sunday.