Avalanche Fan Commentary: St. Louis Blues Choke Again


You don’t have to have a Colorado Avalanche fan’s perspective to observe the St. Louis Blues choke in the playoffs.

In the last 10 seasons the St. Louis Blues failed to qualify for the playoffs five times, which is fine. The other five times, though, their team got stronger and stronger. Twice they finished second in the tough Central Division, and twice they won the Central Division. Yet they have not managed to get past the second round in the playoffs.

The Blues have even been shut out twice in the playoffs in the last 10 years. (By comparison, the Avalanche have been shut out just twice in 20 years.)

Lack of Intensity

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I don’t understand how a team that is so formidable in the regular season gets so flat in the playoffs. It’s as if the Blues don’t understand that you have to ramp up the intensity in the playoffs. (Captain David Backes alluded to the same during a shortened interview — more on that later.)

Case in point, the St. Louis Blues are known for being a puck-dominating team that’s not afraid to get physical. They may not be the fastest team in the NHL, but they’ve got the kind of skills that make them so hard to play against.

Yet in the playoffs they played with little physicality, and a lot of their offensive stars were shut down. For instance, Sochi star TJ Oshie only got one goal the entire series, the lone goal in the Game 6 elimination loss.

The Minnesota Wild brand themselves as a speedy offense-minded team (editor’s note – with goonish tendencies). The Blues should have run all over them and made them cry. Instead, St. Louis took the foot off the gas pedal.

Goalie Problems

St. Louis’ Achilles heel is definitely their goalie situation. They’ve got plenty of scoring forwards — including new wonder-Russion Vladimir Tarasenko. They’ve got offense-minded defensemen such as Kevin Shattenkirk and Alex Pietrangelo as well as shut down guys.

But they never have a great goalie. That costs them. It’s definitely part of what cost the Blues the series against the Wild. Minnesota is riding a hot goalie in Devan Dubnyk (though, as an Avs fan, I’m excited to watch Mr. Showtime, Patrick Kane, make him cry in the next series).

The Blues have supposed starter Brian Elliott and back up Jake Allen. Neither is an even remotely stellar goalie. You have to have a brick wall in net to make it far in the playoffs.

David Backes and Leadership?

I’ve documented how David Backes isn’t the most… courteous of players on the ice. He has a real tendency to select only the smaller players to go after. He attempted to hog tie Nathan MacKinnon last season. This season, he got up in Matt Duchene‘s grill, but Dutchy didn’t back down. (Our Dutchy is a feisty one!)

For some reason, he didn’t try that with Minnesota even though most players are smaller than he is.

Anyway, that’s not the point. The point is the lack of leadership he showed after the game. Are players disappointed after they get eliminated? Of course they are. Do they occasionally get a little sharp when asked a question that hits too close to home. Yes, they do — even Duchene got a mite testy last season when asked if his healing knee was a factor in the Game 7 loss. (That is a rude question, by the way.)

Backes took it too far, though. During post game interviews, he didn’t try at all to control his temper.

He started out by detailing the problems that led to the Blues elimination:

"“It’s the Western Conference and Central Division — there’s a lot of good teams. But we won the division playing a certain way, and we had success playing a certain way. We got away from that too much in the critical times in the playoffs. Now we’ve got to have these… no offense, terrible interviews that I’m sick of doing, quite frankly.”"

Excuse me? Backes just pretty much admits that the Blues blew the playoff series, but he doesn’t want to have to answer questions about it? He’s the captain! That’s what captains do! No matter how unpleasant the situation, they serve as a liaison to the media — which is just an outlet to get the message to the fans.

That’s what the much-younger Gabriel Landeskog did last season without nearly as much experience. He was clearly shell-shocked, but he kept his composure. (Even when his upset led to a rare lapse into Swedish pronunciation.) Did he think the situation sucks, as a clearly frustrated Backes remarked? Of course he did. But Landeskog well understood his role and answered the questions with as much courtesy as possible.

That’s just leadership I guess on Landeskog’s part.

Anyway, thanks to St. Louis, we Avalanche fans have to wait for Patrick Kane and the Chicago Blackhawks to eliminate the Minnesota Wild. Hopefully they both blow out and sweep Minnesota to make up for the fact of the Wild getting to the second round in the first place.

Next: Former Avs Watch: Paul Stastny

Next: Former Avs Watch: Kevin Shattenkirk?

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