There you have it, folks. We’re three games into the playoffs, and Blues have won three games. I’ve seen the Blues win the first two games a playoff series before and go on to drop it (cough 2014 cough), but never the first three. As a matter of fact, the Blues have never won the first three games and not gone on to sweep the series. Including in 1993 against Chicago. I mention that but for no other reason than it’s always fun to think back to beating the Blackhawks.
Firstly, and most obviously, we’re #blest to be getting this level of performance out of our starting goalie two years in a row. For every bit as phenomenal as Brian Elliott was last season, Jake Allen has been better. That’s not to take anything away from Moose at all, but to praise just how ell Snake ahs played. If you’ve watched any – and I mean any – of the games thus far, you’ve seen Allen make amazing plays. You seen him flash his glove, you seen him stack the pads (you’d swear Mike Liut was back between the pipes), you’ve seen him turn pucks away with the stick, the blocker and the skate. Kick save and a beauty as Marv Albert would say calling Mike Richter in the 1994 Cup Finals.
In short, Marty Brodeur has fixed Allen. He’s gone from a save percentage as low as .600 before being pulled in the second period in a game at home against Washington on January 19th of this year to a save percentage better than .950 in the first two games of this year’s playoffs. Part of what Brodeur did was develop a schedule for Allen and Carter Hutton. That’s done well because it gives the goalies a break without doing their psychological welfare harm – they know the break’s coming. They don’t feel like they’ve done something wrong and are being pulled or benched. Marty helped Jake get his head right and you can most certainly see the amazing dividends that’s paying.
But a large part of the success of Jake Allen comes from the fact that hardly anybody is getting in front of him. I’ll admit, I had my doubts when Doug Armstrong traded away Kevin Shattenkirk. I’d never heard of this Zach Sanford kid we got in return. I thought we’d given away our best defenseman. And I stand by my assessment that losing Shatty didn’t do the Blues defense any favors, but it forced the entire defense to step up. Particularly notable in this is Joel Edmundson. But the fact that the Wild are hardly able to get anyone in front of the net is a testament to the good things this defense is doing. Sure, the Wild got 50+ shots on goal in the first game, but ask yourself how many of them came from the outside. Charlie Coyle and Zach Parise are about the only two Wild players who know what the middle of the Blues’ defensive zone looks like.
The one problem I can see with the Blues is their lack of goal scoring. There seems to be a bad, familiar habit of scoring a goal then falling back and putting the game on the goaltender’s back. This must stop. I thought this was broken in the first period of game three, but it reared its ugly head once again. The Blues seem to be playing their best playoff hockey when the game is tied. We have no idea how they’d play behind. But I wish they’d pretend they are, at best tied. Keep up the forcheck. Keep up the good puck movement. Get a few powerplay goals. But by and large, keep it up boys. You’re making us proud!
Also, there’s a very real chance Chelsea Dagger won’t be heard at all this playoff season. And everyone except Helen Keller will surely appreciate that.