Sport: One tweak for Blues’ putrid playoff power play - PressFrom - US
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SportOne tweak for Blues’ putrid playoff power play

22:05  15 may  2019
22:05  15 may  2019 Source:   nbcsports.com

Maroon's OT goal lifts Blues past Stars in Game 7

Maroon's OT goal lifts Blues past Stars in Game 7 Pat Maroon scored 5:50 into the second overtime, Jordan Binnington made 29 saves and the St. Louis Blues outlasted the Dallas Stars 2-1 in Game 7 of their Western Conference semifinal playoff series. Maroon slammed the puck in after Robert Thomas skated in on Ben Bishop from the right wing. It was the second game-winning goal of the series for the 31-year-old St. Louis native. BOX SCORE: BLUES 2, STARS 1 (2OT)Vince Dunn also scored for St. Louis, which will face the winner of the San Jose-Colorado series in the conference final. Ben Bishop made 52 saves and Mats Zuccarello scored for Dallas, which dropped to 5-8 in Game 7s in franchise history.

One tweak for Blues’ putrid playoff power play © Getty Images

Teams might look at power-play goals as a luxury, at least during the playoffs.

The Boston Bruins, aka owners of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs’ only active unit that’s actually regularly productive, can attest. Despite investing in Tomas Kaberle during the 2011 trade deadline, yet the Bruins’ power play struggled to the point that people wondered if Kaberle should be benched … but the Bruins won 2010-11 Stanley Cup nonetheless.

Blues hitting sour notes on power play

Still, every goal counts with things as tight as they are in this postseason, so the St. Louis Blues have to be concerned about their chances of winning a 1-1 series against the San Jose Sharks with a power play that’s ice cold heading into Game 3 on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN; stream here).

Blues fan stands to win $100K on $400 wager with Stanley Cup win

Blues fan stands to win $100K on $400 wager with Stanley Cup win A St. Louis Blues fan who made a wager on the team winning the Stanley Cup when things were looking bleak earlier this season is in line for a huge payout should things come out in favor for both himself and his favorite NHL squad. Blues backer Scott Berry was in Las Vegas back in January for a business trip. With the team out of playoff contention at the time, Berry took a risk before leaving Sin City by wagering $400 on the Blues raising Lord Stanley’s Cup at season’s end at 250-1 odds, which would pay him out $100,000. He also placed a bet on the Cardinals winning the World Series. “I bet with the heart on this one,” Berry told ESPN.

You can dice up their numbers in a lot of ways, and most of them are disturbing. The Blues won Game 2 by a score of 4-2 on Monday despite a power play that went 0-for-5, and also allowed a Logan Couture shorthanded goal. After being productive against the Jets in Round 1, St. Louis has gone just 2-for-28 since their tight series against the Stars, and haven’t scored in their last 18 opportunities. The Athletic’s Jeremy Rutherford notes (sub required) that the Blues have only managed a 7-5 shots on goal advantage against the Sharks so far on the PP.

Sometimes it’s best to zoom out a little bit and look at the sheer totals, and that’s not pretty either. Overall during the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Blues have scored seven power-play goals, while allowing three shorthanded tallies. Not ideal to only manage a +4 differential on the PP two games into Round 3.

Tarasenko getting hot at right time for Blues

Tarasenko getting hot at right time for Blues The St. Louis Blues needed Vladimir Tarasenko to be one of the keys in their series against the San Jose Sharks and he has been outstanding.

The question, then, is: what should the Blues do?

Overall, it’s best not to panic, so head coach Craig Berube’s “just chill out” comments aren’t totally off base.

“Yes, the power play overall — it can be frustrating,” Berube said, via Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “But the key is, I do not believe that it frustrated our team. And it can’t. You can’t let it happen. They have a great penalty kill over there. They’ve had a real good penalty kill for years.”

Brayden Schenn and others also weighed in on the subject.

Rutherford and Justin Bourne provided a detailed breakdown of some of the Blues’ struggles in that article for The Athletic, and it’s worth a look — for those interested, and even the Blues as a whole.

Spezza, Lindell score as Stars edge for 3-2 series lead

Spezza, Lindell score as Stars edge for 3-2 series lead Jason Spezza scored and Ben Bishop made 38 saves as the Dallas Stars beat the St. Louis Blues 2-1 to take a 3-2 lead in their Western Conference semifinal series. Esa Lindell also scored for the Stars. Game 6 is at Dallas on Sunday.

Move that Tank

But, when I see a struggling power play, I try to take a K.I.S.S. approach of simplicity, and look at who’s shooting, and from where.

Nothing seemed too outrageous when breaking down the Blues’ advanced special teams stats at Natural Stat Trick, and the Blues are smart enough to realize that Vladimir Tarasenko should be firing the puck the most, as he leads the team with 22 PP SOG, blowing away Ryan O'Reilly, who’s in second place with just seven. This isn’t a situation where a team is leaning too much on shots from defensemen (see: Nashville) or making a personnel decision that baffles me every time (Carolina using Justin Faulk on its top unit instead of Dougie Hamilton).

There is one adjustment I’d strongly consider making: get Tarasenko closer to the net, rather than having him running things from the point.

Now, it wouldn’t be surprising if Tarasenko prefers playing the role of power play QB. His passing ability won’t get the same shine as his lethal shooting, but he has strong instincts in that regard. There are less outrageous ideas than “get the puck on Tank’s stick more often.”

Karlsson, Sharks beat Blues 5-4 after controversial no-call

Karlsson, Sharks beat Blues 5-4 after controversial no-call Erik Karlsson scored 5:23 into overtime after the officials missed a hand pass by Timo Meier, and the San Jose Sharks rallied to beat the St. Louis Blues 5-4 to take a 2-1 lead in the Western Conference final. Meier used his right hand to knock a loose puck toward the front of the net. Gustav Nyquist then passed it over to Karlsson, who beat Jordan Binnington for his second goal of the game. BOX SCORE: SHARKS 5, BLUES 4 (OT) Binnington and the Blues complained immediately about Meier's pass. The officials huddled while Karlsson and the Sharks celebrated, but the play wasn't reviewable and the goal stood. Game 4 of the best-of-seven series is Friday night in St. Louis.

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Still, when a power play is struggling, I wonder if the high-danger shooters aren’t getting enough high-danger chances, and I’d wager that Tarasenko would be more of a threat if he was closer to the net, more often. My instinct would be to have him hovering around the right faceoff dot, essentially giving him the photo-negative of Alex Ovechkin shooting from his “office” at the left circle, but honestly, those details are negotiable. The point is that, in my opinion, Tarasenko’s skills would be best used in a spot where it’s that much harder for his shots to be blocked.

The Blues have some nice options on the point, even without Tarasenko. Whether it’s Alex Pietrangelo‘s strong hockey IQ or Colton Parayko‘s rifle of a shot, it’s not as though St. Louis would be totally lost if they weren’t as prone to putting Tarasenko on the point.

This isn’t to say that the Blues don’t let Tarasenko approach the net in these situations, but my advice is simply to get him there more often. Like, preferably all the time.

It might mean that Tarasenko gets fewer actual shots on net, but a lot of times on the power play, it’s about quality over quantity. At this point, it’s tougher for the Blues to argue that the current setup is working, as they haven’t been getting the right quantity of goals on the power play.

NHL playoffs 2019: Jordan Binnington sets Blues record for wins in a single postseason

NHL playoffs 2019: Jordan Binnington sets Blues record for wins in a single postseason The rookie goaltender continued his stellar campaign with a 10th playoff victory.

***

So, again, there’s value in at least debating smaller tweaks. I could see an argument for an elevation of Robert Thomas, who’s coming into his own as a young forward (Berube didn’t seem to like that). Heck, you could make a case for the other Rob: Robby Fabbri, who for all of his struggles – injuries and overall – is the sort of creative player who might be able to make plays on what sometimes feels like a static power play.

(Granted, Fabbri makes more sense to me as a second PP unit specialist, if he can get back into the lineup.)

But, really, the Blues are probably closer than it might seem to being successful. All they really might need to do is bring Tarasenko closer to the net.

Game 3 of Blues – Sharks takes place on Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET (NBCSN; stream here).

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Binnington sparkles again, Blues top Sharks to tie series.
The St. Louis Blues edged the San Jose Sharks 2-1 on Friday night to even the Western Conference final at two games apiece. Tyler Bozak and Ivan Barbashev scored in the first period for the Blues, giving Binnington all the scoring he needed. BOX SCORE: BLUES 2, SHARKS 1 Tomas Hertl scored for the Sharks, and Martin Jones made 20 saves. Game 5 is in San Jose on Sunday. Barbashev gave the Blues a quick lead when his shot deflected off of Gustav Nyquist's stick and into the net just 35 seconds in.

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