Fair or not, more than a few people will linger on this fact: the St. Louis Blues have put together strong regular seasons followed by first-round exits for two straight seasons.
The Chicago Blackhawks beat the Blues 5-1 in Game 6 to win the series 4-2 after the Blues took a 2-0 series lead. This contest was the only one that broke from a narrative that bore a downright eerie resemblance to the way St. Louis lost to the Los Angeles Kings in 2013:
Many will bury Ryan Miller for this loss and maybe even this failure overall, and the optics certainly aren’t flattering. The Blues absolutely dominated the second period in particular, yet the third period began tied 1-1 … and then everything fell apart in a big way.
Q: "We were definitely lucky to be 1-1 going into the 3rd period." #Blackhawks#NHL
Miller allowed four goals in that final frame, with Jonathan Toews notching another game-winning goal 44 seconds into the third. Patrick Sharp made it 3-1 a little more than two minutes into the third period and then things devolved from there.
Toews' 9th career playoff GWG puts him in nine-way tie for 51st all time. He's 25.
The “What if?” questions pile up for the Blues, including the hypothetical situation in which this might have been called a goal:
Special teams may also be a sore spot for St. Louis. The Blues power play went 0-for-6 on Sunday while Chicago went 1-for-2 (and that power-play goal was Toews’ game-winner).
In a way, this highlights the often brutally small line between success and failure in sports. Despite being close to taking the defending champions down – and much closer in this game than the score indicated – the Blues can only look at this season as a failure unless they’re extreme optimists.
I understand injuries. I know stuff happens. They drew the defending champ. But team was all in. Season is a failure.
As far as the “What’s next?” question, we’ll have to wait and see with the Blues. For the Blackhawks, it’s all about awaiting their second-round opponent as the Colorado Avalanche and Minnesota Wild duke it out.
The Toronto Maple Leafs play the Buffalo Sabres on Friday. But No. 1 overall pick Auston Matthews won’t be in the lineup, according to multiple reports.
“Sooner or later, he’s going to get in, but not tonight,” said assistant coach Jim Hiller, as per the Toronto Sun.
“The lineups are day by day. They (World Cup players such as Matthews, Milan Michalek, Leo Komarov and James van Riemsdyk) went through a solid three weeks. It’s a little break, a little down time. There are tons of games coming. They’ll get a lot of ice time. They’ll get in shortly.”
(The report also notes that Matthews is not dealing with a health issue, which is obviously good news for the Leafs.)
Matthews played for Team North America at the World Cup held in Toronto. He had two goals and three points in three round robin games, but the young North American team was unable to advance to the semifinal round.
The Maple Leafs play the Montreal Canadiens at home on Sunday.
McLellan: Maroon’s lower-body injury not considered serious
It appears Patrick Maroon‘s injury from Wednesday’s preseason game against the Vancouver Canucks looked worse than it is.
The Edmonton Oilers forward was in obvious pain immediately after he went hard into the boards from an awkward hit delivered by James Sheppard just past the midway point of the third period. Maroon needed help to the bench and was unable to put much, if any, pressure on his left leg.
Anticipation has been building since the Winnipeg Jets officially took Patrik Laine with the second overall pick in this year’s NHL Draft.
On Friday, Laine, the highly coveted Finnish forward, will make his preseason debut for the Jets when they play the Edmonton Oilers in Winnipeg, as the home fans get the chance to take in the occasion.
The Jets have done a nice job of amassing good young forwards in their organization. Laine, who has the gifts to be a prolific scorer in the NHL, is at the top of that prospect list.
Laine enters this season with high expectations placed on him from fans and media, after coming to the NHL following a standout career in Finland as a teenager. He’s aware of the expectations, but toned down the hype with the usual statements of just playing his game.
“Just be brave on the ice and show everybody I will earn my spot on the team,” he told reporters.
Laine has already seen game action this month. Not with the Jets, but with Finland’s entry at the World Cup of Hockey.
Following offseason knee surgery, Laine wasn’t happy with his performance in Finland’s first pre-tournament game. In three tournament games, Laine failed to register a point, despite a team-best 10 shots on goal, as Finland was quickly eliminated in the round robin.