Blues didnt overcome Binningtons struggles in first-round vs. Canucks

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The St. Louis Blues were eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs by the Vancouver Canucks, losing 6-2 in Game 6 of the Western Conference First Round on Friday at Rogers Place in Edmonton, the West hub city.

The Blues, who won the Stanley Cup last season, were the No. 4 seed in the West after going 0-2-1 in the round-robin portion of the Stanley Cup Qualifiers. They were the top seed going into the postseason with a .662 points percentage (42-19-10) during the regular season.

St. Louis lost the first two games of the series, rebounded to win Games 3 and 4, but gave away a 3-1 lead in Game 5 and lost 4-3. They trailed 4-0 less than halfway through Game 6.

Here is a look at what happened during the 2020 postseason for the Blues and why things could be even better next season: 

 

The Skinny

Potential unrestricted free agents: Alex Pietrangelo, D; Jay Bouwmeester, D; Troy Brouwer, F

Potential restricted free agents: Jacob de la Rose, F; Vince Dunn, D; Austin Poganski, F; Jake Walman, D; Derrick Pouliot, D

Potential 2020 NHL Draft picks: 5

 

What went wrong 

Binnington faltered: Jordan Binnington wasn’t close to the goalie he was for the Blues in the playoffs last season, when he was 16-10 with a 2.46 goals-against average and .914 save percentage. He was 0-3 and allowed 13 goals on 65 shots (.800 save percentage) in three starts in the series. The Canucks were 6-for-10 on the power play when he was in net. He allowed nine goals on 47 shots in Games 1 and 2. Jake Allen replaced Binnington for the next three games, winning Game 3 and 4 before losing Game 5. Binnington started Game 6 but gave up four goals on 18 shots and was pulled 8:06 into the second period.

Turnovers: The Blues were not careful enough with the puck. Turnovers led to goals against, specifically in Game 6. The Blues’ problems arose when they tried to skate the puck out of the defensive zone and through the neutral zone instead of passing it up the ice, getting it deep and going on the forecheck, which is the bread and butter of their game. Their zone exits were not clean and they struggled at times, especially in the last five periods of the series, to stay connected up and down the ice.

Injuries: The Blues played Game 6 without forwards Vladimir Tarasenko, Alexander Steen and Tyler Bozak, and defenseman Carl Gunnarsson. They also played without Brouwer, a veteran forward and former Stanley Cup champion with the Chicago Blackhawks. All five played in Game 2, but gradually were forced out of the lineup as the series progressed. The biggest loss was Tarasenko, who returned to St. Louis after Game 4 to get his surgically-repaired left shoulder evaluated. He played only Games 1 and 2 and didn’t score.

 

Reasons for optimism 

Championship core: It’s not clear what will happen during the offseason with Pietrangelo, the Blues captain who can become an unrestricted free agent. But St. Louis has forwards Tarasenko, Ryan O’Reilly, Brayden Schenn, David Perron, Oskar Sundqvist and Sammy Blais, defensemen Colton Parayko, Justin Faulk and Marco Scandella, plus Binnington each signed for at least two more seasons. 

Center depth: The Blues should remain strong down the middle with O’Reilly, Schenn, Bozak, Sundqvist and Robert Thomas expected to return next season. Bozak, Sundqvist and Thomas are also versatile enough to play on the wing.

Goaltending is set: Binnington struggled in the postseason, but proved during the regular season that he was not a one-hit wonder. He went 30-13-7 with a 2.56 GAA, .912 save percentage and three shutouts in 50 starts. The Blues are set in goal with Binnington and Allen, who are signed through next season before they can become unrestricted free agents after 2020-21. 

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