David Perron and Ryan O’Reilly didn’t hold back their thoughts on why the St. Louis Blues were eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs on Friday.
“It didn’t seem like our energy was coming from everyone,” Perron said.
O’Reilly said, “At times we looked like a junior team out there the way we were turning the puck over, not playing the right way, and it came back to bite us.”
The St. Louis forwards aren’t wrong.
The Blues entered the playoffs as the defending Stanley Cup champions. They’re leaving knowing they never came even remotely close to looking like the team that captivated their city and the hockey world last season.
[RELATED: Complete Canucks vs. Blues series coverage]
St. Louis was eliminated by the Vancouver Canucks in the Western Conference First Round, losing Game 6 6-2 at Rogers Place in Edmonton.
“I don’t have the answer for why the energy wasn’t there; if I did, I’d tell you, but I don’t,” Blues coach Craig Berube said. “But David Perron is right, it’s not good enough. You can’t win in this league unless you have every guy ready to go and give you his best. In the playoffs, you have to have that. Our team was successful last year because we had everybody on board every night.”
The worst part for the Blues is they never had No. 1 goalie Jordan Binnington playing up to the level expected of him.
Binnington was back as the starter for Game 6 after Jake Allen took his job for Games 3-5. Berube called it “a gut feeling” to go back to Binnington after Allen allowed four goals on 30 shots in a 4-3 loss in Game 5 on Wednesday.
It did not pay off. Binnington gave up four goals on 18 shots and didn’t even last half the game. He was pulled at 8:06 of the second period after giving up a power-play goal on a clear-sited one-timer by Canucks forward Brock Boeser.
Binnington finished the series with an .800 save percentage (13 goals on 65 shots) in three starts. He was 0-5-0 with an .851 save percentage in five starts in Edmonton, the West hub city, including two in the round-robin portion of the Stanley Cup Qualifiers.
“I think [Binnington] is like a lot of our whole team,” Berube said. “At times we didn’t play at the level we needed to play. That’s just the bottom line.”
O’Reilly blamed the Blues’ play in front of Binnington for the goalie’s struggles.
“We did a terrible job helping him out,” O’Reilly said. “We have to defend better, we have to have jump in front of him. It’s on us. It’s on the guys in front of him. It wasn’t good enough for him. It’s embarrassing by us.”
The Canucks took a 2-0 lead in Game 6 by scoring off turnovers.
The Blues then were caught puck-watching and scrambling on the third goal, a tic-tac-toe passing sequence that ended with defenseman Troy Stecher scoring one a one-timer at 6:49 of the second period.
Then frustration set in with forward Oskar Sundqvist slashing Vancouver forward Antoine Roussel behind the play at 7:05. Boeser scored 61 seconds later to make it 4-0.
“In the end, I’m not taking anything away from Vancouver, they’re a good hockey team, young team, but we made just too many mistakes,” Berube said. “We gave them goals. You can’t do that in the playoffs. You won’t win.”
The mistakes weren’t limited to Game 6.
The Canucks won Games 1 and 2 because the Blues took too many penalties and struggled to kill them. Vancouver was 5-for-9 on the power play through two games.
The Blues responded in Games 3 and 4 and for the first 25 minutes of Game 5, dominating puck possession, limiting the Canucks in the neutral zone, slowing their speed game, forechecking like crazy, and forcing turnovers.
But the Canucks came back with three goals in a span of 6:23 in the second period of Game 5 to take a 4-3 lead they never gave up. They scored the first four goals in Game 6, including three in a span of 5:57 in the second period, and could salt the game away from there.
The Blues couldn’t break the puck out of their zone cleanly. They couldn’t get on the forecheck aggressively. They tried to skate the puck through the neutral zone and got burned. They didn’t get to the front of the net. They didn’t make it hard on the Canucks.
Basically, everything they did well winning the Stanley Cup last season went against them in the last four and a half periods of this season.
“When we played our game and invested we had success,” Perron said. “We had trouble at times getting to that and following it up one line after another. I don’t know, man. It’s just very hard right now to wrap our heads around that it’s going to be over here.”