Strong Power Play Carries Blues to a Game 3 Victory
The St. Louis Blues tallied three power play goals to give the club a 4-3 victory in Game 3. Converting three out of four possible chances with the man advantage, the Blues now hold a 2-1 edge in the series and have made a huge statement by defusing the animosity San Jose had following the fireworks after Game 2.
Coming into this series we knew one of San Jose’s biggest weaknesses was their penalty kill. During the course of the regular season, their PK unit was ranked 29th in the NHL, killing off only 76.9% of the power plays they faced.
Previously the Blues had already found success on the power play, scoring one goal with the man advantage in Game 1 and another in Game 2. The gates opened up wide in Game 3 as the Blues converted three of the four power plays they were awarded, carrying the Blues to victory in their first road playoff game of the year.
If you’re looking for big performers from Game 3, the Blues had plenty of them.
Brian Elliott got the start with Jaroslav Halak out injured and was solid, turning away 26 of the 29 shots he faced. The line here could have been better had Elliott’s defenseman kept the gas pedal pushed down in the final five minutes of the third.
Offensively, big nights were had by Andy McDonald (1 goal, 2 assists), Carlo Colaiacovo (3 assists), Jason Arnott (1 goal, 1 assist), Patrik Berglund (1 goal, 1 assist) and Alex Steen (1 goal, 1 assist).
Berglund continued his impressive play with his third goal of the playoffs, giving the forward four points in his first three games. This comes on the heels of what was a mostly quiet 2011-12 regular season for Berglund that saw him score 19 goals and 19 assists. At times, Berglund drifted casually on his shifts, frustrating fans that have seen him display some truly impressive offensive talent when he is “switched on”.
Individual performances aside, the Blues played a great team game in tonight’s victory. We already touched on the masterful work of the power play but the team’s PK also had a pretty successful night, killing three of the four they faced. While the PK unit did concede, they killed off three timely penalties when the game was still within reach for San Jose.
However, though the Blues got a big victory on the road tonight, it’s important to note that no one is going to be too happy with how the club played in the final five minutes of the third period. The Blues had the game safely locked down but allowed San Jose to claw back from a 4-1 hole to a 4-3 deficit in the manner of just a few minutes, making Blues fans all hold their collective breath as the Sharks barraged the St. Louis net as the final horn sounded. This theme of being unable to completely bury opponents and hold them down late in the game was a theme we saw all season long. Thankfully it didn’t cost them tonight.
Now – back to the positives.
The Blues did a great job of checking as a team. We all expected some physical play after the heated ending to Game 2, but the Blues did a good job of finishing their checks, taking away the neutral zone and holding their space on the ice all without crossing the line into the ugly territory we saw from both teams last game. The Blues won a lot of the 50-50 battles and did a great job of eliminating space for the San Jose attack – that is, until the final five minutes.
Looking ahead, San Jose will have all of the pressure in Game 4. The Blues successfully recaptured home ice advantage through their win in Game 3 and have now strung together two wins after a demoralizing Game 1, double OT loss – a fact that speaks loudly about how strong this squad’s character is. It’s tough to imagine what state Jaroslav Halak will be in come Thursday night but it would be tough to imagine a scenario where Brian Elliott won’t get the start after playing well the past two games.