Keys to Success for the Blues in Game 3
Tonight is the most important game of the year for the St. Louis Blues and potentially their biggest game in roughly a decade. Trailing 0-2 in their second round series against the Los Angeles Kings the Blues haven't been able to put all the pieces together to top the tenacious Kings. What must the team do in Game 3 to avoid a huge 0-3 hole?
Some of these points might seem rather obvious but so far the Blues haven't been able to accomplish even the simplest of tasks in the first two games of the series. With that, the keys to victory for the Blues in Game 3.
Come Out Flying
This is one of those obvious points. The Blues walked through the first period of Game 2. Walk might be a generous term as the Blues gave up four goals, one of which was given up on the power play, so perhaps the term "crawl", "drift" or any other term for laziness would apply.
In Game 3 the Blues must come out with a strong, powerful effort. If you watched the Nashville/Phoenix game last night you'll know what the Blues need to do. Similarly, Nashville trailed 0-2 in their series but came out fast and determined in Game 3 to claim an important win in front of their home crowd.
The task for the Blues is even more challenging as they will be forced to come up with an enormous effort early in front of a loud Los Angeles crowd.
Power Play Must Improve
The St. Louis power play has been dreadful. Dreadful is a kind and polite way to describe what has been a frustrating experience for Blues fans. Aside from failing to convert on the power play the Blues have made matters even harder for themselves by allowing Los Angeles to tally two short-handed goals in two games.
In Game 2 the Blues were 0-for-9 on the power play which included a five-on-three opportunity that went squandered. Fans were spoiled when the St. Louis power play tore through San Jose's penalty kill and have since been demoralized as the power play unit struggles to find any space against a formidable LA penalty kill.
The Blues need to improve their approach on the power play. They can start by simplifying their approach. This means getting pucks to the net and finding a way to avoid the high-pressure that the LA penalty kill places on St. Louis defenseman. This also means the Blues need to place a body in front of Jonathan Quick in the hopes of causing a deflection or at the very least screen his vision.
Help Brian Elliott
Brian Elliott has been hung out to dry in the first two games of this series. Several times there has been an LA forward parked right in front of the St. Louis net with no defenseman in sight. This open space has allowed the Kings to score nearly uncontested.
Overall, the St. Louis defense has been sloppy. Poor passing, mental errors and costly giveaways have all but stranded Elliott in net. The Blues will not be able to compete in this series unless they are able to sharper their mental awareness and polish up the mistake they are making.
Build Off 2nd/3rd Period from Game 2
The first period from Game 2 is a perfect example on what can go wrong in a playoff game. The following two periods saw the Blues play a much more physical game and one where they tightened and limited Los Angeles to just a handful of shots.
The Blues need to build off of these successes and keep playing the fast, physical game we saw after Game 2 was out of reach.
Avoid Costly Penalties
There's playing physical hockey and then there's playing physical hockey that results in stupid penalties. The Blues can not afford to give the LA power play more chances than they deserve. This means no needless high sticks, no delay of game penalties and no foolish, retaliatory hits after the whistle.
The Blues need to have a big physical presence in Game 3 but need to do so sensibly.