Blues Win Game 5, Eliminate
It wasn't always pretty but the St. Louis Blues defeated the San Jose Sharks 3-1 in Game 5, eliminating San Jose from the Stanley Cup playoffs. For the Blues, their 4-1 series win marks their first playoff series win in 10 years. It feels pretty great to be on the winning side of the handshake.
For two and a half periods it appeared as if the Blues might have to win their fourth game back in San Jose. However, just as quickly as that thought entered most fans' minds, a shot from Scott Nichol midway through the third period was mishandled by San Jose goaltender Antti Niemi, allowing Jamie Langenbrunner to sweep in and chip the rebound just inside the far post. This not only brought the game level but also caused the Blues, and their fans, to find a higher gear.
As the crowd roared the Blues were instantly quicker and more aggressive, inspired by Langenbrunner's timely goal. Just 45 seconds later, Alex Pietrangelo released a shot from the point that was headed wide until David Perron deflected it into the back of the net. In just under a minute's time the Blues went from a team that was about to drop an important game at home to a team that wanted to start preparing for the second round.
San Jose tried to find a second goal but Brian Elliott and the St. Louis defense wouldn't break. Andy McDonald summed up his performance this series by using a burst of speed and determination to win a puck along the boards before burying an empty net goal to officially eliminate the Sharks.
The final horn sounded and just like that the Blues were able to snap a lengthy playoff drought. The Blues also sent a clear message to the rest of the NHL with their decisive 4-1 series win.
Who was the MVP of the first round for the Blues - Brian Elliott, Andy McDonald, Patrick Berglund or someone else? You can vote on the right side of the site.
Elliott was spectacular in net yet again in Game 5, keeping the Blues within reach of clinching the series with each save he made. San Jose hounded the St. Louis goal and peppered it with 27 shots. Elliott stopped 26. What the statistics won't tell you is that numerous shots had a very high degree of difficulty but just like during the regular season Elliott made things look easy.
McDonald ended the series with an empty net goal giving him four goals and four assists in five playoff games. When the Blues needed a spark offensively it was typically McDonald that was able to provide it.
Berglund contributed an assist in Game 5 and ended round one with three goals and four assists in five games. Berglund has been a force in the playoffs and has used his size and strength to be a menace in front of the crease. He won't get any recognition for it in the boxscore but his ability to screen and block Antti Niemi's vision allowed the Blues to light the lamp on several occasions.
What Lies Ahead?
Round one is officially in the books which means we can safely look ahead to the second round without jinxing things.
As of right now it appears the Blues will have a date with the Los Angeles Kings as soon as the Kings send the Vancouver Canucks home from their first round matchup. This means the Blues will have the unfortunate task of having to deal with Jonathan Quick if they hope to reach the third round.
We'll have a scouting report on the Kings if they ultimately end up being the next opponent in the coming days.
Jaroslav Halak is set to resume skating, signaling that he should be back to full health when the Blues start the second round. It remains to be seen how the Blues will use Halak once he is ready to return as Brian Elliott has essentially stolen the show with big performances in each appearance.