Blues on the brink of elimination after running into Devan Dubnyk, resilient Wild in Game 5

Adam Proteau
Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk stops Alexander Steen of the Blues in Game Five of their first-round series Friday. (Scott Rovak/NHLI via Getty Images)

The St. Louis Blues played a statement game of sorts Wednesday in Game 4 of their first-round series against Minnesota, stomping the Wild 6-1 to pull even at two games apiece. But that dynamic performance was only going to resonate in the minds of their fans if they followed it up with a series victory. And after the Wild answered back in Friday’s Game 5 with a 4-1 win to put the Blues on the brink of elimination, the likelihood of people remembering that Game 4 win is not strong.

For the third time this series, the Blues had no real answer for Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk, who stopped 36 of 37 St. Louis shots after he registered a rare sub-par performance Wednesday. Young star Vladimir Tarasenko beat Dubnyk for the game’s first goal eight minutes into the first period, but after that, there was nothing from any Blues player. They had some tantalizing chances – including Alex Steen’s second-period opportunity directly in front of Dubnyk – and came strongly out of the gate, but goalie Jake Allen surrendered a softie three minutes after Tarasenko scored and all their momentum evaporated, never to return. And although their strong possession meant Allen only faced 19 shots on the night, he allowed four goals for a gruesome .789 save percentage.

This consistent inconsistency is going to be the end of the Blues, and probably, of head coach Ken Hitchcock’s tenure in St. Louis. Read more

Wild’s Devan Dubnyk battles on his stomach to stop Blues’ Alex Steen at point-blank range

Blues winger Alexander Steen prepares to shoot against Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk in Game Five of their first-round series Friday. (Scott Rovak/NHLI via Getty Images)

Minnesota goalie Devan Dubnyk is a big-bodied presence between the pipes, and in Game 5 of the Wild’s first-round series against St. Louis Friday, he used his athleticism and frame to keep Blues winger Alex Steen from scoring at point-blank range.

The teams were tied at a goal apiece nearing the 12-minute mark of the second period when Steen got a slick pass from captain David Backes that left him alone with the puck directly in front of Dubnyk, who was already sprawled-out on the ice and on his stomach. Steen couldn’t beat him, though, as Dubnyk got a pad on the puck to keep the score 1-1: Read more

Desperate St. Louis Blues stomp Minnesota Wild 6-1 to pull even in their increasingly unpredictable series

Adam Proteau
St. Louis Blues players celebrate their 6-1 Game 4 win over Minnesota Wednesday. (Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

After the St. Louis Blues fell meekly to the Central Division rival Wild in Game 3 of their first-round playoff series, the sense of doom looming around the franchise was unmistakeable. Without a strong effort in Game 4 Wednesday in Minnesota, the Blues would be down three games to one in the series. And if it got to that stage, it would be a matter of days until they were eliminated and significant change within the organization commenced.

Well, they may still get to that stage. But the Blues did in fact respond in Game 4 by more or less wiping the mat with the Wild, whose defensive presence vanished in a 6-1 rout by the visiting team. St. Louis received excellent performances from a slew of players who had yet to make their mark on the series, including star winger Vladimir Tarasenko (who had two goals), Kevin Shattenkirk (three points), captain David Backes (one goal and two points) and Patrik Berglund (one goal and two points). Six Blues players had their first point of the series in Game 4, and the road win halted a nine-game playoff losing streak that dated back three years. This wasn’t quite an exorcism, but it sure felt like a second chance. Read more

Blues’ Vladimir Tarasenko tears it up against Wild in Game 4 with two goals – including an astonishing breakaway marker

Vladimir Tarasenko (Bruce Kluckhohn/NHLI via Getty Images)

The St. Louis Blues have been searching for a post-season game-breaker on offense for many years now, and although they’ve had some scoring issues in the first three games of their series against Minnesota, star winger Vladmir Tarasenko stepped up in a meaningful way Wednesday in Game 4 with a two-goal performance against the Wild that included a dazzling breakaway goal.

Tarasenko’s first of the night (and fourth of the post-season) in Minnesota came 6:59 into the first period, when he tipped in a shot from blueliner Kevin Shattenkirk to give St. Louis a 2-0 advantage:

But Tarasenko’s second of the game was a true thing of beauty. After teammate Jori Lehtera found him with a brilliant pass from the Blues zone to the Wild’s blueline, Tarasenko broke free from Wild defenders Matt Dumba and Jordan Leopold, then undresses goalie Devan Dubnyk with a famous deke he’s used before: Read more

Blues come up flat again in Game 3 loss to Wild – and big changes in St. Louis draw nearer

Adam Proteau
Minnesota's Nino Niederreiter scores an empty-net goal as Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo slides across the ice. (Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

For the second time in the first three games of their first-round series against Minnesota, the St. Louis Blues came out with a flat effort and were defeated by the Wild Monday. And at this stage in this team’s development, every lost period, every missed chance and every non-victorious game brings the franchise closer to significant changes in this off-season.

The Blues were held to just 17 shots in Game 3 en route to posting the first goalless game of these 2015 NHL playoffs and lost on the road in the post-season for the ninth consecutive game. Even worse, they played poorly enough to have starting goalie Jake Allen, who made 21 saves in the loss, make this stark statement after the game: Read more

Blues agitator Steve Ott all over Wild players – on the ice and on their own bench – in Game 3

Adam Proteau
Steve Ott (Bruce Kluckhohn/NHLI via Getty Images)

Blues veteran agitator Steve Ott was in rare form Monday during Game 3 of St. Louis’ first-round series against the Minnesota Wild – first, going after rookie defenseman Matt Dumba – who was on the bench and laughing at him – then engaging in some less-than legal activity late in the game against Marco Scandella and Jared Spurgeon.

Ott got into it with Dumba after missing a check on Minnesota’s Jonas Brodin; it appears Dumba wasn’t entirely innocent either (as he came over into his personal space, Dumba appeared to grab Ott), but the Blues winger didn’t take kindly to it, faking a punch at him as Dumba burst into a wide grin: Read more

Tarasenko’s hat trick another sign he’s a very special St. Louis Blue

Josh Elliott
Vladimir Tarasenko

Vladimir Tarasenko has an air of destiny about him.

The 23-year-old Russian scored the first playoff hat trick by a St. Louis Blue in 11 years as he powered his squad to a hard-fought 4-1 win over Minnesota in Game 2 on Saturday.

Tarasenko was the most dynamite player on the ice, scoring twice in the first period to spot his team to a 2-0 lead, then challenging the Wild on several more occasions before scoring into an empty net at the end of the game.

His first goal came in large part thanks to Alexander Steen, who muscled the puck out from behind the Wild net and played give-and-take with his defenders before firing it at the net from the blueline. Tarasenko bulled his way to the front just in time to tip Steen’s shot home and make it 1-0.
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