Ryan O’Reilly died at the table in front of him, moments after the Vancouver Canucks’ six-game call from his St. Louis Blues completed.
After the last game of last season, he and his teammates ran the Stanley Cup in victory. But O’Reilly did not recognize the team around him Friday night in terms of their commitment and execution.
“We didn’t play like we normally did,” O’Reilly said after the Blues were eliminated after a 6-2 loss in Game 6 of the Western Conference quarterfinals in Edmonton, Alberta. “There were times when we were difficult to play against, but we were not consistent with it. Sometimes we looked like a junior team, that the puck turned around and did not play in the right way.”
Last postseason, the Blues rolled to the franchise’s first championship with a total team effort, receiving purchases from every player in their lineup. While the team missed some injured players this series – most notably star player Vladimir Tarasenko, who left the NHL bubble to examine his surgically repaired shoulder after two ineffective games against Vancouver – it was a lack of effort from the entire roster that left St. Louis to the series.
“It didn’t seem like our energy was coming from anyone,” said winger David Perron.
Blues coach Craig Berube agreed.
“There were a few games where the energy was not there. We needed more from more guys,” he said. “David Perron’s right: It’s not good enough. You can not win in this league unless you have every man ready to go into the playoffs. You have to have that. Our team was successful last year, to ‘ “We had everyone on board, every night.”
The Blues were also successful last season thanks to Jordan Binnington, the rookie goaltender who backstopped them to the cup with strong play and unshakable confidence. After a good 2019-20 season he was mediocre in the postseason, he lost his first four games and then lost the cripple for backup Jake Allen after two straight losses to open the Vancouver series. Allen won games 3 and 4 but lost Game 5.
Berube had to make a choice for Game 6. He went with the goalkeeper he won with last season. It did not work.
Binnington was drawn 8 minutes, 6 seconds into the second period, after scoring four goals on 18 shots. Last season, Binnington went 16-10 with a .914 saving percentage, including a Game 7 win on the road in the Stanley Cup final for the championship. In this postseason, he was 0-5 with a .851 saving percentage.
“Jake played three games in a row, obviously losing the third,” Berube said. “Binner has been a goalkeeper for us for a long time. He had some practice, working on his game. It’s a gut feeling. He did a lot for us. Won a championship with him. But Binner is a lot like our whole team. “We did not play at the level we needed to play. That’s just the end line.”
O’Reilly blamed the team for Binnington.
“It’s disappointing, the way we played for him,” he said. “One of the reasons we’re here is because of him, and we did a terrible job and helped him out. We need to defend better. We need to jump for him. It’s up to us. It was not good enough. It is embarrassed. “
The Canucks built a 2-0 lead on goals generated by their fourth line. Jay Beagle hit Binnington clean for his first of the postseason, following a strong Canucks prospect, at 3:45 of the first period. Antoine Roussel made it 2-0 at 2:09 of the second period, and converted a Vince Dunn conversion into a goal. It was 3-0 on goal from Troy Stecher at 6:49 of the second period, as Vancouver did what it did best: cashing in on a four-pass order started by star Elias Pettersson, which shocked the Blues was. A striking penalty on Oskar Sundqvist led to a Brock Boeser power-play goal at 8:06 of the second period to make it 4-0 to chase Binnington.
In the third period, Jaden Schwartz and Tyler Motte scored twice for the 6-2 final.
“They came into the series and expected to win,” said Vancouver coach Travis Green of his team. “They played and believed as if they could win, [and were] wis. It’s important to the city. There is so much excitement every year. I hope they perform safely. I’m happy for the people of Vancouver. “
The Blues are entering an offseason with a huge question: the fate of captain Alex Pietrangelo, who is an unlimited free agent in a team with just over $ 2 million in salary cap open for next season.
“It’s not a fun situation to be in,” the veteran defender said. “Especially if you’ve been in one place all your career. I think my only thought is to come home, see my kids and see where the future takes us.”
When it’s Pietrangelo’s last game with the Blues, he witnessed an uncharacteristic effort, not only in their definitive loss to Vancouver, but through their entire time in the Edmonton bubble. As Berube said, nothing came easy for them, and they made it too easy for their opponents.
“I take nothing away from Vancouver. They are a good young hockey team,” he said. “But we just made too many mistakes. We set their goals.”