SAN JOSE — St. Louis Blues rookie goaltender Jordan Binnington has been credited with helping to save their season, having earned a Calder Trophy nomination in leading the team from last in the conference to Game 1 of the Western Conference finals.
But he can’t save everything. Not when the team in front of him is making more turnovers than an apple orchard. Not when the San Jose Sharks were allowed as many high-percentage scoring chances as they had in their 6-3 win on Saturday night.
For that, the Blues are sorry.
“He made a bunch of great saves tonight, and we hung him out to dry,” said forward Robert Thomas of Binnington, who made 19 saves in the loss.
“He’s far from the issue,” said defenseman Alex Pietrangelo. “Those goals going in are on us, not him.”
The Blues had 11 turnovers in the game, and four of the Sharks’ goals were the result of gaffes from St. Louis defensemen. Timo Meier overpowered and pickpocketed Pietrangelo for the Sharks’ first goal, scored by Couture on a odd-man rush. Their third goal by Kevin Labanc came after a turnover by defenseman Joel Edmundson. Their fourth goal occurred after a turnover by Colton Parayko, forced by Couture, and Meier scored on a partial breakaway.
“We were hard on pucks in certain areas. On our forecheck, we were good. We were able to outmuscle them,” said Couture, noting that Meier in particular was “a bull” out there.
For that, the Blues defensemen were sorry.
“It was more so us [than them]. We can be better. A couple of bad bounces, but again, we can be better,” said Pietrangelo. “We can move the puck a little bit quicker. Be more efficient. Make the play that’s in front of us. Their forwards are strong defensively. We just have to find a way behind them.”
But coach Craig Berube said the gifts that were wrapped for the Sharks’ offense weren’t just from his defensemen. That the support for them wasn’t there, and that’s what led to these mistakes.
“We were too spread out. In playoff time, you have to have numbers around the puck. You have to have puck support. We didn’t have enough support. Couldn’t make enough 10-foot passes,” he said. “We didn’t manage the puck very well. And they check well.”
For that, the Blues forwards were sorry.
“I wouldn’t throw it all on the ‘D.’ When they don’t have any options, it’s hard for them to make a play. For us forwards, we have to find better lanes and give them more outs,” said Thomas.
There are silver linings for the Blues. They scored three goals on Martin Jones. There was an uptick in their attack, and responsibility with the puck, in the third period. And let’s face it: The Sharks have done this before, winning their previous Game 1s on home ice by a combined score of 10-4 before losing Game 2 to the Vegas Golden Knights and Colorado Avalanche.
“That wasn’t how we wanted to play. We know we have to be better, we have to work harder for each other. That wasn’t our best tonight,” said forward Ryan O’Reilly. “We gotta go back to work and make some adjustments.”