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NHL

It’s Better To Be Good Than Angry

Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

It is never a good thing to lose your starting goalie in the middle of a playoff series, especially when facing an attack as potent as the one possessed by the Colorado Avalanche. But the specifics of how the St. Louis Blues lost Jordan Binnington—a leg injury caused by a controversial-if-you-really-want-it-to-be collision with familiar antagonist Nazem Kadri, which was followed by some postgame beef-escalation—offered the Blues something of a silver lining. A revenge game! The chance to win one for Jordan!

The Blues had all the necessary ingredients: a raucous home crowd, a backs-against-the-wall 2-1 series deficit, and plenty of aggrieved feelings over the fact that Kadri didn’t receive any kind of punishment for the role he played in Binnington’s injury. Emotion, particularly one as potent as anger, can change the course of a game or a series if applied correctly. The Blues must have imagined themselves coming into Game 4 and using their newfound animosity to menace Kadri as much as possible, fire up the crowd, and heighten the physicality of the game. One thing they definitely did not imagine themselves doing was letting Kadri score three goals and escape the arena without a scratch on him.

Visions of retribution faded almost as soon as the game started. Brayden Schenn tried and failed to goad Kadri into a fight during the game’s opening minutes, and then the Blues got thoroughly outskated and outshot by the Avalanche through the first period. Even though the Blues led 1-0 at the end of that period, the fact that they managed just one shot on goal in the period’s final 15 minutes previewed what was to come.

Less than three minutes into the second, former Blue Erik Johnson tied it up with a long-range shot that seemed to pilot itself into the net. About a minute later, the Blues were faced with something of a nightmare scenario: Kadri getting free down the right wing and firing one past goalie Ville Husso.

When Devon Toews scored 20 seconds later, Blues head coach Craig Berube called a much-needed timeout. I can’t say for sure what Berube said to his players during the stoppage, but I imagine he did not say anything like, “OK boys, let’s settle this thing down by trying and mostly failing to mug Kadri and gifting the Avs a 5-on-3 while we’re at it.” Well anyway, that’s what the Blues went out there and did.

Both David Perron and Pavel Buchnevich went into the box for doing whatever it is they were trying to do to Kadri, and their teammates were left to manage an impossibly difficult situation. They mostly did, but see if you can guess who scored right as the 5-on-3 ended:

The Blues briefly made things interesting by scoring two power-play goals of their own in the second period, but the Avs went on to win 6-3 thanks to a third period that played out much like the first, with Colorado creating a steady stream of shots while keeping St. Louis pinned in their own end. The Avalanche outshot the Blues 37-20 for the game, and the last meaningful goal of the night came from you-know-who:

Could this have gone any worse for the Blues? If they had just taken the high road and let Kadri skate in peace, that would have certainly left a fair amount of bloodlust unsated, but that wouldn’t have been quite as humiliating as what actually ended up happening. Letting a marked man score three times is one thing if you also manage to rough him up a bit, but to try and fail as blatantly as the Blues did just makes the final result sting that much more. If there’s one moment from the game that really sums up the Blues’ effort, it’s got to be Perron completely whiffing while attempting to hit Kadri with a cheap shot after his second goal:

The Blues biffed their shot at a revenge game, and now they face elimination as the series heads back to Colorado. They’ll need to think quickly in order to find some extra motivation before Wednesday night, but perhaps they should exercise a bit more caution this time around. When asked last night for his thoughts on the public recriminations that Berube directed at him before Game 4, Kadri put it simply: “I guess he’s never heard of bulletin-board material.”

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