Well here we are in mid-April, Blues fans. We made it. Who would’ve thought that the Blues would be up 2-1 in a series against the Jets right now three months ago (other than the brain geniuses here at Blues Buzz).
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
There’s not a whole lot to hate through three games. Winning two on the road is massive, and the team looked solid through two. Game three is another story, but I’m going to look at the big picture; I don’t want to single out one game (either a good game or a bad game) and instead look at the series as a whole. Besides, the sample size is small enough as it is.
Let’s start with Binnington. A goal here or there leaves something to be desired, but, wow he’s a stud. His 5v5 numbers don’t look *great*, and he’s performing below his xSv%, but it’s obvious watching the games that he’s making big time saves, and, again, the sample size is too small to worry about small discrepancies like that. You really couldn’t ask for more from Binnington, except, ya know, a sincere apology for those gross tweets perhaps.
Looking at the forwards we find a bit more to be discussed. In my mind, there’s three glaring storylines:
The first point speaks for itself, so I’m not going to elaborate on that very much. They’ve been good. Moving on.
Schenn-O’Reilly-Tarasenko has not yet produced at 5v5, but they have been good still. Schenn and Vladdy have a narrowly positive Corsi differential, at 50.57%, and O’Reilly’s slightly negative differential can be chalked up to an extra defensive shift here or there. So they’re still outshooting the Jets—are the shots worth taking though? Survey says: yes! Tarasenko is rocking an xGF% of 54.79, with Schenn coming in just behind at 50.71. These guys are controlling scoring chances, and yet getting outscored by the Jets 1-3 through three games. Both are also rocking sub-90 PDOs, which highlights a low shooting percentage paired with Binnington making a couple slips when the top line is on the ice. All of this goes to say that, sure, the top line hasn’t been scoring at 5v5, but they’ve still been productive play-drivers, and it would be an easy argument to say that despite being outscored they’ve still outplayed Winnipeg’s top unit.
Finally, Sanford. Zach Sanford in the playoffs actually provides an interesting case study in statistical analysis in hockey. With 3 individual Corsi attempts for in 21.42 minutes, he ranks fifth among forwards in iCF/60. Sitting above the likes of David Perron, Oskar Sundqvist, Robert Thomas, and Brayden Schenn. This stat on its own might lead one to believe that Zach Sanford drives play better than many other Blues forwards. When using these kinds of stats though, you have to look at the whole picture, and not just cherry pick stats that help advance whatever narrative you want. Because it’s easy to find stats that support what you’re saying at any given time; it’s less easy to find a full set of stats that support what you’re saying. Bringing this tangent back to Sanford, he’s last among Blues forwards in Corsi For % at 33.33%. He would also be last among Winnipeg forwards. Despite Sanford himself directing more shots towards the net than other Blues players given his ice time, he’s getting outshot 2-1 when he’s on the ice. Sanford is the only forward on the team that hasn’t been on the ice yet for a Blues goal at 5v5, and even his xGF% is an abysmal 22.46%. The next lowest is Steen with a (still very bad) 39.45%, but how much of Steen’s number can be attributed to player almost exclusively with Sanford? Probably a lot.
So, let’s get Sanford the heck out of the lineup, folks! Put in Blais, put in MacEachern, put in Fabbri. Send Thorburn very far away from any playing time; transitioning to a skilled fourth line is a major reason that the Blues are where they are today, and going away from that will sink them. But aside from Thorburn, put anyone in.
Finally, let’s all relax a bit. Sure, things seem bad after game three, but the Blues are up 2-1 in the series. The top players on the Blues are firing at all cylinders, and the goals will come. Patrik Laine decided to show up, but so has Binnington. Nothing is guaranteed, but the Blues are in as good a position as they’re ever going to be to take a stranglehold on the series. Let’s ride.
*all stats from corsica.hockey*