LOS ANGELES — At face value, it looked like the Blues’ style of game. Low-scoring, tight defense, grinding hockey.
Right, Craig Berube?
“No,” Berube said.
And this wasn’t a run of the mill “no” from the Blues coach. Call it a hard “no.”
Sure, he’ll take Monday’s 2-1 overtime victory over the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center. But he sounded like a coach who can’t wait to get the regular-season over and move on to the postseason.
“It’s just not good hockey,” Berube said of Monday’s game. “There’s not a lot of emotion in the game. It is what it is. It’s kind of a meaningless game. No emotion.
“I thought we had a good first period though. Moved the puck really well. We didn’t get enough shots on net. I didn’t think we shot the puck enough all game.”
The Blues finished with only 19 shots on goal, their second-lowest total of the season. But it was one shot too many as far as the Kings were concerned.
Early in overtime, David Perron and Justin Faulk took off on a quick-developing 2-on-1. Perron dished to Faulk, who had all kinds of time and space to settle the puck and take the measure of LA goalie Calvin Petersen.
Just 46 seconds into OT, Faulk beat Petersen shortside for his seventh goal and second game-winner of the season.
“It’s good to see him get a goal,” Berube said. “He gets a lot of opportunities night in and night out to score. He could easily have five, six more goals this year probably.
“He’s just a warrior. He keeps going. He doesn’t stop. Nothing bothers him. He just keep playing, logging all the minutes and doing a lot of great things for us.”
Faulk’s goal was the latest example that the Blues may never want to leave California. And not because of the weather. In their final away game of the regular season, the Blues completed their 12 road games against California teams with a 9-1-2 record.
Plain and simple, they wouldn’t be in the playoffs without their success at Anaheim (4-0-0), San Jose (3-0-1) and LA (2-1-1). But they’re in, although they still don’t know whether they’re playing Vegas or Colorado.
The Golden Knights could’ve wrapped up the West Division on Monday and been locked in to play the fourth-place Blues (25-20-9) in the opening round, but lost 3-2 to Colorado.
It doesn’t really matter to Berube that he has to wait a couple more days to learn whether his playoff foe is Vegas or Colorado.
“Not particularly,” he said. “We’ve played these guys all year a lot. So we know both teams very well. It’s not like we’re gonna get surprised by anything. ... We know what we gotta do and what they’re gonna do.
“So the work’s kinda already done. But we’ll break some things down. We’ll figure it out. We obviously will know soon.”
The Blues have two games left in the regular season, Wednesday and Thursday at Enterprise Center against the Minnesota Wild. Unlike what he saw — and didn’t like — Monday at Staples, Berube expects a little more juice in those games.
“I think the Minny games will mean more,” Berube said. “I don’t know yet what they’re fighting for. Second place maybe if they get it — I gotta look at everything. So I think those games will have more energy and emotion.”
Minnesota can still finish second in the West, and thus get home ice advantage in the opening round, if it beats St. Louis twice and Colorado loses twice to Los Angeles (Wednesday and Thursday).
On Monday, the Blues got a key player back with Torey Krug returning after missing five games with an upper-body injury. But Jake Walman was a late scratch after testing positive for COVID. And Nikko Mikkola was scratched because of an upper-body injury. It’s always something with the Blues this season.
With no Mikkola or Walman, journeyman Steven Santini was pressed into service, playing just his second game for the Blues.
He acquitted himself well, logging 16 minutes 29 seconds, including a stint on the penalty kill unit. And get this: He was second on the team in overall shot attempts (six), trailing only Perron (seven).
“I thought he did a great job,” Berube said.
Berube liked the overall play of his defense Monday, and goalie Jordan Binnington liked what he saw in front of him.
“We were good,” Binnington said. “I think breakouts were good. We were coming back hard and making good plays and communicating. Santini was good, Bobbo (Robert Bortuzzo) was good.
“Everyone battled, and then Faulker with the game winner. So it was a clean game, I would say, from the D. Pretty smooth and calm.”
In fact, it looked like Binnington and the Blues were in line for their first shutout of the season, until Alex Iafallo ripped a one-timer over Binnington’s glove to tie the game 1-1 with 12:35 left in the third. (Tyler Bozak had given the Blues a 1-0 lead earlier in the period.)
Granted, it was a rocket — from the left circle. But there was no traffic, and Binnington had a clear look. So is that one he’d like to have back?
“I don't know,” Binnington replied. “You think that's one you want to have back?
Well, it was a pretty hard shot.
“You would have stopped it, I think,” Binnington said. “But it was a good play. Good shot, post and in. I felt it. Just missed it. But when we're up 1-0, I want any goal back to do it over and shut the door.”
Later in the period, with the Kings on the power play, a bit of good fortune combined with sharp instincts prevented LA from taking a late lead. Drew Doughty’s blast from the blue line rang off the post, off Binnington’s back, and started to trickle toward the goal line.
But Binnington turned in time to control the puck before it crossed the line, in essence taking the game into OT because this all happened with just 1:19 left in regulation.
“As a goalie over time, you kind of get a feel for bounces and it just worked out,” Binnington said. “I reached back and I felt I had the puck in the glove and got the whistle.”