The St. Louis Blues really got into the meat of their preseason action, taking on the Columbus Blue Jackets only one night after falling to Dallas. As with any preseason game, there were plenty of takeaways from the contest, both good and bad.
The St. Louis Blues ended up defeating the Columbus Blue Jackets by a final score of 3-2 last night. It was the team’s first preseason game at home and their second overall.
There was plenty to like about the game. There was plenty that left you wanting to see a little bit better as well.
With that in mind, we’re going to take a little look at what went fine and what needs to be improved. Just for fun, we’ll do it in an alternating style.
Pros: The Blues were able to take another early lead.
One of the problems that started creeping into the team’s game in 2016-17 was the fact they had to come from behind so much. During their losing streak that cost Ken Hitchcock his job, they were consistently getting scored on first.
No matter how good you are or how skilled, it takes too much energy to have to come from behind night in and out. If you can make your opponent do that, you’re a step ahead beyond just the score.
It is just the preseason, but in two games the Blues have managed to score first in both. If they carry that into the regular season, they’ll be in good shape.
Cons: Defensively, the team still has a little doubt since they cannot hold a lead yet.
You can kind of see where we are going here, since there is going to be a little yin vs. yang in most topics. This one is pretty clear as well since it has been a trend in both games played so far.
The Blues did take the lead for a second game. They also gave up the lead for a second game.
After scoring first, the Blues allowed two goals in under five minutes to give Columbus the lead. Unlike the Dallas game, things did not finish as poorly, but it is the overall sense that this team has given up the lead several times now.
It is understandable since you have guys playing together for the first time or playing in the NHL for the first time. Still, it would be nice to see either the defenders or goaltenders be able to hold a lead for at least one game.
Pros: Samuel Blais kept improving and showed well even without any points.
If you were unable to attend, you likely heard the game on Fox Sports Go or KMOX.com. One of the things Chris Kerber and Kelly Chase kept discussing was Blais.
While he is a longshot to make this team, he is definitely making a case. If he keeps up his pace, he might easily be a callup during the season. That is especially true if the Blues keep up their current injury pace.
Blais is playing free and confident. Maybe that is because he knows he won’t make the team, but it looks good anyway.
He has seen time with different combinations, but has usually been a top-six forward in the team’s duo of games.
Blais has been strong on the puck, made good decisions and taken some good shots. He had no points against Columbus, but still had and created some good opportunities.
Cons: Younger guys need to realize that stuff that worked in college or even the AHL won’t fly in the NHL.
It was not a major issue, but on several drives down the ice, the Blues ended up being their own worst enemy. They gave the puck away too easily in key situations.
Too often, that was due to a silly or ill-conceived pass. One that sticks out was during a third period power play.
I forget who made the pass, but it was one of the rookies. It was a cross-ice saucer pass.
You get the idea behind it. It was just too cute and almost certain to not make it.
This is the NHL now. There are certain plays that veterans are just not going to be fooled by.
Those sorts of passes might have gotten through in college or even the AHL. At this level, you need to be a little more sure of each move.
That is not to stifle creativity. Players just need to be smarter and realize things won’t come as easily now.
Pros: Vladimir Tarasenko scoring on the powerplay twice.
It is always great to see Tarasenko scoring, no matter what the scenario. When he can score on the man-advantage with regularity, the team is really going to benefit.
2015-16 was the only year that Vlady has had double-digit playoff scores. If it becomes a more regular staple of his offense, the Blues are going to be so much better for it.
One preseason effort is not going to tell you what is going to happen during the season. Still, if he has more space on the power play and can take advantage of it, then it has to be seen as something good.
Cons: 2-7 on the powerplay overall.
The Blues power play was a huge talking point last season. It was a focus going into the offseason because the Blues might have defeated Nashville if they could score on a power play.
While the first and last goal of the game came with a man advantage, there were too many wasted opportunities. Yes, you’re playing more kids, but you still need to find ways to make teams pay for penalties.
The Blues were more willing to shoot than they have been, but there is still too many passes. The Blues looked ineffective at times and thus not scoring on five consecutive power plays made sense. Hopefully that is not a harbinger of things to come.
Pros: Killing off 8 penalties.
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Along the same lines as the power play, the Blues saw good things from their penalty kill. Columbus went 0-8, which means the Blues killed off every penalty they took.
You don’t want to be in the box, but if you can kill off every chance your opponent has, then you can’t complain too much.
Cons: Too many penalties.
I said you can’t complain too much, but I will. You cannot put yourself in the box eight times in one night. It is not a sustainable recipe for success.
Again, yes it is just preseason, but these are the games to build winning habits. If the Blues are going to be careless and take penalties, it’s going to be a long year.
The division alone has too much offensive firepower. You can’t be playing catchup or wasting energy short handed.
Pros: The Blues were good in the faceoff circle.
St. Louis won 58% of their faceoffs. That was a HUGE deal last season.
Especially in the playoffs, the Blues just could not win a faceoff. If they’ve improved enough to consistently win over 50%, that is big.
You have to win faceoffs, especially in your defensive zone, to win.
Cons: The Blues top line was not great defensively.
Plus/minus is quickly being pushed to the side as a reliable defensive stat. Even with that in mind, it is not good that the team’s top defender and the top line of forwards were on the ice for both Columbus goals.
Nobody expects Tarasenko to be up for the Selke Trophy, but you cannot be getting scored on when you’re on the ice either.
The team needs to tighten things up defensively and focus on marking a little better.
Pros: Ville Husso made some big saves.
One of the guys that fans are very excited about for the future is Ville Husso. He looked sharp in one period of work.
Husso made a big save with about 90 seconds left in regulation, which kept the game tied. The Blues don’t go to OT or win without that save.
The youngster looked confident and calm in his brief stint in his first NHL action. He’s not going to replace Jake Allen any time soon, but it won’t be long before it is a conversation if he can continue to improve at the rate he has.
Final Pro: The arena looked great.
I watched on my computer, so it might look better or worst in person. On the screen, the arena looked great.
The scoreboard looked crystal clear and huge. The ice looked clean and sharp on television.
These are small deals, but show that the Blues are truly invested. I never had any problems with Scottrade, but if you can have upgrades then why not?
It looked great and hopefully the team can continue to play great.
The next preseason game will be Friday, at Washington.