The St. Louis Blues took on the Minnesota Wild in the team’s second to last preseason game of 2017. While there were still good things to discuss, the bad outweighed the good due to the final result.
Things have been rather hit or miss for the St. Louis Blues during the 2017 preseason. They’ve had some outstanding games and performances by people fans were hoping would step up. They’ve also laid some rotten eggs and had games that put prospects’ status into some doubt for this year.
Thursday night’s game in Kansas City against Minnesota was a mixture of all that. We saw some good, some bad and a little ugly.
Considering the team’s injury problems, it would have been nice to see a little more good. That’s hockey for you though. So, let’s dive into what went on from a pro/con perspective.
Statistically, neither goaltender played well.
People who were there might know better, but Fox Sports boxscore has some rather dubious totals for the Blues goaltenders. I’m not sure I believe the shot totals, but according to that Jake Allen gave up one goal on nine shots. Carter Hutton gave up two goals on four shots.
I do not completely believe those totals. Having listened to the game it seemed like there should have been more than 13 shots against. Regardless, the stat sheets don’t look that great.
It has not been a great preseason for Allen, even though much of the fault is on the defense and adding another goal to his total does not help. Hutton came in to get some extra work and if his save percentage was literally 50% (somewhat doubtful) it was not a great night.
Additionally, the goal to tie it at two was not the best. It was somewhat of a chip shot that seemed to catch Hutton by surprise and he could have stopped if his positioning was a little better.
Goaltenders still came up with positives.
Leaving the stats alone, it was not an awful night overall for the men in the crease. Allen had a strong game overall with the defenders he’s more likely to have during the year.
He was very aggressive according to Darren Pang during the radio broadcast. That’s what you want from the Snake, because the deeper he is in his crease, the more goals he tends to give up.
Also, Hutton still made a couple big saves. Toward the end of the game, Minnesota had a chance or two to take the lead late. Even though they would score a game winner, Hutton made some timely stops to keep it tied up.
The Blues continue to take silly penalties.
This happens to every team in the league, but seems to plague the Blues more than other teams. Even in the preseason, they took some penalties that you could easily avoid.
The one that sticks out was the tripping penalty Tage Thompson took with barely two minutes left in the game. Minnesota gave up their power play with a silly faceoff penalty of their own, but the timing was very bad for the Blues.
If things did not play out favorably, the Wild would have had a full power play to end the game. Penalties cannot be accepted at any time, but that late in a contest in particular is the worst.
More good performances from guys that seem more likely to make the team.
Given all the injuries to the Blues, it seems more likely that Thompson and Wade Megan might make the squad to start the year. They both played well enough to take away a few misgivings they had shown earlier in the preseason.
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Both players picked up an assist against the Wild and had some really solid shifts, according to Pang again. They both ended up with a goal and three assists thus far in the preseason as well.
You cannot judge a player by stats alone in preseason action. They’re playing with different guys in different roles on different nights.
Still, both have played five games and both have the same number of points. Almost a point a game average is not too shabby. Neither one looks lost at the NHL level. Of course they are going to have their moments, like the tripping penalty, but I’m comfortable with either making the roster to begin the year.
You lost the game.
Say it is preseason all you want, but you cannot be losing games, especially in the manner the Blues did. St. Louis had the lead twice and saw it evaporate each time.
Allowing two third period goals is bad enough. To have the game-winner go in with mere seconds left (4.5 to be exact) is just not acceptable.
The stat sheet will show it was a shorthanded goal, which makes it look worse optically. The reality is the player had just stepped onto the ice, so that fact really doesn’t matter.
St. Louis losing in the final seconds is the issue to focus on. It was simply a lapse in defensive focus that will cost you points in the regular season. These things do happen over a long season, but you can’t have them happen this early and can’t have it become a problem.
More goals from people trying to impress.
Vladimir Tarasenko does not need to impress anyone, but he is doing so. Another power play goal for the team’s best gives him four goals in three games.
Additionally, Oskar Sundqvist scored one. I doubt one goal and two points for the preseason would normally be enough to make the team, but we should not doubt he’ll stay in the NHL for a month or so.
With that in mind, getting a goal toward the end of the preseason is potentially a good omen. He’s likely to be a fourth-liner regardless, so he’s not going to put up a bunch of stats, but it’s still good to see some positives out of him.
It was a good overall performance for one of the final preseason games. You hate to lose, especially in the final seconds, but it was not a bad game in the grand scheme.
I was disappointed in how many Minnesota fans were in Kansas City. Perhaps they were just sitting close to the crowd mic, but they sounded quite boisterous when the Wild scored.
Still, it is nice to know the Blues showed reasonably well with the season in sight. Now there is only one game left and several practices for the team to really get dialed in.
Sunday’s game against Washington will be at 2pm and then the regular season is just days away. It’s going to be an odd roster to start the year, but I think there is still enough there to be positive about the year’s beginning.