The St. Louis Blues faced the Stanley Cup champions to open their own 2017-18 campaign. The Blues won’t want to copy every aspect of the game, but they did a lot right, especially with a lot of guys missing.
The 2017-18 season did not open with a picture perfect performance by the St. Louis Blues. However, their season opener against the Pittsburgh Penguins had plenty to feel good about.
Unfortunately, there was also a lot to not like. The team played well in spots and then had moments that left you staring blankly at the television screen.
In the end, the Blues came away with two points and we cannot complain too much. It was not a game that you want every single moment carbon copied for future games, but if St. Louis gets effort like they showed every night the team will be fine.
So, let’s break down the individual moments. Time to look at the pros and cons from the season opener against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Blues won the game.
Normally you would not start with this fact. You’d work it in later on after listing all the stuff that went wrong. This is the main point of the night though.
It does not really matter how it came about – we can worry about that later. The Blues simply won the game.
It did not need to be as difficult as they made it on themselves. When you look at the record after the season nobody will remember how this game went down. All we will know is that the Blues got two points out of it.
The third period meltdowns continue.
The Blues did this in 2016-17. They did it in the preseason (the last two games of preseason in particular). Now, they’ve done it in the season opener.
This team cannot remember that a game lasts for 60 minutes of gametime, not just 60 minutes of real time. You have to find ways to close out teams or you’re going to burn yourself out.
It’s great the Blues got the extra point, but you can’t play too many overtime games. Firstly, OT games count against you in the record. It’s great to get the two points, but if you have as many points but fewer regulation wins, you won’t get the tie breaker when it comes to playoff time.
Regardless of points, you can’t give good teams chances to get back in games. The Penguins might be a great team. Even so, the Blues gifted them several goals and that has to be cleaned up.
Brayden Schenn was as good or better than we hoped.
Let’s be real here. Schenn is not going to score 82 goals and have 164 points, which he is on pace for right now. Regardless of how he does the rest of this month, he came out with a bang.
Schenn was exactly what the Blues needed last night. He interjected energy, showed leadership by example and actually came up with statistical performance by scoring a goal and recording an assist.
He did it all. Schenn had four hits, a blocked shot and won the majority of his faceoffs. While his final numbers evened out to 53%, there was one point that Schenn had won 70% of his faceoffs and his teammates only 36%.
Additionally, Schenn’s goal came at even strength. We knew the guy would have some five-on-five goals, but he was labeled as a power play specialist. For him to get an even strength goal right off the bat sets him up for success.
Chris Thorburn was as bad as feared.
I don’t like picking on one player. I don’t like having a scapegoat or thinking someone does not deserve a spot. It is just hard right now with the Blues fourth line winger.
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Thorburn went out there and did his job for the most part. It was just very nondescript and uninspired at times. At worst, he ended up costing the Blues a goal by not clearing the puck.
It happens fifty times a game (sometimes more for the Blues), but a failed clearance by Thorburn right against the blue line directly led to Pittsburgh scoring moments later. The defender had a chance to clear it as well, so he does not bear the entire burden, but he shoulders a good deal.
Even if you remove that one bad play, he just did not provide much. He was brought in to replace the physicality lost in the offseason and had two hits (none of which I could tell you when they happened).
He did not attempt to get in any scraps or toss anyone around. He was more or less a nameless mass on the ice that would not have been noticed if not for the long hair.
The two kids up front played well.
Magnus Paajarvi was pretty invisible for much of the game. The same cannot be said of his linemates.
Sundqvist was pretty solid on the puck – much more than his preseason action showed anyway. Thompson was as good as advertised and did not shrink away from the game either.
Thompson will need to learn that a quick reverse is a good move but cannot be utilized too much – in fact, it got stuffed late in the game. He had a very good performance overall though, though it won’t show in the stat sheet.
If he keeps his confidence up, he’ll keep earning the minutes. A good start to his NHL career overall though.
The same old problems plague the Blues.
Faceoffs, stupid penalties, a useless or bad power play. It was all still quite present for the Blues. Their team numbers went up by the end, but the were bad on the faceoff dot again.
They won 41% by the end, but it was in the 30’s for much of the night. You cannot sustain success by losing that many faceoffs. The playoffs proved that last season.
The team killed off several, but put themselves in the box way too much again. Schenn’s incredibly boneheaded toss of the puck directly led to the Penguins getting back in the game.
The Blues were up by two goals and that silly penalty led to a five-on-three, which Pittsburgh scored on and later tied up just after the second penalty ended. You cannot give good teams chances like that when you have all the momentum.
The Blues power play was basically the same thing we saw last season. If they get set up, they can be deadly. If they don’t get set up, they give up more breaks the other way than if the game was at full strength.
We keep saying these things need to be fixed, but if it wasn’t corrected in the offseason, we might be in store for more of the same this year.
Jake Allen played well.
Shut up. Just shut up right now. I know what the stat heads are saying.
They’re going to point out the sub-.900 save percentage and the four goals allowed. Use your eyes and not your prejudiced heart.
Allen came up with several key stops and basically stopped every shot he could see. The first two goals, he had no clue a shot had been taken until the puck went past him. It’s impossible to save a shot you cannot see.
The third goal, he over-committed a little bit, but again made the initial save and then the rebound was not cleared. The fourth goal, the defender left a back-door play wide open, so Jake’s only chance would have been to disrupt the pass.
Four goals against and four goals he had little to no chance of doing anything about.
Allen did look a little too aggressive and needs to stay near the blue paint of the crease, but he was solid. If we get games like that from the Snake throughout the season, the Blues are going to win a lot of games.
Not perfect, but good enough.
The Blues had plenty to complain about. They let a championship team off the hook and gave them an unnecessary point.
They took some really bad penalties, including another too many men penalty (questionable or not). They were bad in the faceoff dot and impotent on the power play. They won the game though.
Give Pittsburgh all the excuses you want. You can say they had a hangover from the pregame ceremony or had bad calls go against them or whatever else. The bottom line is the Blues found a way to win.
Allen kept out the shots he needed to, the Blues got scoring from guys they are going to really rely on and looked very good.
Additionally, the defenders jumped into the offense and got rewarded. Since it is still somewhat new for this team, some fans will get apprehensive when they join the play. If you get two or three goals a night from your blue liners, you will take it every time.
Mike Yeo will have plenty of coaching moments come out of this one. However, playing against an Eastern Conference team, it’s ok to give up that extra point.
Who cares how many points they get from the game. As long as it is two points in your pocket, take it and come home to prepare for Dallas.