The St. Louis Blues are off to about as good a start to their season as anyone could hope, let alone imagine. Even so, there are still plenty of things the team can and hopefully will improve on.
If anyone would have told us the St. Louis Blues would open the season 4-0 and only allowed their opponents two points the entire season, we’d have all taken that in a heartbeat. It is funny how individual game reality can still make it feel as though things aren’t perfect.
The Blues record is perfect right now, but their play still has some holes in it. Most people would expect that given the injuries the team sustained in the preseason.
However, it does not feel like the injuries are what is holding this team back. They feel like they continually get in their own way in certain situations.
However, as previously said, if you told me the Blues would be undefeated I’d have taken that. The Blues are doing a lot right in the end.
Nobody plays a perfect game if you really search hard enough for the faults. With that in mind, let’s take a look at what went right and wrong as the Blues faced the New York Rangers.
The Blues struck early.
It would be difficult for a team to score any faster than the Blues did. Of course teams have, as it was not a record, but it was a heck of a start.
On top of that, the goal was scored by Carl Gunnarsson of all people. The St. Louis defender had no goals last season and suddenly has two in four games in 2017-18.
The Blues have scored first in three of their four games. Getting off to a hot start, scoring wise, has not been an issue at all so far.
The Blues gave the lead back via a penalty.
St. Louis’ penalty kill has been quite good this year. They were 1-4 killing off Ranger power plays in this contest.
Even so, this one felt unnecessary. We can argue the validity of the call, but it just felt like Jaden Schwartz did not need to get involved.
The player was not going to be on a breakaway. So, why interject yourself at all and give the official a decision to make?
The Rangers made the Blues pay with a pretty quick goal on the man advantage.
Again, it is not the penalty kill that is an issue. It is more the penalties the Blues take. Many have been avoidable and this just seemed like a waste of early momentum.
Brayden Schenn continued his great start.
This is a debateable statement, but Schenn has been the team’s best player overall in the early part of the season. He is scoring, setting guys up and playing a better two-way game than any of us thought he might.
He continued his great start to 2017-18 with what ended up being the game winning goal. It came way back in the first period, but the goal ended up holding up as the difference.
Nobody, including Schenn, is going to chalk this one up as goal of the year. It was a fortunate play with Schenn just firing it back out in front and banking it off the goaltender.
They all count though. St. Louis is not in a position to count on pretty goals. In fact, the more gritty goals they get the better. It will prove to this team that you don’t have to set up the cross-ice one-timer every time.
Schenn now has two goals and five points through four games. His one fault in this game was only being 44% in the faceoff circle.
Like the team overall, he has ways he can still improve. However, if you told anyone he’d get off to a quick start like that, nobody would turn it down.
The Blues continue to fail at faceoffs and shot totals.
It has not cost them…yet. However, the Blues once again were behind in the faceoff percentages and the shot totals.
St. Louis got outshot 33-23. They were a full 10% behind in the faceoff dot as well (44% to 55%)
Eventually, these things will be too difficult to overcome. Credit where credit is due as it has not bit the team yet.
They have made the most of their own shots and the goaltenders (Carter Hutton in this instance) have been phenomenal. Failing more than not at faceoffs will eventually lead to more goals against though. Getting outshot will eventually lead to a night where the goalies cannot bail you out.
Until that happens, you take the final result. It feels like waiting for the other shoe to drop though.
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Once again, the Blues netminders bailed them out. Credit to the defenders for blocking 20 shots, but Hutton was under siege at times.
Like many of his games last season, he did not look like a backup at all. The Blues are extremely fortunate to have him, especially if he is picking up where he left off in 2016-17.
Like Jake Allen, Hutton stopped the shots he should and also got to some he did not have any business getting to.
Eventually the well will run dry in these scenarios. Even Hall of Fame goaltenders have a bad night.
We have not seen one yet though. Hutton continued a string of games where the Blues goaltenders have been good-to-great.
The power play still needs a lot of work.
1-4 is not a bad percentage. However, even the postgame radio crew were discussing how the team looks better on a 5v4 power play than they do when it is 5v3.
That is ridiculous. You have to make teams pay if they are going to give you a two-man advantage.
The two-man advantage just highlights the Blues’ power play issues. There are too many opportunities passed up because they are trying to set up the perfect play.
That has not been the case as much during the 5v4 chances because the Blues feel more comfortable shooting. They become too nice or diplomatic when there is more space though.
Additionally, the team continues to give up way to many odd-man rushes when they are on the power play. Hutton had to make a big stop on an actual shorthanded breakaway for the Rangers. That just should not happen unless it is the man streaking out of the box.
The Blues are better than anyone expected.
I feel like I was the only person in the area that did not think this kind of start was possible. So many have said they were hoping to start 2-2 or 1-3 or 4-5 in the team’s first nine.
That’s insanely negative to me. However, even I thought the team would have to gut out every single win like the Pittsburgh game.
The reality is that the Blues have taken it to just about every opponent. Yes, they have plenty of faults like giving up late goals, but there has not yet been a game they did not deserve to win.
You could argue they deserved to lose in Brooklyn, but they found a way to get it done when the final horn sounded. That is the mark of a good team.
The Blues are not likely to win a championship with their current roster, but the more points they rack up early in the season the better off they’ll be.
Even if teams in their division get off to slow starts, that can be overcome as the Predators did last season. So, the Blues have to gain as many points as they can before they regain full health so they can really hit their stride come winter.
It is way too early to really tell the quality of this team, but they have a special makeup to start the year, that’s for sure.