The St. Louis Blues had about as slow a start as you could possibly imagine against the New Jersey Devils. Fortunately, they hung in there long enough for the team to wake up.
The St. Louis Blues are far from a perfect team. Even in their comfortable wins there have been things to pick on that are not nitpicky. That’s part of the reason we do this series of articles.
That said, the Blues were about as far from perfect, without playing bad hockey, as you could get in the first period against the New Jersey Devils. Maybe they were affected by the plane trip or maybe it was the weather. Who knows.
For whatever reason, the Blues looked sluggish and unenergetic for the first 38 minutes of the game. As stated, they were not playing badly. They just looked off their game.
Fortunately, they found themselves before it was too late. When they played against Philadelphia, they waited too long to turn on the jets. It would not be so against the Devils.
Vladimir Tarasenko gutted through the game.
We still do not know exactly what was wrong with Tarasenko. Other than being listed as an upper-body injury, there has been no word about what was sore that kept him out of the previous day’s practice.
Perhaps it was a shoulder injury. That is pure speculation, but Tarasenko seemed easy to bump off the puck, where he is normally a Clydesdale and his shot seemed to lack the usual snap.
He also had some weak passes and did not have that initial step to track down the puck carriers after his giveaways. Despite all that negative, he kept working and got his just rewards.
Tarasenko would get the goal that tied the game.
You can call the goal lucky, since it went in off a defenseman. Sometimes luck is justified as the work was put in and that’s the case with this one.
The Blues had a very lackluster start.
Some of it has already been discussed, but it bears repeating. The Blues just gave you absolutely no indication they were going to score for almost two periods.
Much like the game against the Flyers, they were getting shot numbers but not shot quality. Corey Schneider was making some decent saves, but the Blues did not test him other than a couple times in those first two periods.
St. Louis outshot New Jersey in every single period, but you never got the sense that they were outchancing them in those early moments.
St. Louis turned on the engine before it was too late.
If you call the Tarasenko goal luck, then sometimes all you need is a little luck. The Blues translated that into some really good hockey.
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If the first 38 minutes were as far from Blues hockey as you could get without playing bad, then the final 22 were as close as you could get without utter domination.
St. Louis just kept pressing and pushing. They scored a power play goal to take the lead and then never took their foot off the gas.
The defenders kept joining the rush without being careless. Forwards were making plays in the corners that kept New Jersey penned in, unable to gain those chances to tie it up.
Even though it seemed as though no goal was coming in those early moments, once the Blues flipped the switch, you could tell something good had to happen. The same seemed true against Philadelphia, but the Blues had just waited too long in that game.
The power play still is not good enough.
We can praise their puck possession and zone time. The Blues deserve recognition for creating chances and forcing the issue.
However, we are also at a point in time where you have to demand results. 1/5 is alright for one game, but combined with the ineffectiveness over the past month, it just is not good enough.
It’s great the the man-advantage stepped up when it counted most and scored the go-ahead score. They need to do that more often though. There is still too much passing and teams are picking up on that and pressuring the perimeter a lot more.
The top line, Brayden Schenn in particular, continue to impress.
At this stage of the game, maybe we should just come to expect these sorts of things. It’s easy to say that, but as a fan it still makes you excited when the guys you want to perform are doing just that.
All three of the top line scored a goal. Somehow after their monster night against Toronto, they topped it. They ended up accounting for seven points.
Schenn’s pass to set up Jaden Schwartz‘ goal was quite marvelous as well.
Schenn also scored an empty net goal, which is a miracle in and of itself when it comes to the Blues. It was a great way to cap off this game, which was dominated by the Blues top line by the end of it.
The NHL officials continue to boggle the mind.
In a game where the refs did not affect the outcome, usually you can say they did a good enough job. Still, night to night, you just have no idea what is going to be called. There is less consistency than MLB strike zones.
Tarasenko drew a penalty in the third period that should have been an easy penalty shot call. The Blues were repeatedly cross-checked from behind and no calls were made.
I understand that you can’t have a game entirely of power plays. Still, it does nothing but confuse fans when you call ticky-tac penalties throughout every game but let stuff that deserves penalties go.
It’s not just a Blues thing either. I see tweets from fans all around and the Blues have even benefited from somewhat ridiculous non-calls.
We might not have seen a full 60 minutes, but it was enough.
It’s funny how things work out. The Blues seem to have had more overall talent in past years, but in past years those games they did not play a full 60 minutes ended up in the loss column.
The Blues are depending way too much on their top two lines, but they’re getting it done. Jake Allen was on top of his game, making several key saves even though he was not tested a ton.
It was anything but a perfect performance, but the Blues got the win. We’d all love to see the team dominate from puck drop to final horn, but sometimes these types of games are more impressive.
When you can find a way to hang around even when you’re not at your best, just to give yourself a chance, is good enough. To actually take advantage of that chance is even better.
The rest of the division is still warming their tires, so these points are going to be critical as we go along.