The St. Louis Blues opened up the “second half” of their season against the Montreal Canadiens. It had a terrible start, but the ending was good enough for Blues fans.
The St. Louis Blues opened up the stretch run of their 2017-18 season with an important game against Montreal coming off the All-Star break. They knew it would not be easy, but they made it a little too hard on themselves.
St. Louis had about as bad a first period as you possibly can without conceding a goal. Their offense was a no-show and the defense was timid enough to make Montreal look like a powerhouse.
Fortunately, the Blues did not concede a goal in the first. They banded together and finally got things rolling at the end of the period.
However, the Blues still struggled to regain that momentum early in the second. Montreal threatened again, but the Blues defended much better this time around.
When the Blues finally scored, you felt there was a sense of relief. They definitely picked up the pace, but they could not put a stranglehold on the game.
The Blues would end up winning by a comfortable 3-1 margin. Even so, there was plenty to find fault with in this game. It might not have been the jump off the blocks they needed, but points are all that matters right now.
The ability to shoot.
Credit goes to the Canadiens. They were doing a fantastic job of keeping the Blues to the perimeter. At times, it seemed like St. Louis was glued to the boards and any attempt to the middle was only to send it back wide.
However, despite the defensive lockdown by Montreal, the Blues were simply not generating enough offense. Even the stoutest defense cannot contain an offense the entire game. That statement looked like it would be completely false in the first period.
St. Louis could generate absolutely nothing. They did not get their first shot of the game until 17:03 had been played in the first period.
After firing in eight shots in those final minutes, it seemed they would get things rolling. That was a complete misreading of the situation.
It took another four-plus minutes in the second period to get their ninth shot. The numbers were overwhelming, but this is not an isolated incident.
The Blues are falling into the trap of not coming out hard enough. They’ve gotten away with it plenty of times, but eventually that well runs dry.
St. Louis made the most of their shots.
When the Blues did finally take some chances, they made the most of them. St. Louis struggled to get shots, but even though they failed to get shots in the second, they finally scored given the chance.
Ivan Barbashev scored his second goal of the season by simply sending the puck on net. Coming down the right side, he just flipped one toward goal and it had just the right amount of height to lob over the blocker of Carey Price.
Take nothing away from the shot. It was not a lucky goal. It was a good example of good things happening by putting the puck on net.
Carter Hutton and the defense lost the shutout.
Now, before Hutton defenders start screaming or bashing their keyboards, Hutton played a heck of a game. He was deserving of the top star, making 33 saves.
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However, if we are going to be fair to all goaltender – such a novel idea – then you cannot bash Jake Allen for overextending himself and give Hutts a pass. He got pulled way too far to the side of the crease to keep in position to make follow up saves.
The defense played a part in that as well. They allowed a mad scramble in front of the net, failing to clear the puck away. Nobody put a body on a man and several players were flat-footed after the initial shot.
There were claims of interference and Hutton did get bumped. It was not enough to disallow the goal and not enough to give any excuse for sliding that far to the side of the goal.
The entire scramble felt like something bad would happen and it did. All parties involved could have done better to prevent it.
The Blues finally made a team pay for going into the box.
1-3 on the power play is not great, but it all depends on when that goal comes. For the Blues, it was at a crucial time when the Canadiens were building momentum again.
Like the first goal, it was a prime example of putting the puck to the goal and getting rewarded.
Tage Thompson, who had a solid game, drove down the right hand side and simply fired a shot on goal. Even though it was from a tight angle, it paid off.
Price made the save, but the rebound popped right into the middle. Patrik Berglund was right there for his seventh goal of the year.
It was a just reward for Berglund who also had a solid game. The big Swede was taking the body with regularity, leading the team in hits. His offense was not great, but he kept driving the net and got a good result.
A good win despite some extremely rough patches.
There are two ways to look at how the Blues played. You can be negative and say they can’t sustain success playing this way against upper echelon teams. You can be positive and see that they are capable of winning games even when they don’t play anything close to their best.
Both are true, but there is no sense in focusing only on the negative. That can be a self-fulfilling prophecy or it might never happen, so we might as well be happy they’re getting the precious points.
St. Louis did enough in the moments they were afforded and that’s a good thing. They got goals from guys that have been struggling to aid the offense.
They got good defending, in particular from Jay Bouwmeester. The Blues had another solid goaltending performance and even scored an empty net goal, as well as a power play score.
There was nothing perfect about this performance. If Mike Yeo is pleased with this game for anything more than the points, I’d be disappointed.
We are not the ones in those practice sessions though. We can only judge each game as it comes.
St. Louis played poorly for long stretches, but ended up the victor. That can have a lasting impact later in the season.