The St. Louis Blues needed a good start to the second half of the 2018-19 season if they were going to have any hope of a playoff push. Thankfully, they got just that in their final game against the Montreal Canadiens.
The St. Louis Blues kept their streak alive. No reason to go on a winning or losing streak when you can just string together one or two of each in a row.
They kept that going, coming off another blood-boiling loss in the previous one. So, in typical Blues fashion, they turned things around and spanked the Montreal Canadiens by a score of 4-1.
St. Louis scored their first goal before many people, including myself, were in their seats. For some odd reason, there was a large amount of fans that got to this game late. Fortunately, the Blues managed to show up on time for once.
Not even two minutes in, the Blues scored a power play goal as Robert Thomas kept jabbing at the rebound and swept in the loose puck. St. Louis kept up the good first period with an Oskar Sundqvist goal as he kept his career year going.
Then, of all people, Jay Bouwmeester scored on a two-on-one break early in the second period. So, the Blues managed a solid three goals before they allowed one. Of course, the only goal allowed was one that didn’t even need to go in, since it went off a St. Louis skate.
But, instead of allowing the Canadiens any room and an attempt at a comeback, the Blues kept up the pressure. The Blues would add a fourth goal on a Sammy Blais break and that was all she wrote on a nice win.
Pros/Cons: Robert Thomas
So, we continue to see the progression of this young kid and he is something to be excited about. Robert Thomas is not going to put up mind-boggling numbers over the course of his career, but he is a perfect fit for St. Louis.
He just seems to do everything. Thomas goes to the front of the net and gets in the dirty areas without problem. He has some sneaky speed and slick moves when given a chance.
While he is not a superstar right out of the gate, it is almost more impressive to actually watch him get better game to game.
On top of playing a solid game, Thomas picked up a gritty goal. On the team’s power play, he was set up as a screener in the slot. As the puck got deeper, he peeled off to the side of the net to join the rebound crew.
After jamming at it, it sprang to the side of the crease and Thomas swept it in. Those are not the prettiest of goals, but the kind the Blues need more of.
The con of Thomas is the injury. About midway through the first period, Thomas got a shove from behind while off balance and went into the boards. He never returned.
Sadly, that almost certainly means it is a shoulder injury. Even sadder, we have seen softer collisions lead to season ending shoulder injuries.
Nobody knows anything right now, but do not be shocked to hear Thomas is out for an extended time.
Pros: Oskar Sundqvist
Ok, who spiked Oskar Sundqvist’s Gatorade bottle with performance enhancing drugs? All kidding aside, nobody, including Sundqvist’s own family could have predicted the way he has played this season.
Sundqvist scored his eighth goal of the year against Montreal. In all honesty, he could have had more.
Before he actually scored, Sundqvist had a semi-breakaway on an earlier Canadiens’ power play. The Swede simply ran out of real estate, but learned from the incident.
Not even five minutes later, he got another shorthanded opportunity. This time it was a two-on-one break with Ryan O’Reilly.
The center set up the big man with a perfect saucer return pass. Sundqvist did a quick deke away and then back to the forehand and tucked it in.
Maybe that is what is impressive about this guy. He has transformed himself from a fourth line guy that you stuck out there to be a body into a solid skater, hustler and even scorer now.
What is amazing is that Sundqvist has almost three times as many goals as Jaden Schwartz. Maybe that says something about the state of Schwartzy’s game, but it also shows how well Sundqvist has done this year.
I’ll be perfectly honest – I did not want him on this team this year. I still wonder if the other shoe will drop, but until it does, Sunny has a home with the Blues and that’s just fine.
Cons: Bad Puck Luck
That has been the Blues luck all season long. Defenders screen goaltenders or attempt to block shots and actually end up putting them in.
This one was not quite as egregious. Alex Pietrangelo, who has played much better of late, went down to block a shot from the left circle.
Unfortunately, the puck went off his skate and then somehow in the net. Binnington was not really at fault, though he was not square to the shooter since he was expecting the puck to actually be a pass/shot to the backdoor play. So, by turning just a hair, he allowed that little bit of space so the puck went in.
Thank goodness, it did not end up having any real impact on the game. Binnington shrugged it off and played well afterward and the Blues kept chugging along as a team should when something out of their control happens.
Pros: Jay Bouwmeester
This guy has faced about as much fan hate as anyone this side of Jake Allen or Barret Jackman. Bouwmeester has somehow, perhaps by being oblivious, kept all the noise out.
What seems to be true is that the hip injury from last year affected him far more than any of us could realize. We all just thought he had gone down the drain and age was taking its final toll and he was done.
Instead, Bouwmeester has steadily and quietly put together a string of good performances. He will never win over those that so vehemently go after him, but he is playing well. His goal was just a good example of that.
Bouwmeester’s skating has returned to the proper ability and he now has no fear in jumping into the play. He did just that when he scored.
Taking a nice pass from Robby Fabbri, Bouwmeester was quick and decisive on the score. Instead of getting fancy, he just waited and then wristed one with steam over the right shoulder of the goaltender for a nice goal.
Bouwmeester might never be the kind of offensive guy we hoped when we picked him up from Calgary. Despite that, he looks much more like the guy we saw in his 20’s than the one that went downhill with all these recent injuries.
This was a really solid team win. It felt like everyone had a part to play.
Binnington was solid in net, but the team played good defense for him. The offense missed a few chances with (technically) five power plays, but they scored some good goals by putting four by an all-world goalie.
St. Louis made the most of their breaks and limited the chances given up.
There was some physicality too. No, there were not bone-cruching hits or fights, but there was some fight in the Blues overall game. They were not taking crap from anyone.
You can point out that Montreal is one of the smaller teams in the league. Even so, it’s something for this team to stick up for one another.
Now comes the hard part. The Blues have to sustain this and we have not seen that all year.
St. Louis plays Dallas in Dallas over the weekend. After getting pasted by the Stars, maybe revenge is in order? It would be nice, but we can’t hold our breath.