The St. Louis Blues have struggled mightily against the Los Angeles Kings in the 2018-19 season. Thankfully, they tossed all that to the side.
The St. Louis Blues made a habit of playing up or down to their competition earlier in the year. That was not more clear than in their games against the Los Angeles Kings.
The Blues came into their 67th game of the year with an 0-2 record against the Kings. That is not normally a big deal, except the Kings have been in or near the cellar for most of the 2018-19 season.
Couple that with the Blues coming off a hard-fought win in Anaheim, and you might expect a bad result. Things looked that direction at the very start.
St. Louis did not have their legs in the first few minutes. Thankfully the game lasts much longer than that.
The Blues would overcome a goalless first period by scoring three in the second period. They would add another goal in the third as well.
Once the Blues found themselves, they really took the game over. There were a few flashes here or there by the Kings, but Jake Allen was there to turn them away. The Snake played a really good game, despite long periods of no action.
The Blues asserted themselves nicely and looked like the better team and made sure the Kings knew it.
Cons: Sluggish Start
One of the hallmarks of the Blues during their awful start to this season – really it has been a problem for a few seasons, but I digress – was a slow start. When the team clearly had heavy legs to start this contest, it gave us reason to worry.
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The Kings looked like the fresher of the two teams and it seemed as though they might have the edge. They had the first three or four shots on goal before the Blues even came close to the Kings net.
The Blues looked very sluggish too. We often talk about having cement in their skates, but this looked like a literal comparison. They were skating very erect, not pushing with their legs. It was just kind of gliding around.
Only Robert Thomas had any jump to him and you can chalk that up to youthful exuberance. The rest of the team looked like they just got off a 3 am flight.
Thankfully, Allen was on his toes and made some good, early saves. That allowed the team to get the smelling salts and wake themselves up before anything disastrous happened.
Pros: Top Line
Give Brayden Schenn a contract extension right now, please. We were worried about the Blues trading him off at the deadline and there were whispers about unhappiness in the locker room, but he has fit in with the current top line like he was made for it.
The trio of Schenn, Ryan O’Reilly and Vladimir Tarasenko were the driving force behind the team’s winning streak. We see injuries have an impact all the time, but Schenn going out made O’Reilly and Tarasenko about as ineffective as we have seen all year.
The trio were important in Anaheim and it carried up to Los Angeles. They combined for five points.
It was Schenn’s interception and drive to the net that took the defense away from Tarasenko and allowed the first goal of the game.
Then, the tic-tac-toe passing shown on the team’s third goal was something to behold. Tarasenko made a great cross-ice pass to Schenn. Schenn then put it on O’Reilly’s tape with two seconds left for the tap in.
While the team clearly needs a bit more lower scoring, this trio is going to determine how far this team can go.
Cons: Jon Hamm’s Extended Air Time
Ok, this one is a bit of a pet peeve. I like Jon Hamm and I like most of his work. I think he’s a fine actor and I like the fact he has stayed with his boyhood teams.
That said, as a broadcaster myself, I dislike these long winded interviews with people that have nothing to do with the game during the game. I want to hear the action described. At least this was on television. It is even worse when on the radio.
The only good thing of it was that Hamm had the sense to segue from his story to talking about the goal. It was not a professional call for the goal, but it was better than nothing. Nothing is worse than a big play in a game happening when a guest is prattling on about nothing.
I do not fault Hamm for any of it. It’s just something that touches a nerve.
Take some time away from the studio crew during the intermissions for this kind of thing. I want to be able to focus on the game during the game.
Pros: Keeping The Foot On The Gas
After falling apart against the Ducks last night, we needed the Blues to keep focused. Thankfully, they did.
As mentioned, the team had a slow start and heavy legs. Once they grabbed hold of this game, however, they never let go.
The Kings had a few chances here or there, but Allen was strong. He made some good saves and a couple lucky ones, but like goals, they all count.
The Blues out on the ice were great. There were a few defensive miscues, but overall they were all on the same page.
The Blues were clicking offensively and dominated like they should against a lower tier team.
They never let the Kings really think they had any business in the game and that is important. It’s good to win after mistakes, such as in Anaheim, but it’s better to win because you took care of everything start to finish.
This team continues to baffle, but in a good way now. Earlier in the season you could not believe the ways they found to lose.
Now, you wonder where this has been all year. The power play is suddenly clicking. The Blues have the best road power play in the league apparently, making you wonder if it is better to not have home ice advantage. St. Louis did not have a power play goal in this game, but they had plenty against the Ducks.
Just as impressive in this game was the shutout by Allen. He was not tested often, but the ones that got through were quality and the Snake was up to the task.
Earlier in the year it seemed like anytime an opponent sneezed, the puck would go into the Blues net. All of a sudden, the Blues lead the league in shutouts with their ninth of the year and third for Allen – all on the road.
This was a much better all around game and a much better confidence booster heading into San Jose. Of course, you want to win them all, but I would rather have this solid L.A. win right before playing the Sharks than the shaky one in Anaheim.
Now, the Blues can try to take all six points from this road trip since they know they have four in their back pocket. Things are not quite as squeaky clean as during the win streak, but this is a much closer example of what the Blues need to be down the stretch to keep everyone in the rearview mirror.