The St. Louis Blues failed to dominate against the Detroit Red Wings the way we would have liked. In the end, they got the job done.
The St. Louis Blues still cannot manage to make things easy on themselves. Going against a team only six points out of the basement, you might expect a little better start.
You can’t complain too much about the end, I suppose. It is how they got there though that still leaves a few doubts here or there.
St. Louis allowed the first goal, which normally spells doom for them. This was only their ninth win of the season when allowing the first goal. The only benefit was the goal came so early in the game that there was so much time for St. Louis to hit the reset button.
The Blues would score the next three goals to take a 3-1 lead by the end of the third period. However, the Blues kept up the habit of falling asleep at the wheel at the start of a period and let Detroit back into it with a second goal for Thomas Vanek.
Fortunately, the Blues answered quickly to snuff out any hope for their former rivals. They would then finish off the game with a somewhat rare empty net goal to seal a 5-2 win.
It was not the best game, but the results are all that matters when 60 minutes is up.
Cons: Getting Scored On First/Allowing Detroit Too Much
As mentioned in the intro, the Blues are not good at coming back when getting scored on first. It is not as though they have not had opportunities either.
The Blues came into this game with 20 losses on the year when getting scored on first. Overall, they have 24 losses when giving up the first goal, but they did manage to get four of those games to overtime to salvage a point, at least.
While this game had a flash here or there of the old rivalry these two had back in the 90’s and early 2000’s, you just cannot be losing a game to third worst team in the entire league.
What was worse was how it came about. The Blues were slow to get back on a transition play after shooting wide.
Even then, they could have cleaned things up. Instead, they looked slow and foolish with four guys around the net, but nobody challenging Vanek, who had a couple cracks at the rebound.
Maybe you give Michael Del Zotto a pass since he is still new and figuring out where his teammates will go. Regardless, it was a sloppy play and showcased how inept the Blues can be at times.
Then, when you take the game by the scruff again, the Blues tried to hand it back. At least the second goal was a decent one, though how Alex Pietrangelo allowed himself to get twisted so that his back was to the shooter is questionable.
The bottom line was you have this team on the ropes and then you let them have hope. We have already seen that non-playoff teams play looser since they have nothing to lose. You cannot allow them to think they have a chance.
Pros: Ivan Barbashev
What a difference a small tweak can make, hmm? While I was in full favor of keeping Mackenzie MacEachern on the active roster, it cannot be argued that Alexander Steen has added some juice to this fourth line.
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The beneficiary of some of that extra jump was Ivan Barbashev. The Russian forward went from six to nine goals in the blink of an eye, scoring his first career NHL hat trick.
The first goal was just effort and sticking with things and knowing where he needed to be. After Steen clanged one off the post, the Blues kept it alive. Barbashev circled back around and eventually a rebound came to him on the right circle and he popped home the rebound over a prone goaltender.
The second was an old-school type of play. Barbashev won the puck for the team by throwing a check on the right wall. He then got a pass from the corner, collected his own rebound and jammed home another.
Barbashev would finish it off with an empty net goal, smartly set up by teammates who were aware of the situation. The hatty came in front of his parents and brother, who were in town from Russia.
Barbashev has been hit or miss in terms of statistical production, but you cannot fault his effort. He is tenacious and showed how that can benefit the team with his goals against Detroit.
Cons: Power Play
The Blues went 0 for 2 on the power play in this game. That happens all the time, so how bad could it be?
Well, Detroit had the 28th ranked penalty kill in the NHL and they made the Blues look very inept. St. Louis did help them in that aspect, though.
On two power plays, the Blues had one shot. That does not mean one shot per power play, which has become a recurring theme anyway. No, they had one total shot on four minutes of man-advantage time against the fourth-worst penalty kill.
There is just too much talent out there for this to be the case. The Blues score just enough to keep their percentage respectable, but the reality is that their power play is pathetic.
They don’t move the puck quick enough. They make passes just to pass, giving up shot chance after shot chance and being far too predictable. Even the radio crew lamented how often the Blues try a drop pass in those situations.
St. Louis’ power play did look a little better the second time around. However, for all their effort, they still only managed that one shot and created so little in terms of real pressure.
Clearly, it did not cost them in this game. We have seen how a pitiful power play can cost you in the playoffs and if something does not change, it will again.
Pros: Pat Maroon’s Hot Streak
Somebody give the Big Rig some ice cream to cool him off, because that man is hot. Sure, we all marvel at David Perron‘s personal streak of 17 games, but Pat Maroon is not someone you expect to keep on lighting the lamp.
Maroon now has goals in four-straight games. Most of them were important goals too.
Maroon’s goal against Buffalo tied the game up after the team gave up the first one. His goal early in the second against Pittsburgh set the tone, letting the Penguins know they had an even greater hill to climb.
Similarly, though his goal was the fourth for the Blues, it was important. It came quickly after Detroit cut the lead to one goal. Maroon scoring when he did snuffed out the candle of hope the Red Wings had just lit.
Just as important is how he is scoring. Almost all those goals were garbage goals, in that they came from the edge of the crease or within a couple feet.
Those are not the pretty goals that make the highlight reels, but they count just the same. It is also leading by example.
The Blues have a bad habit of looking for the pretty play. If they see Maroon continually rewarded with gritty goals, they stick their noses in there too.
Maroon’s goal has to be attributed to Robert Thomas, who had the wherewithal to kick the puck to the side of the net. Still, Maroon was lurking like a shark near blood and got the nice deflection.
When the final horn sounds and you hear that awful/wonderful song Gloria, you know you had a good night. The journey was a lot bumpier than it needed to be, but you got to the required destination.
The important thing is the Blues won. They have won two in a row, two straight at home and saw the offense come back to life against the teams you need to score goals against.
This is not the time for moral victories, but if you can not play your best and still win, you take it. You are not going to be at your best every night in the playoffs, so it can still be a learning experience.
And really, we should admit we are being a little picky when you complain about four good goals, an empty netter and a 5-2 win. It is only the realization that the playoffs are much likelier than not that makes you seek out perfection.
Perfection is something they will need to worry about the next time with Tampa Bay coming to town. For now, the win was good and good enough.