The St. Louis Blues came into their final game of a four game home stand, knowing they already had a winning record. Still, they wanted to be greedy and go for the sweep.
The St. Louis Blues put themselves into a fine position going into their final home game against the Vegas Golden Knights and the final home game in a four game home stand. They had already won their previous three home games, so you could have excused any let up against Vegas.
The Blues had no such plans as they are in playoff mode. They know they can control their own destiny if they keep winning, so they kept their eye on the prize.
Things did not start very well for St. Louis. They came out a little slow and sluggish, which could have been very dangerous against the defending Western Conference Champions.
However, the Blues shook off the cobwebs and got their feet underneath them before Vegas could mount an offensive. The Blues picked up a late first period goal and never really looked back.
The Blues did allow a tying goal on a Vegas power play, which was unfortunate. The penalty was about as weak as you will ever see, however, so given the final result, it is not all that big a deal.
The Blues had some rare puck luck in this game too. They did hit a post of their own, but Vegas returned the favor and then the team’s third goal was quite fortunate, hitting a chest before banging it in.
St. Louis spread out their scoring. They had one goal per period and finished things off neatly for a 3-1 win.
Pros: More Secondary Scoring
Ah, the ebbs and flows of the National Hockey League. Just weeks ago, we were complaining that this team relied on their top line too much. Then, all the forwards got healthy and people were slotted in better spots.
Now, the team is getting production up and down the lineup. This game happened to feature the fourth line picking up the slack.
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Ivan Barbashev continued to show his worth. His 13th goal of the season put the Blues on top 1-0 with under two minutes to go in the first period.
Similar to Oskar Sundqvist, Barbashev has really come on this season. He might not have come from as deep obscurity as Sundqvist, but they are both setting career marks with each point added.
Barbashev took advantage of a turnover and finished off the play by banking it off the goaltender. Those are the chances you want buried.
Then, we talked about the puck luck earlier. Zach Sanford picked up his eighth goal to give St. Louis some insurance.
The puck bounced off Sanford’s chest and managed to fall right to his stick so he could poke it in. On first glance it looked to go in directly off his chest, but the replay showed he did get on a stick on it.
In the last handful of games, the Blues secondary scorer have well over 10 goals, making up the bulk of their scoring. It was nice to see the team continue that.
Cons: Sloppy In The Second
In terms of an overall 60 minutes, the Blues never played all that poorly. As mentioned, they did not have the best of starts, but it was the second period that was a little worrisome.
Of course, you do not like giving up a goal at any time. Still, given the weakness of the penalty call against Jay Bouwmeester, you could forgive it.
Even the goal itself had no major issues. It was a rebound put home. If you want to be a major stickler, you could ask what Robert Bortuzzo was doing. He was behind the Vegas player closest to the net, which is not great, and that forced him to be turned around with his back to the eventual shooter.
Everything there happened so fast though. Hard to blame him much.
No, it was the overall play and sloppiness of the team, top to bottom, in that middle frame. The Blues allowed Vegas a little too much room and gave them too many opportunities.
St. Louis got outshot 10-7 in that period. They also gave up too many rushes the other way, though they were not the clear cut ones given up early in the season.
Two of the bigger mistakes were made by Carl Gunnarsson. He is likely rusty after not playing since February, but his mistakes were still curious.
One was an easy clear from the left circle with noboty in front if him. Instead, Gunnarsson just pushed it four feet in front of him. Vegas had an extended possession right after, with almost a minute of zone time. Fortunately, they did not score.
The second was a turnover at the attacking blue line. The blue line is always the worst place to turn it over, regardless of which one. That one led to a breakaway that ended in an easy save, but still you do not know it will end with your team continuing to lead or be tied.
The Blues got away with it and you almost never have a perfect game every time out. Even so, the second period is once again the team’s enemy as it was under Ken Hitchcock.
Pros: Getting The Top Line Rolling
Some might scratch their head at this since the Blues top line only had one goal. When you look at the entirety of their game, however, the top three for St. Louis were on top of things.
Ryan O’Reilly was buzzing all night long. Darren Pang said it after a couple near misses and saves, but you could tell that O’Reilly was going to get his eventually.
Oddly enough, neither of the other two ended up with a point on O’Reilly’s eventual goal. It was two defenders assisting on that one.
Regardless, the top trio were quite effective in this game. They were simply unlucky to only be rewarded with that one goal. They do have 63 points in the 17 games
Tarasenko took some quality shots. Some were just blocked or some skimmed wide. You would rather he take the chance than revert to his passing ways.
Even with just one goal on this night, the team’s best line is going to get theirs if they keep playing the way they did. If nothing else, it opens up ice for the other lines by demanding the best defenders come out against this line.
You could tell Vegas did not have their A-game, but any win over one of the top three in the Pacific Division is a good one. St. Louis has traditionally struggled with some of the western teams, though Vegas is new, so it remains an important win.
St. Louis also keeps climbing up in the point totals and keeping presure on their division rivals. Unfortunately, Minnesota could not help out, so the Blues remain two points behind Nashville but still have that game in hand.
The way the Blues scored might not have been the prettiest, but a 3-1 final was indicative of how the team played. They won most of the battles, at least the important ones and were able to cover up for their mistakes.
They kept the opponent’s chances to a minimum overall, despite being outshot. The Blues, clearly, made the most of their chances too.
In the end, this was a very good win. The Blues beat one of the better teams in the conference and swept their home stand of four games. The goal totals might have gone down each game, but the opponents were harder in the last two, so that’s fine.
For the remaining portion of 2018-19, the Blues just need to get and stay healthy. If they can keep guys in their best roles, they can stand toe to toe with anyone. We’ve seen what the alternatives can be when guys are playing elsewhere.