The St. Louis Blues 12-3-3 hosted the Arizona Coyotes 10-6-2 last night at the Enterprise Center. The Blues are riding a 7 game winning streak and the Coyotes are coming in on the second game of a back to back after defeating the Washington Capitals in a shootout.
The St. Louis Blues couldn’t have asked for a better situation when facing the visiting Coyotes. The Coyotes, due to the inclement weather, were held on the tarmac at Lambert Airport and weren’t able to get to their hotel rooms until 3:45 am yesterday morning.
After playing a game against the Capitals that went to a shootout the short turnaround was a gift from mother nature that the Blues hoped would help knock Darcy Kuemper off his incredible start to the young season.
The game started well for the Note as they took it to the Coyotes and were generating substantial offensive zone time. Taking advantage of the Coyotes missing legs for the first two periods of the game.
The first ended and found the Blues on top of the Coyotes by a score of 1-0 from a Jaden Schwartz backhand.
The puck seemed to be following Schwartz around and it looked to me like the winger was going to have a much needed big night.
Unfortunately for the Blues, St. Louisan Clayton Keller tied the game in the second frame at 1 apiece.
The goal was the result of a poor turnover by David Perron in the Blues defensive zone. Perron attempted to make a backhand pass to the center of the zone and not only was it an ill-advised, pass as the Coyotes were pressuring the Blues, but the pass was well off the mark and went right to Clayton Keller who was alone in the slot and he didn’t make a mistake putting it past Jordan Binnington who was on an island at that point.
The Blues would continue to control the play and Colton Parayko would finally find the back of the net for his first of the season at 15:41 of the period giving the Blues the one-goal lead again.
The goal was set up by Oskar Sundqvist and Ivan Barbashev who have continued to force the issue and generate that simple north-south style of play the Blues execute so well. That fourth line has been setting the pace for each and every game and generating energy for the entire team.
The game would head to the third and the Coyotes were finding their legs. In my article, “Looking Ahead At The Next Two Weeks“, I mentioned that this game would come down to which team made the most mistakes.
Well, that’s not a Nostradamus like prediction as most games in the NHL boil down to that outcome, but in this game with two teams that sport great goaltending and defenses that play sound structured hockey albeit the Blues haven’t been as structured as we would like to see, the game was truly about mistakes.
Arizona was gifted an opportunity on a bad call by the refs. A negated icing that led to a prime chance. Now the gift never would’ve happened in my eyes if Vince Dunn hadn’t let up skating on the play. I didn’t want to be him in the locker room after that period. Berube had to be fuming.
Arizona was able to tie the game at 5:58 in the third period on a Conor Garland powerplay goal. The game would head to overtime and the Blues were doing to the Coyotes what they had been doing in every recent overtime game. Controlling the puck and keeping the opposition from making a line change wearing down the skaters on the other side.
Well, here comes the next mistake. With Arizona tired and floundering a bit in overtime, the Blues make a bad line change and Alex Pietrangelo passes the puck to Robert Thomas coming off the bench before the blues could get the other man off the ice which led to a too many men penalty.
The Blues were able to kill off the penalty in overtime, but the opportunity to finish off the Coyotes in OT had vanished.
The game went to a shootout and I don’t think I’m the only one in Blue Bleedin fandom that feels we don’t have the offensive skill to win many shootouts. We can only win those if Binnington is standing on his head and keeps the opponent off the board until we finally get one in.
Darcy Kuemper was stellar and Binnington surprising was beaten cleanly by both Coyote shooters. Kuemper received the first star of the game rightfully so as he was what he’s been for the Coyotes all season long. A bonafide Vezina candidate. Let’s get to the grades!
The Blues offense although sustaining long periods of offensive zone time failed to turn that time into goals. Too many times I saw guys like Robert Thomas who has frustrated me more and more on the top line, pass up too many opportunities to fire the puck on net.
He failed to shoot in a 2 on 1 break with Jaden Schwartz. He would get into the slot and then pull up when in a game against a Vezina candidate you need to take every shot and put as much rubber on net as you can and crash the net for the greasy goals.
Thomas has been doing this far too much for my liking and if he is going to be eating up some the minutes form Vladimir Tarasenko’s injury then he has got to start shooting the puck. The kid has tons of talent, but he needs to get over this propensity to pass first out of his head and just start letting it rip.
The only thing that I can think that is keeping him from shooting is that the wrist is still bothering him. If that is the case then the Blues need to move up Blais again who was finding himself in some good scoring chances in the game and not hesitating to shoot. The offense has to shoot more and often and get to the rebounds or goals will continue to be scarce for this club.
The Blues top six were solid. Aside from maybe someone sitting Justin Faulk down, who hasn’t been impressing me at all lately, and maybe let him know that you can’t score or even generate a rebound shooting the puck into the goaltender’s chest.
Alex Pietrangelo and Colton Parayko were all over the ice. Carl Gunnarsson too had a prime opportunity that failed to hit the net. Vince Dunn was flying around after I’m sure Craig Berube lit him up between periods for pulling up and the negated icing.
The defense is going to have to continue to generate chances and even more importantly convert on those chances for this team to win games. You can see that the opposition is starting to zero in on David Perron and Ryan O’Reilly, so if the rest of the offense can’t start scoring the defense is going to need to pick up the dead weight.
Jordan Binnington was every bit as good as Darcy Kuemper last night up until the shootout. Binnington made some great saves and kept the Blues alive as he routinely seems to do.
The shootout he looked off and out of place. Guessing more and not reacting to the shooter, which is uncharacteristic of Binner as he has shown a tremendous ability to stay patient in those situations. Perhaps the play of his offense was in his head a little and he was trying to do too much?
Special Teams- C
The Blues were entering the game as one of the hottest powerplays in the league converting on 10 of their last 30 tries. The Coyotes ranking only 16th in the league on the penalty kill are more dangerous than their current ranking suggests.
Arizona managed to score a short-handed goal in nearly 20% of their games last season. they had 16 short handers last year. So I was not of the mindset that the Blues powerplay was going to have an easy go of it.
The Coyotes speed pressures your powerplay better than almost every team in the league. I don’t expect their 16th rank to stay for long. They will finish in the top 8 easily in my mind. The Blues still had 3 powerplay opportunities and in one of those, we were outshot by the Arizona penalty kill.
It was far too reminiscent of the early season powerplay. The Blues failed to get much going and at times the Coyotes were dictating the play even without the puck on the penalty kill. That’s something the Blues penalty kill has been known to do to other teams.
The Blues have been winning games solely based on their special teams and they lost this one partially by failing to capitalize on their powerplay chances and surrendering a powerplay goal to the Coyotes.
I’m not sure how the coaching staff keeps sending out Justin Faulk. The guy hasn’t produced much and should probably take a seat and let’s get Robert Bortuzzo back in the game.
I know Bortuzzo is snarling and drooling to get in there and make a difference. He’s going to generate the same offense that Faulk is currently and will even give the Blues a little more snarl to their game.
Robert Thomas has to start shooting and if he doesn’t then move Blais there. Thomas, I repeat, needs to shoot the puck! Every chance he gets he needs to fire the puck. Period!
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The Blues have two days off while they travel to Columbus to face the Blue Jackets. I hope in that time the coaching staff starts to push the buttons of certain players. Schwartz seems to be getting the message lately and we have seen him getting to the net and shooting more.
We need Thomas to do the same. The Blues should’ve won this one and let it slip away due to a couple of mistakes that can easily be cleaned up, but if you have to play a perfect game every game in order to win because let’s face it, this offense isn’t going to hide those mistakes currently.
The effort was there, but the results were not. That happens in the NHL sometimes. The Blues have had a lot of the bounces go their way recently and in this game, they didn’t. Workmanlike effort and greasy goals are the way this team will survive and thrive. They have the attitude to do it, but do they have the guts?
Drop the puck!