The St. Louis Blues seem like they’re fine playing with house money given all the injuries they’ve been dealing with. Even under continued adversity, they had no intention of faltering against their chief rival.
The St. Louis Blues have to succumb to all the injuries they’ve had eventually, right? Maybe not with the structure and tenacity they play with.
You could make the case that it is easy to overcome not having a player or two (or four) facing one of the worst teams in the Western Conference. Still, having played five games in eight days, you might have forgiven the Blues if they had a letdown against a lesser opponent.
The Blues are famous for playing down to their opponent. They tend to do great against the upper echelon and falter against the bottom feeders.
St. Louis managed to look like a Stanley Cup champion playing a team that had missed the playoffs the last couple seasons in the first period against the Chicago Blackhawks. They jumped on them right away in the first period and stayed on them the entire 20 minutes.
The Blues took advantage of a fortunate bounce off the endwall and backhanded their first goal of the game in before three minutes had been played. St. Louis then doubled up their lead on a fantastic deflection for a power play goal almost 15 minutes into the frame.
The Blues took their foot off the gas in the second period. The odd thing was it almost seemed premeditated. St. Louis seemed to know the Hawks were not going to mount much of a charge, so they took the opportunity to take a breather.
Still, it’s never good to rely on that and the Blues also tested their own goaltender a little more often. The Blues turned things back on in the last five minutes of the period, but it remained scoreless in the second and a 2-0 advantage for the good guys after two.
The third period was a little bit of a mixture. St. Louis didn’t really slam their foot on the gas, but they did not cruise either.
They tripled their lead almost halfway through the third on a nice roofer from Brayden Schenn. Then, late in the period, the Blues got another as Tyler Bozak finished off Chicago by taking advantage of a turnover.
It was not an overly impressive effort from start to finish, but it was what it needed to be. The Blues got four goals, kept their opponent from any and cruised to two points.
Pros: First period domination
We can make excuses why this should not mean much, given the opponent etc., but the fact is this is important. The Blues had a decent-sized road trip, came home for one game, and then went right back on the road to Chicago. Regardless of playing hockey, all that travel is enough to make one tired.
In spite of that, the Blues just hit the gas right from the start in this game. It does help to score within the first three minutes, but the Blues never really let off.
The fourth line continues to impress regardless of who is playing on it. On what seemed like a simple dump-in, the puck came straight out after hitting the stanchion.
Mackenzie MacEachern just tracked the puck down and chipped it right over Corey Crawford‘s shoulder. The Chicago netminder might have done better with it, but it still boiled down to the effort by MacMac.
Except for a few flurries by the Hawks, the Blues defense kept everything at bay. Jake Allen only had to make a couple key saves despite the shots being even 10-10 .
Neither goal came exactly at the start or the end. Still, the goals served as bookends to one of the better 20 minutes of hockey we have seen from the Note and that is saying something.
Cons: Sleepy second period
The Blues were far from bad in the second period. However, you could almost think they had lost interest.
The Blues hardly got any offensive zone time at all in the first 10 minutes of the second. Some of that was due to the Blues killing off a penalty just 21 seconds in.
Regardless of that, the Blues just seemed disinterested in putting much effort into that period. Perhaps it takes away from some of the point made earlier about having a great first period and needing it.
The Blues gave next to nothing in this period for a good 12-14 minutes and did not need to. The Blackhawks had some shots and a couple chances, but Allen was never truly tested.
The Snake saw almost everything come in from distance and with a good view. You did not get the sense the Blues were putting much effort into the defensive end either.
Again, they did not really need to. The only player that picked up the pace for the entirety of the period was Allen and as mentioned, this was nothing compared to some of the other games Allen has been called upon.
The Blues are the more talented team and you could tell that with how much they kept their opponent at bay with so little effort. However, the worry is they become too accustomed to thinking they can flip the switch on and off whenever they wish.
While Allen was never supremely tested, he still faced a lot of rubber. Allen ended up seeing 38 shots come his way.
What was impressive about the Snake was how composed he was. You cannot really argue it was just about playing a lesser opponent because we have seen the Blues give up tons of grade-A chances to cellar dwellers.
Just the same as a team can only play the teams on their schedule, a goaltender can only turn away the shots that come his way. Allen did just that and got his 20th career shutout, tying him for second on the Blues all-time list. He now trails Brian Elliot by five.
Still, what was good to see about Allen’s game was the fluidity and calmness. Even as an avid supporter of the Snake, I have to admit that he has often been guilty of overextending his movements and getting caught outside the posts.
In this game, everything was post to post. He had the angles covered, he did not cheat and he was seeing the puck as if it was a practice drill.
Allen was confident in his glove saves and seemed to always get it in the webbing. That meant there were almost no rebounds and if there was, Allen was quick to swat it into the corner or a defender was there to help him out.
Allen did have a little bit of luck as the Hawks hit a couple posts, but that’s part of the gig. They say posts are a goalie’s best friend for a reason.
Nothing was spectacular, but it was a really solid game by Allen overall.
Just another win right? It sure felt like that.
There was no rivalry aspect to it. The Blues never seemed to feel any ill effects of having guys in odd spots in the roster or having all those injuries either.
It was just another game and one more win and two points for the Blues. It was kind of disappointing that a game against the Blackhawks was so listless, but better to get the win than anything else.
It was a solid performance, but nowhere near great. The Blues knew they could take their foot off the gas and clearly did. That’s fine against an opponent that is struggling like Chicago, but not something you want to make a habit of.
Even so, what fault can you really find in a 4-0 win? Allen was good, the offense was clicking when it needed to and the defense was solid in keeping the Blackhawks shots to the perimeter despite the high number.
Schenn got right back on the horse after his point streak ended in the team’s win against Pittsburgh on Saturday. Schwartz continues to chip away on the offensive end, overcoming his slow start and getting back on track.
Nathan Walker got another point, making a case to stay even if someone gets healthy. The fourth line continues to impress and MacEachern got the game winner.
It wasn’t impressive start to finish, but this is how a game is supposed to go when you have a current top team in the conference against one at the bottom.