The St. Louis Blues were looking for a bounce back effort in Buffalo after two clunkers in their two past games. The Sabres had other ideas.
The St. Louis Blues took on the Buffalo Sabres for the first time in 2019-20 and were looking to reverse their poor play of their last two losses. Despite an up and down few weeks, the Sabres came ready.
Buffalo was so ready, in fact, they jumped out to a 1-0 lead just 18 seconds into the game. The puck took a fortunate deflection on the way through, but the Blues were caught napping a bit.
Thankfully, St. Louis did not take that long to even the score. Turning the tables, the Blues got a goal that likely should not have gone in. Nevertheless, they all count.
However, despite evening things out in the second period and dominating the early chances, the Blues found themselves behind after two periods of play. A fortunate bounce off the endwall came right back in front and the Sabres pounced on it for the lead.
The Blues managed to tie the game relatively early in the third period on a nice goal for the captain. That did not last too long as Buffalo’s captain was allowed to just walk out in front of the net and shoot to regain the lead at 3-2.
The Blues had chances to tie the game in the third period. Ultimately, Lins Ullmark was on point and kept them off the board.
What was a close game looked like a blowout at the end. The Sabres put in two empty net goals and won 5-2.
Cons: Poor start
One of the Blues’ biggest faults over the last few years, 2019-20 in particular, is a habit of trying to let the game unfold before they get going. The problem with that is painfully clear.
If your opponent comes out like a house of fire or there is an unlucky bounce, you are not playing from the front foot. That is exactly what happened to the Blues in this game.
The Blues were not terrible in the first period. Instead, they just had some poor luck.
The Sabres brought the puck in on the left wing and it seemed as though the Blues had most of the seams clogged. Victor Olofsson just tossed one in front and it just happened to tip off Sam Reinhart‘s stick and in. Reinhart did not know much about it, but happened to be in the right place at the right time.
St. Louis would find an answer not long after, but they are making a habit of falling behind too often. It would be one thing if the other team just took it to you, but the Blues just getting bad luck or not being on their toes right from the puck drop is too often the reason.
Pros: Brouwer spark plug
In the first game or two back, you could tell Troy Brouwer had not played hockey in quite some time. It is not as though he was bad, but there was a lack of physicality that comes with age and also lack of exposure to a high level of competitiveness.
After that brief time to get his toes wet, Brouwer has been steady to good since then. He finally got over the hump in this game.
Brouwer got the goal that tied the game 1-1 just three minutes into the game. As mentioned in the open, the shot had no business going in, but that is why you put them on net. It would be great if Brouwer’s first goal back in a Blues uniform was a highlight reel score, but this was actually much more his style.
Beyond that, Brouwer looked like a player that belonged forther up the roster as he was. Due to injuries and two rookies getting their first NHL games of the season, Brouwer was put on what most would describe as the third line.
He was strong on the puck and did not shy away from the physical aspect of the game.
Late in the third period, he bullied his way past the defender, around the net and wrapped it around. The only reason the shot was not a better chance was Brouwer was forced to use just one hand to control the puck.
Cons: No luck in second
The Blues got themselves going offensively in the second period, at least in terms of flow of play. Through a little more than halfway through the period, the Blues were outshooting the Sabres 8-2.
St. Louis was doing a better job of getting pucks to the net. They were also creating some actual chances instead of just constantly putting the puck in the belly of the goaltender.
Unfortunately, the Blues came up empty more times than not. They came close and maybe should have had two or three goals.
These things happen, but it all came so closely together that it felt much worse. Adding salt to the wound, the Sabres got a lucky bounce for a goal at the end of the period, giving them a 2-1 lead after two periods.
Cons: Sabres game winner
The Blues were rarely bad in this game, but their defending on what would prove to be the game winning goal was just awful. Somehow, St. Louis let the Sabres best player walk out in front and have a clear look at goal.
The Blues were trying to play man-to-man, or at least it appeared that way. Vince Dunn vacated the left defending spot to cover his man who floated out to the right circle.
However, Thomas turned his back on the puck carrier to go after the guy cutting through the slot. Dunn was puck watching, Thomas left and Pietrangelo was in the wrong spot as the result of other’s positioning.
All of this led to the best scorer on Buffalo literally being able to just stroll out from behind the net and have a shot. In a perfect world, you’d like Jake Allen to come up with a big save there, but world-class players don’t miss from five feet away.
I could go more into specifics on this game, but there really is no need. It was a lackluster performance overall and the Blues deserved to lose.
That is not to say they could not have won. An inch this way or that and those post shots end up in the net and this is an entirely different story.
The Blues were not dominated and they were not lazy. It was just sort of a blah game and that is what made it frustrating.
The Blues have played worse and made far more mistakes. The difference has often been even when they made mistakes, there was still a push or drive throughout the game.
Perhaps others saw it differently, but I never saw that drive through this game. The Blues were just sort of out there. It was one degree north of going through the motions.
You are going to have these games throughout the year, but we have grown accustomed to the team bouncing back time after time. If ever there was a game you would bounce back, it would have been this one. The Blues had not lost three regulation games in a row since November of 2018.
After getting shutout and having a clunker against Toronto, you just assumed Craig Berube would have the troops ready to go. Instead, they fell behind early and their ability to come back has worn thin, as almost everyone thought it would eventually. You can only go to the well so often.
There was never any distinct drive in this game. There was never really that push where you thought the Blues were going to make their stamp on the game and take it over. You just kept hoping for that one bounce since the Sabres were getting them.
Those bounces did not come, except for the first goal. Buffalo got some quality goaltending, but the Blues are also making a habit of making backup goalies look great.
Maybe the injuries have finally caught up with them. The Blues just seem to lack an energy or spark. You thought tying the game twice and getting Pietrangelo his 100th career goal would spur them on. It didn’t seem to have much affect.
Hopefully the Blues will benefit from some home cooking. Their next four are at home and their next 12 are against the Western Conference.