The St. Louis Blues went from Alberta to Manitoba with hopes of ending their Canadian road trip on a high note. Instead, they hit a sour note as they dropped a second game in regulation.
The St. Louis Blues are still at the top of the Western Conference. That is basically what Blues fans need to keep repeating to themselves after a bad stretch of hockey.
St. Louis dropped two games in a row prior to the All-Star break. The 10 days off during the break did them no good either as they gave up points in every single game in Canada after the break.
The Blues only bright spot was a come from behind shootout win in Calgary. Other than that, it was three losses in regulation against Vancouver, Edmonton and Winnipeg.
The strange thing about the last opponent, Winnipeg, is the Blues actually started the game quite well. Even with the back-to-back excuse in their pocket, the Blues actually came out pretty strong, which was a departure from every other game played north of the border.
St. Louis was doing well in their transition game and getting pucks to the net. They just did not break through.
The game just made no sense. The Blues won a lot of statistical categories, but came up on the short end.
Winnipeg stole the momentum with a goal just under two minutes before the intermission. As has been the case in games prior, it was a turnover just outside the blueline, which a cardinal sin.
In the second period, the Blues actually controlled a decent amount of the play. They hit a post and were denied a couple prime opportunities.
Unfortunately, letting those chances slip by cost them as Winnipeg would score late in the period. The first goal came off a rebound. You could make an argument it should have been caught, but it looked like the initial shot was deflected and the Jets were there to pounce.
The third goal was the back breaker. The defense gave no resistance to the puck carrier as he carried it all the way through the neutral zone and into the attacking end and then just waved a stick at the shot instead of attempting to stand the man up. Again, you could make a case the shot could have been saved, but the shot should never have happened.
The Blues battled back in the third period. The Blues would get their first goal on a nice cross-ice pass finished off by Brayden Schenn.
Later in the period, it was Ryan O’Reilly with a wicked wrister to cut the lead down to one. That’s as close as it got.
Like in Edmonton, the Blues pulled the goalie for no reason since it never actually works for them. The Jets would add two empty net goals to win 5-2.
Cons: Jets jerseys
Sorry, this has nothing to do with the game, but it’s my article. Plenty of people like them, but those jerseys are trash.
I don’t like the light blue color. I don’t like the script used.
I’m kind of tired of every other team thinking they need a jersey that just says their name or city. Leave that to the Rangers and everyone else needs to just stick to their dang logo.
Cons: Not taking advantage
One of the things that cost the Blues during this trip was losing some of the statistical battles. The Blues lost every faceoff battle prior to the Winnipeg game.
They were turning the puck over more than their opponent. They were usually getting outshot, or out chanced. That was not the case in Winnipeg, which makes the loss more frustrating.
St. Louis finally won the faceoff battle. The Blues took 56% of the draws.
The Blues limited the turnovers. Unfortunately, they still had the one bad giveaway by Vince Dunn that led to the first goal, which sapped all the momentum from the first period out of the Blues.
Even so, they limited their statistical giveaways to four. What they did not do, if we are to believe the stat sheet, was take advantage of Winnipeg’s poor puck control. The box score lists the Jets with 23 giveaways. I’m not sure that’s accurate, but if it is, there is just no way you cannot destroy a team that is that careless with the puck.
On top of that, the Blues power play was somewhat useless again. They went 0-2.
The Blues generated chances, to the tune of 40 shots. Connor Hellebuyck did play well, but just as in Vancouver, you have to find ways to beat him. You can’t count all 40 as big saves when several hit him in the chest.
Pros: More big guns
As good a season as Brayden Schenn has been having, much of his scoring was front loaded. The Blues lead center had not scored a goal since December 23. Even prior to that, there were some goose eggs up there.
His goal against the Jets was a thing of beauty. Jaden Schwartz took the puck from the left circle, saw Schenn open across the way and the power forward blew the shot right past the Jets goalie.
The goal came later than you would like, both in the period and the situation of already being down 3-1, but the Blues needed something. Schenn provided that and as a leader of the team, that’s what you want.
Later in the period, Ryan O’Reilly came back to life. For whatever reason, the goals have not quite been there from O’Reilly and he’s rarely scored at home. Thankfully, this game was in Winnipeg.
It was a heck of a snap shot that gave the goaltender no shot to save it. It showcased the shooting talent O’Reilly has, but don’t always see since he’s a pass-first guy.
Again, just when it was needed from a guy that has struggled. O’Reilly’s last goal was not as long ago as Schenn’s – January 15 – but this was only his second goal in the last 13 games.
Cons: Empty net play
If the Blues are not up by two or more goals late in a game, there is no comfort for fans, even for Stanley Cup champions. When the net empties, you just know bad things will happen, no matter whose goaltender is out.
When the Blues are on defense and the other team pulls their goalie, the Blues just cannot get the blasted puck out. I’m not sure how many empty net goals they have but I’m sure you can count it on one hand.
In Winnipeg, we saw the other side of the equation. The Blues may as well not even pull their own goalie, even in one-goal games, because it never pays off for St. Louis, at least not in the regular season.
The Blues have pulled the goaltender 12 times in 2019-20. According to Jeremy Rutherford, who would know, they have given up 13 goals. They have not tied the game with their goaltender pulled this season.
On top of that, the Blues play like chickens with their heads cut off. They don’t even give themselves a chance.
It’s not like they get set up, work the puck around and come up empty. They always give up an empty net goal.
This time around, and there have been multiple times, it was David Perron. The team likes him at the point in these situations, but he cannot keep the puck in.
Perron is great when actually in possession, but he almost never wins board battles for 50/50 pucks. Sure, in this instance he might have been dealing with a bouncing puck, but you simply cannot let that puck get by you.
Perron is not the only one. Plenty of other players have let it slip by them or were dealt awful passes that put them in no-win situations. Thomas lost the puck on a board battle on the second goal. There just is not the urgency with the goaltender pulled that we see from opponents when their net is empty.
I’m not even sure what to think about these losses at the moment. On the one hand, you could argue the Blues could have won in both Vancouver and Winnipeg.
However, I just did not see the goaltenders stealing the game as much as other fans. That is not to say they did not play very well and make things really hard on the Blues, especially in this game where Hellebuyck did come up with some great saves. Still, it was not like he was standing on his head.
The Blues power play was not awful, but it’s not helping out again. You need to be able to rely on it and you just can’t, even for consistent zone time.
The defense continues to leak bad plays and mental errors. I’m one of the first to stick up for Justin Faulk, but this game saw him have several plays where he made the wrong choice in pass or coverage and he just was not made to pay for it this time around.
Alex Pietrangelo was a minus-4. Often plus/minus is a throw away stat, but your best overall defenseman cannot be on the ice for that many goals against, even if some were into the empty net.
It was just a very frustrating road trip. The Blues need to do better.
Their only saving grace for this night was the Philadelphia Flyers helped them out by walloping the Colorado Avalanche in their first game after the break. So, the silver lining is the Blues still have an eight point lead, even if that is currently fool’s gold.