The question going into this third and final game against the Vegas Golden Knights was whether they could take their minds away from a hospital room in Anaheim, California. Offensively, they answered the bell.
The St. Louis Blues would have gotten a pass from almost anyone if you thought their minds were elsewhere when the puck dropped in Vegas. However, it took less than a minute for them to start putting that idea aside.
The Blues would get their first goal of the game just 25 seconds into the game. However, the back and forth nature of this one would be established very early.
The Vegas Golden Knights would get a power play goal 94 seconds after the Blues scored. With two goals coming in the first two minutes, we should have had an idea how the game would turn out.
Max Pacioretty would get his second of the game at 6:34 of the first period. The goal that put Vegas up 2-1 would be another sign of things to come as the Blues failed to get the puck out and the Knights took advantage.
Zach Sanford was the hero of this game for the Blues. He scored his second goal almost halfway through the period to tie things up.
A double deflection would put the Blues up 3-2 near the end of the period. Mackenzie MacEachern would end up with credit for the go-ahead goal as it just glanced off his jersey.
Sanford and Jonathan Marchessault would score for their respective teams in the second period. It would end 4-3 after two periods, but the third had a lot more in store.
Vegas would score another power play goal to tie things 4-4. The Blues would gain the lead back at 11:45 of the third, but even that would not last. A deflection out of mid air tied the game with less than five minutes to go in the third and that would send it to overtime.
Of course, the officials had to get involved and handed Vegas a power play in the extra period. After some fortunate bounces, the puck went to the backside and there are few teams in the league that would not score on a four on three once the puck gets to the backside of the slot. Vegas won by a head-twisting final of 6-5.
If you watched this game, there was no way that Zach Sanford was not going to get one of the positives from this game. The announcers were not sure he had even scored a two-goal game back in his collegiate days. Suddenly, he had four goals in one night.
Sanford got things started off fantastically by scoring the opening goal of the game. It came just 25 seconds in.
Sanford initially went for a deflection on a shot that went wide. Instead of bailing out, he stayed in the zone to help out and went to the circle where he would get the pass and snap one toward goal.
His second goal showed off some slick hands. You don’t normally associate those soft mitts with Sanford, who has become a more hard-nosed, go to the net kind of player but he still has some skill.
Then, the hat trick came. Sanford got to the dirty area in front of the net and jabbed home a rebound. The goal was even bigger for the team because they had just missed on a goal from Brayden Schenn moments prior.
You would think three goals would be enough. However, they needed more from the offense, let alone Sanford. Fortunately, Sanford still had one more in the tank.
The last goal had more to do with the pass than the shot itself, but it was a showcase of Sanford’s strength to hold off the defender before they could disrupt the attempt.
Cons: Weak officiating calls
We often complain about officiating and it has varying impacts on the games in reality. However, the truth of this one was the officials had a huge impact on this game.
The Golden Knights went 4-5 on the power play. Three of those power plays had no business getting called.
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The holding call against Jordan Kyrou might have been a hold the way it is written in the rules, but it was not a hold. As Chris Kerber put it, these younger referees need to learn whether a play is actually being impacted as to whether something should be a penalty or not. This was two guys battling for position, they both lost balance and the Blues get punished for it.
If you want to say that’s a penalty, then fine. However, again like Kerber said, you have to be willing to call the exact same thing on both teams the rest of the game. That is not a call you can sustain for a full 60 minutes of hockey without giving 20 power plays.
The next bad call was another hold, this time on Carl Gunnarsson. Again, you can’t say Gunnarsson did not tug on the jersey, but he did not prevent the opponent from doing anything. It was a puck battle and the Vegas guy was separating regardless of whether there was a tug or not. Of course, Vegas would score another goal on that.
Lastly, you get a hooking call that gave the Golden Knights the win in overtime. It was a weak call at best and proof that overtime is garbage. Give me a five on four any day as opposed to stupid four on three.
Regardless of my feelings on that, as much as I was in favor of eliminating stick work, it’s gone too far. The mere fact that a stick touches a glove is not a penalty, nor should it be the spirit of the rule. The fact the referee calls it hooking proves it’s garbage because IF you are going to call something, it has to be a slash. There was absolutely no hook at all, but they just blow the whistle and make it up later.
One of the things we worried about for the immediate future was how the Blues would respond to the loss of Jay Bouwmeester and what sort of style would they play. Would they be timid and back off and hope the game would go their way?
They would not do that. While this was not an intense, playoff style, punishing game, there was plenty of hitting.
The Blues ended the game with 44 hits and there was just shy of 100 total hits in the game overall. As we saw on several of the Sanford goals, the Blues were winning board battles too.
That is important because it is not hitting for hitting’s sake. They were going for hits with the intention of winning the puck and there is a rather large difference.
Cons: Leaky defense
What has become of the Blues defense? Nobody would ever confuse the team’s defense for the New Jersey Devils of the mid 90’s, but they are a proud bunch and better than what we are seeing.
This is not just on the defenders either. This is defense as a five man unit that is failing the team.
Jump on the goaltender if you wish, but just because Jordan Binnington is not superhuman does not mean he is to blame. There was maybe one goal he could have done anything differently on to make a stop. That is still a big maybe.
Binnington faced 52 shots. I don’t care who you have in goal. If you give up 52 shots, you’re not likely to win.
The Blues only had five statistical giveaways, but they had some really bad turnovers. Not to point fingers, but Sammy Blais had no business trying to go cross-ice with a pass at the end of a shift that led directly to Vegas scoring the tying goal to make it 5-5.
Similarly, Vegas’ second goal was the result of the Blues failing to get the puck out of the zone. It might not have come from a direct turnover, but not getting the puck out can be just as good as a direct turnover since the opponent keeps you on your heels for that much longer.
Not only did Vegas have 52 shots, but they had 87 attempts. Even iwth a depleted defensive corp, they have to do better. There were too many times that the Golden Knights just peppered the net with shot after shot.
On top of a porous defense in general, the penalty kill selected the worst night possible to fall apart. Some of that has to do with Bouwmeester’s absence since he leads the team in PK minutes. Regardless of that, the PK just did not get the job done.
Vegas was a mere one for their last 18 on the power play coming into this game. That percentage took a wild swing as they went four for five. Five chances and four goals…you just cannot have that happen.
The calls were almost all garbage. You still have to find a way to shrug that off and the Blues could not.
It’s getting a little difficult to not be negative about what is going on right now. The Blues have key pieces out, so you cannot discount that.
However, they have dealt with injury so well earlier that it seems hard to accept as an excuse.
The offense has struggled lately, but they come up with five goals and they cannot find a way to make it last. The defense is what this team prides itself on and they’re looking like Swiss cheese at times.
The team played well enough to score five goals. They played poorly enough to allow five goals.
Yes, the officials played a big part in that. Five-on-five, the Blues win this game walking away, but the refs made bad calls and the Blues were not able to overcome those.
The only thing bailing them out was the fact they got to overtime. Couple that with the fact Colorado lost, so the Blues are now two points up again and that’s about the only positive to take other than Sanford’s goals.
You start to wonder if this season might go the opposite of last. It would be impossible to go first to worst, but the Blues have not done well after the calendar turned and better switch it fast.