The end is in sight for the video game St. Louis Blues. The not so small matter of facing the Los Angeles Kings needed to be in the forefront of their minds.
This particular write-up on the EA Sports version of the St. Louis Blues is particularly painful. I had plans to go to this game with my co-editor, had it been played as scheduled on March 27.
Instead, we are forced to see how things might have panned out via a video game. My, how the world turns.
Anyway, on to the action as the Blues took on the virtual version of the Los Angeles Kings. Despite the fact the Kings have struggled in 2019-20, you can never count them out.
The Blues were hoping for a better outcome beyond just the score. While the last game against the Kings at the Enterprise Center saw The Note get a win, they lost Vladimir Tarasenko to a shoulder injury.
The game started out with quite a bit of physicality. For a game that was semi-meaningless for either team, they were playing like something was on the line.
On the negative side of things, the Blues offense was nowhere to be found in the early portion of the game. That is not to say they were playing poorly, but they were not pushing into the zone or getting on the forecheck.
Due to this, the Kings had the better of the chances early on. Jordan Binnington was not forced to make spectacular saves, but he had to be on his toes.
This has been true in some of the other games played recently. Like some of those games, it did not matter in the end because the Blues got on the board first.
Unlike those other games, the Blues did not sit back in the second period. They got after it.
Just 1:29 into the period, the Blues doubled their lead. Jaden Schwartz cut in from the right wall and unleashed a wrister from just inside the right circle for the goal.
Late in the middle frame, the Blues kept their foot on the Kings’ throats. Given a five-on-three power play, the Blues actually took advantage, scoring their first goal in several years – that’s right, it’s been years since they connected on a 5v3.
Brayden Schenn punched it home from the right side of the goal. It should be said that Jonathan Quick was not on his game to this point as two of the three goals against were ones he would normally save.
It was the Kings to strike next though. Somewhat early in the period, the Blues generated a chance from the slot that was blocked and the collisions knocked two Blues forwards down.
The resulting play was a break down ice for Los Angeles. It was basiclaly a one-man show as Alex Iafallo drove the neutral zone, cut back across in the offensive zone, created confusion for the Blues defense and fired thie shot for a goal to make it 3-1.
St. Louis would regain their three goal lead midway through the period. Thomas picked up his second as he got his own rebound on a wraparound attempt.
Everything seemed to be clicking for St. Louis. They added a fifth goal on the night with 2:05 left in the game.
Pros: The hitting
As mentioned, this game had a certain ferocity to it that was not to be expected. The Kings are basically playing for pride as they are all but eliminated from the playoff picture.
The Blues should be more focused on getting/staying healthy. Banging into walls is not usually how you do that.
However, from a one-game view point, it was fun to see. Guys were flying around, actually knocking people onto their backside. These were not just rubbing someone out along the boards. They were hits.
Kyrou, as mentioned, got drilled into the wall. He took the hit and made the play though.
Jaden Schwartz was taken out in the corner by Joakim Ryan. He took it like a hockey player and got right back up.
The Blues laid out some guys too, make no mistake. Sundqvist threw a couple hard checks and so did Zach Sanford.
This close to the end of the season, it was nice to see the teams not just playing like it’s Olympic hockey and going for the body.
Cons: Defending on Kings first goal
Overall, the Blues defense did a very good job outside of the first 10 minutes or so. However, the defending once in the zone on the Kings lone goal left much to be desired.
There seemed to be miscommunication between Alex Pietrangelo and Carl Gunnarsson. Both of them kept backing off Iafallo, even though there was technically only one Kings player other than him and it was a trail player.
However, both Gunnarsson and Petro kept their eye on the puck carrier. Gunnarsson took initiative, but in the wrong way.
Instead of letting the right defenseman charge the player and Gunnarsson peeling off to guard the trailer, Gunnarsson made a move toward Iafallo. That bumped him into Pietrangelo, however, which set him slightly off balance.
Given the fact Pietrangelo was backing up anyway, perhaps he would not have been able to react to the cut back to the wing anyway. We won’t know because even though he did not fall down or really wobble, having your own player bump you is going to be a distraction. In a game where milliseconds matter, you can’t have that kind of mistake.
Pros: Robert Thomas
Robert the Thomas, as they say, had a fantastic game in this one against the Kings. He was on it from the start.
Thomas was winning faceoffs and pushing the play, even when the team was a bit sluggish early on. Once the Blues caught up to him, that actually freed him up.
The first goal was a bit fortunate as Quick normally has some of the fastest legs in the league. Despite this, he is somewhat susceptible to being score on through the five-hole.
Thomas wisely kept the shot low. No matter how quick your legs are, that is the last place that gets covered for any goaltender going into the butterfly and often your best chance to score if their stick is not properly placed, which it often isn’t in today’s game.
Thomas came very close to setting up a third goal, which would have been his second at the time. He cut in behind the defenders and had a partial break on goal. It was only a last-second stick lift that thwarted his opportunity.
Thomas would not be denied though. He did his patented reverse move behind the net, freeing himself up for a wraparound attempt.
The initial try was stopped with the far pad of Quick. However, Quick’s kick actually cost him. If the pad was static in place, the puck goes wide to the far side. Instead, it came right back to Thomas who lifted it just over that same pad for the goal.
This was as complete a game as we have seen lately and that includes an impressive win over the Capitals. The Blues were solid in all three phases.
They got good goaltending to start the game, when they needed it most. The defense was solid for the rest of the game, the goal notwithstanding, allowing only 12 shots against in total.
The offense speaks for itself with five goals. They were not fancy, highlight-reel stickhandling goals, but fine scores set up by gritty play.
Two goals came off sacrifice plays from the wall to set up one-timers in the slot. Thomas’ second goal was about pure effort, as was Schwartz’ as he cut back across.
St. Louis now has five wins in a row, dating back to their overtime win over Philadelphia. After losing two straight on their last home stand, this was about as good a way as any to reacquaint yourselves with the home fans.
This was the first of a four-game home stand before that final game on the road in Colorado. We’ll see how the Blues do against the Wild, Red Wings and Bruins coming up.