The St. Louis Blues came into their home game against the Minnesota Wild on a roll. The question was whether that roll would continue or hit a brick wall.
The virtual St. Louis Blues were red-hot by the time they rolled into their final home game against the Minnesota Wild. Having no set standards on what simulations are “official” we will just go with the idea that the Wild were still clinging to their playoff lives, hovering around that wild card line.
The Blues were still trying to hold off Colorado, attempting to force a pivotal final game of the season in Denver. That is still a few games away and the Blues needed to focus on the team from the Hockey State.
St. Louis played like a team in first place in the first half of the first period. The Blues generated the first few scoring chances and kept the Wild at bay with some solid hitting. Even Carl Gunnarsson got into the hitting action.
All that work paid off as St. Louis scored the first goal of the game. Robert Thomas went dot to circle, from left to right, to set up a quick snap shot by Zach Sanford who put the Blues up 1-0 9:02 into the game.
Just about 90 seconds later, the Blues were almost (and should have been) up by two. David Perron was set up in front and clanged one off the right post.
St. Louis kept up the pressure in the early part of the second. They kept feeding the slot from the wings and only some well positioned defensive sticks kept them from connecting.
It looked like it was going to stay 1-0 after 40 minutes, but one of those wing feeds found a home late. With just nine seconds left, Ivan Barbashev put St. Louis up 2-0.
Minnesota was fired up in the third. They came close to scoring almost three minutes in. A long shot from the point almost had Jordan Binnington beat, but went wide. The rebound came right back in front and a quick sliding save from Binnington was needed to keep the zero on the board.
Unfortunately, that zero straightened out minutes later. With 14:05 left, a similar play happened, but this time Binnington made the pad save on the initial shot, but he could not get a glove to the rebound and Minnesota made it 2-1.
Midway through the period, the Blues went to the well one too many times. Alex Pietrangelo passed from the right half-wall to the slot and it got picked off. That sprang a two-on-one and the Wild tied the game off another left pad rebound.
The Blues made the most of their next opportunity though. After a tripping penalty sent Marco Scandella into the corner awkwardly – he was lucky to not be injured from the reckless play – the Blues struck on the power play.
After having a tipped shot go wide, the Blues cycled it back in front while the Wild were still scrambling. Jaden Schwartz made no mistake from that distance and restored the rightful lead.
With under two minutes, all it took was one defensive miscue. As Minnesota drove into the zone, Colton Parayko pushed to the slot instead of staying with his man.
Kevin Fiala would score on a tap-in. The game was tied 3-3.
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The Blues would get a late third period power play that carried into overtime. Unfortunately, the Blues only got one shot off, electing to pass too much.
Under two minutes to go in OT, both goaltenders made great glove saves on consecutive rushes. Then, St. Louis hit the post after that.
Thankfully, the Blues would pull off the win for the full two points. After a key faceoff win by Ryan O’Reilly, David Perron quickly found Pietrangelo. A couple quick strides and shot from just outside the right circle beat the goaltender and gave St. Louis a 4-3 win.
Pros/Cons: Sticking with what works
One thing that you see with pro sports teams, whether it be hockey, football or even baseball at times, they change things up too quickly. A plan might be on the verge of working, but you’ll never know because a coach or players freaked out at a lack of initial success.
The Blues did not do that. They came with a gameplan of driving to the endline or deep on the wings and serving it back to the middle and they were coming really close. Instead of changing that up, they stuck with it and scored the majority of their goals on those plays.
However, it must be said that they did try it a little too much. Sometimes you have to be more situationally aware instead of following the plan blindly.
The turnover that led to the tying goal was avoidable. Pietrangelo should have seen there were too many white sweaters in front to connect on that pass. However, he got antsy with a hit coming his way and flung the puck anyway, costing the team a crucial goal
This game was not quite as physical as the one against Los Angeles, but the Blues were still throwing the body. By the time the third period was halfway over, St. Louis had thrown 12 hits.
They finished the game with 15, ending the game strongly. 15 might not sound like much, but like the Kings game, these were not just pushing a guy into the corner hits. St. Louis was strong and had several open ice checks, knocking opponents down.
Cons: Coughing up a lead
Binnington will not be happy with allowing three goals, but the reality is there was not much he could have done. Novices will say rebound control, but you say that once you’ve strapped the pads on and tried to keep wrist shots that are harder than we could slap shot in control.
Nevertheless, whether you want to lay blame on the goalie or the defense or whoever you choose, the mere fact the Blues gave up two leads is unacceptable.
If anything, the defense shoulders a little more blame just because of their mistakes. Pietrangelo’s pass set up the two-on-one. Parayko not staying with his man to guard a spot on the ice cost the Blues another goal.
It just wasn’t the cleanest of games.
Pros: OT winner line
It should come as no surprise that the trio on the ice for the overtime winner ended up as the three stars. However, it was not for that goal alone they earned that honor.
Pietrangelo had that mistake, yes. He also had the game-winning goal and three hits to go along with it. The captain was not playing nice in this one.
Ryan O’reilly was a faceoff machine, as he usually is. He finished the game with two assists, including one on the final goal and also chipped in with a hit.
Similarly, you normally expect goals out of Perron. In this game, he was getting the helpers, also picking up two assists, including a lightning fast pass right off the draw for the winner.
This was a sloppy win, but a win nonetheless. The Blues were dominant when they were on offense, but there were too many lulls where they allowed the Wild to grab hold of the game.
The Blues played reasonably well defensively, keeping the overall shot totals low. Still, those minor mistakes ended up costing them against a team that you should be able to get by with a few minor mistakes.
Fortunately, the Blues offense kicked in at the right times. This is a point in the season where all you need is points, no matter how you get them.
Rivalry week continues as the Detroit Red Wings are the next to come to town.