The St. Louis Blues took on the Chicago Blackhawks in the lone warm up game prior to the round-robin games starting. The Blues will have to do a lot better when the games count.
The St. Louis Blues hit the ice against an opponent other than themselves for the first time in over four months. It was good to see hockey back and the Blues playing, but it was not a great game.
The Blues looked pretty good in the opening moments of the game. They also outshot the Chicago Blackhawks for much of the game.
Still, the offense did not generate enough overall. The first period went by with neither team scoring a goal.
It seemed as though that was going to be a good building block. The Blues did not look great, but they had moments and just needed a little more umph in the second period.
What they provided was even flatter. Statistically, the Blues had their most shots in the second period. Again, they never really tested the goaltender though.
Chicago had their fewest amount of shots in the second period and managed to score two goals. The first goal was a backdoor play that nobody kept track of Brandon Saad.
The Blackhawks doubled their lead just 92 seconds later on a similar play, but in reverse. This time, Dylan Strome was mostly unguarded on the right side.
St. Louis looked even more lackluster in the third period. The offense was basically nonexistent, only mustering four shots total. It’s a little hard to tie a game up with four shots.
Meanwhile, Chicago scored two more goals, both coming from Dominik Kubalik on the power play. The first one there was not much the Blues could do.
Chicago worked their passing very well and found an open Kubalik in the slot for the goal. The second, while on the power play, was disappointing.
Even as a Jake Allen supporter, it was a shot he needed to save. Kubalik was in the high slot and open, but the shot hit Allen right between the blocker and the body. Even he would likely say he needed to make that save.
Still, at that point, the game was already 3-0 and the Blues scored no goals, so it is not as though it mattered much.
Pros: Hockey returning
While the Blues were not the first game to bring the NHL back onto TV, in fact they were not even the first game of the day, it was still good to see them. It felt like as close to normal as you can get during these times.
It was weird to see how the seats were all tarped off, but that’s not the strangest thing ever. Anyone who has ever watched some of those international games that get played in the summer will have seen similar arena set ups over in Europe if the crowds are sparse.
You could tell the Blues were playing an exhibition, but it was just fun to see them out there. We finally got to see them wear actual uniforms instead of practice jerseys.
We got to hear the announcers we are all so used to and get a feel for the flow of the game. Even trading barbs and disappointment on Twitter was fun again.
Cons: Power play
Well, the old Blues power play definitely returned for this game. I still can’t believe the team’s special teams unit was in the top five when the league got suspended, but they were looking decent and converting at a good clip overall.
That was not the case at all in this game. Just about everything bad we have said about the Blues power play over the years was present in this game.
They failed to enter the zone cleanly. The Blues failed to get shots on their first two power plays.
The shots they took, even if they hit the net, were often too easily seen by the goaltender. There was little-to-no net front presence.
The passing was just awful. That was true of the entire game really, but it was especially evident on the man advantage.
In the third period, in particular, the Blues just looked like they were going through a preseason training exercise. There was no zip to the passes and no reason behind most of what they attempted. It was back to the old “here, you take it. I don’t want it” mentality.
The Blues won a Stanley Cup with an extremely mediocre power play in last year’s final, but you can’t bank on that happening again.
Pros: First period overall
The Blues had more shots in the second period, but the first period was their best. All the players, including Jordan Binnington, just had a little more edge.
The first five to 10 minutes were the best of the game for the boys in blue and white. They had a decent flow to their game and a good amount of jump. Where that all went the rest of the game is anyone’s guess.
Speaking of Binnington though, he looked sharp in the first period too. He was not tested early, but the Blues took their foot off the gas later in the period and the Blackhawks got a flurry of shots on goal toward the end of the frame.
Binnington stood tall and made several saves in a row to stymie Chicago. While you never want to leave your goaltender exposed, it might have been good for him. He got to test his positioning and edge work as well as reflexes.
It just would have been nice for all involved to build off the first instead of taking the rest off.
You can say it’s an exhibition game and we should not worry and you would be right, in a sense. However, the thing that is worrying is the aspect of the game the Blues are built upon – defending.
The defending was downright bad at times in this game. The captain, Alex Pietrangelo, was on the ice and partially to blame on both of the first goals against.
Pietrangelo failed to recognize anyone was on the back door for the first goal. On the second goal, the Blackhawks were moving the puck well, but Pietrangelo looked like he hit the wrong block button on NHL 20 the way he just bent over and reached for the puck in vain as it sailed by him.
Petro was not the only defender to be in preseason form, but he stood out. The entire team just looked like they were on their heels defensively from the second period on.
You can credit the speed of the Blackhawks if you want, but if the Blues do not have more precise effort when the games count, it’s going to get ugly. If you think Chicago has speed, just wait until the Colorado Avalanche are the opponent.
There just was not enough support for either goaltender. Allen will get more of the blame, since that’s what Blues fans love to do, but three of the four goals were clearly defensive mistakes earlier in the play.
The Blues had 13 giveaways, one of which led to a Chicago goal directly afterward. The defense just has to be more decisive.
It is an exhibition game. It is nothing to get too bothered about.
That said, it was a letdown because of everything we heard going into it. Craig Berube talked about how he wanted his team to find their game, come out hard and get used to a playoff pace.
This game was anything but a precursor to a playoff atmosphere. The Blackhawks treated it like it mattered. St. Louis played like they did not want to get hurt.
I will not seriously claim the players did not care, but visually they seemed to care less and less about the game as it went on. Once they got down by two and three goals, there was little or no push to get a goal and get back into the game.
If the refs called it, there would have been little objection by most of the Blues players. For St. Louis, it truly looked like a preseason exhibition game.
That’s fine. They got their feet wet and hopefully have a better sense of how high they need to turn the dial in a few days.
Again, that’s not what we were told we would get. We were told this would not be an exhibition in the normal sense of the word.
We were going to get normal lines and typical situational play. Instead, either by design or due to the circumstances of the game, Berube played his forwards an eerily even amount.
Except for Ryan O’Reilly, most of the forwards played at or around 15 minutes. Everyone, except Troy Brouwer, played double-digit minutes. That’s what you’d expect of a game to get everyone moving and see what they have, but not what you’d expect from a game to get a playoff intensity going.
Ultimately, the final score of 4-0 is only disappointing because of who the Blues were playing and how the boys played. A little better effort and you wouldn’t think so poorly of it, like how Calgary could take positives from a 4-2 loss to Edmonton.
The only truly worrying thing is whether the Blues can flip the switch. They have a day or two to work out the kinks and then the games matter. We can say seeding doesn’t matter, but the Blues cannot afford to lay any more eggs.