The St. Louis Blues were looking for a big bounceback effort against the San Jose Sharks after getting embarrassed by the Colorado Avalanche. Initially, it looked as though that was going to happen. Looks can be deceiving.
The Blues dominated the first 10 minutes of the first period. Unfortunately, they had nothing to show for it.
St. Louis wasted another power play opportunity as the man advantage has been anything but to begin 2021. Then, the Blues had the misfortune of allowing the first goal.
It was a lucky play with a shot heading toward an easy save until it was tipped. The deflection put it into an empty net as Jordan Binnington had glided toward the right post, thinking the shot was floating in that direction.
Things got worse. Another very weak penalty was called on Oskar Sundqvist and it led to a power play goal for the Sharks.
Despite the fact Sundqvist’s stick connected weakly with the opponent’s stick, it was called a slash. The Blues power play has been poor, but the penalty kill has been awful.
St. Louis has now allowed six power play goals on eight attempts over three periods of hockey. It was understandable against Colorado, but the defensive box was far too deep against the Sharks and Carl Gunnarsson was not well positioned to block the pass or the shot.
Things did not look much better to start the second period. The Blues took a penalty just 29 seconds into the frame and the Sharks created some decent chances on the power play.
Thankfully, the Blues managed to not only kill it, but spring a partial break for Justin Faulk just as he came out of the box. Faulk ripped a snap-shot over the glove-hand shoulder to cut the lead down to 2-1.
That goal seemed to finally ignite the Blues. Just minutes after the goal, the Blues got zone position and Colton Parayko too a wrist shot with and Mike Hoffman got the tip for his first goal in a Blues uniform and a 2-2 tie.
The Blues penalty kill continued its awful start to the season though. Ryan O’Reilly got called for his second minor in three games when he normally has two in an entire season and San Jose quickly scored.
St. Louis had no luck. A blocked pass from the corner went right to Brent Burns who was on top of the crease. He just shoveled it right over Binnington for a 3-2 lead.
The Blues continued to battle though. Jordan Kyrou turned on the jets to blow by Erik Karlsson and force a breakaway. He was denied on a poke check and then it seemed like Brayden Schenn was denied on a nearly empty net. The puck went off the pad on a ricochet and the game was tied.
St. Louis kept the pressure up and stole the lead right before intermission. David Perron ripped a shot that Justin Faulk tipped for his second goal and a 4-3 lead.
The Blues could have grabbed momentum with an early third period power play. That went to waste with no shots on goal and moments later, Logan Couture tied the game by banking a shot from below the goal line off Binnington’s pad.
The Blues seemed to be reeling as you almost felt the Sharks were going to get another lucky play and retake the lead. Kyrou was having none of that as he did a toe drag and fired it into the top shelf on a delayed call to make the score 5-4.
The Blues kept up the pressure, but could not increase the lead. Ryan O’Reilly had a breakaway in the final two minutes, but could not get it over the glove.
St. Louis could not get an empty net goal, continuing their late-game struggles from the last few years, but they held on. It was an important win.
Anyone who says they had complete faith in Jordan Kyrou without any shadow of doubt creeping in as he was continually passed over is either one of his family members or telling fibs. He is making the absolute most of his opportunity though.
Even if Kyrou did not score a goal, he would still have to be considered one of the team’s best players in this game. He was more feisty than you would expect from a scorer, which is part of what held him out the last year or so.
Kyrou really turned on the jets all game long as well. We knew he was a fast skater, but not as fast as he showcased in this game.
Kyrou picked up an assist on a play many thought he would score on. He absolutely blew by Karlsson, a former Norris Trophy winner and was barely denied by a goalie poke check.
On the goal he did score, he was just showing off in a good way. He broke the defender down with speed and then did a little David Perron toe drag before he fired the wrist shot.
Kyrou might not be the best player the Blues have had in a long time, but he’s probably the most dynamic. It’s nice to finally have a player you know can destroy opponents with speed.
The guy is clutch too. He’s only scored the two game winning goals in the Blues two wins thus far.
Cons: Penalty kill
If you look at each Blues penalty kill in a vacuum, you cold make the argument they’ve been unlucky. While stats do not mean everything and sometimes don’t tell as full a story as many believe, there is no denying that statistically, the Blues penalty kill is absolutely horrible thus far.
In just two games, they have allowed seven power play goals against. It doesn’t matter if they had 30 penalties called against them, just as an example, that is just too many to give up. It looks even worse when it’s seven goals on 10 power plays.
The guys they are using on the PK are not bad defenders though. Maybe they’re not used to the style of five-on-four, but they just look lost.
The Blues PK has never been overly aggressive, but they’re backing off way too much. This allows the point men to pinch down low.
Even when the Blues make a play, such as a block or deflected pass, they’re too discombobulated to do anything. They fail to clear the puck far too much and leave men open all over, regardless of the fact they’re a man down.
When the power play is not scoring, you need the PK to step up. Right now, special teams are atrocious on both sides for the Blues.
There’s no need to only pick on the six defenders out there. There are plenty of problems with the Blues defending as a five-man unit.
For whatever reason, their problems on the penalty kill are spreading to five-on-five. That’s not typical of a normal Blues team.
Again, they’ve lost good defenders. However, Torey Krug is a better defender than he gets credit for.
Most fans, including myself, were saying Parayko was ready to ascend to a top-pair role. It’s been very sloppy thus far.
Krug has not really done much defensively, good or bad, which almost puts him in the category normally held by Carl Gunnarsson. Parayko seems to have reverted to the poor defensive display we saw in the 2020 playoffs.
Marco Scandella is getting careless with the puck. Faulk has actually been quite good positionally, but also manages to turn the puck over a little too much.
What is disappointing is the failure to recognize the open player on the back door. You do not have to be on the guy like glue, but there needs to be more positional awareness so that you are in the lane to either deny the pass or block the shot. The Blues are doing too much zone defending, simply guarding an area, which does nothing.
I’m not a coach, so maybe that’s part of the system. Thus far, whether its coaching or early season hiccups, things have not been Blues defending as we have known it.
We are finally getting to see the player I knew was hiding in there. I was not 100% sure he’d ever break out, but I knew Faulk was not as bad as everyone made out last season.
That is not to say there were not mistakes made and he did not have a bad season. The whole trade him for a bucket of water or bag of pucks thing got old though.
Whether he was aware of all that chatter or not, Faulk is sticking it to the haters. His offense is finally starting to rise to the caliber of what fans in Carolina saw.
Two goals in this game were both huge. The first one was the biggest, as it gave the team life after falling behind 2-1.
The second gave the Blues a lead at 4-3, showing them they had the jump to win the game. Additionally, Faulk was quite good defensively.
Nobody is ever going to mistake Faulk for a Norris candidate, unless he scores 60-70 points. However, if he takes care of a few ill timed turnovers, he’s actually been one of the team’s steadier defenders.
He’s not going to blast anyone into the wall. He’s not a huge shot blocker or anything like that, but he makes smart plays more often than not.
He had eight shots on goal, three hits and the third most time on the ice. Only Krug and Parayko had more.
The Blues don’t need him to score two or even one every night. If he plays like he did in this game every night, nobody can deny what the team is paying him any longer.
A win is a win. It was good to see the offense finally click and get back in sync with some energy.
Overall, this was a very sloppy game though. You can’t take all credit away from San Jose, but four goals allowed on 26 shots is not good.
Binnington had a decent game too. He didn’t make any huge saves, but he stopped the ones he could. His defense is just not helping enough in key moments.
The Blues play good defense in spurts, but the chances they give up are grade-A. The Sharks did get some lucky bounces, but St. Louis was not positioned well enough to deny that luck before it even happened.
Thank goodness this team is more dynamic offensively than the Blues have been in awhile. Hoffman seemed to gain confidence from the goal and Kyrou is just a kid on fire.
It won’t be like that all season for him, but as long as he can ward off the long dry spells that sometimes hit rookies/scorers, he’ll be fine. Speed kills, after all.
Now, the Blues need to clean things up and win the next one. It’s a short season and you need to get some sweeps in these two-game series.
St. Louis cannot afford to split too many early in the year, so they need to rack up points. San Jose is not a deep team, so the Blues need to bury them in the net one.