The St. Louis Blues are not really behind any eight balls in the standings after a 2-1-1 start to the 2021 season. However, they could not afford a poor performance after laying an egg against the San Jose Sharks.
On paper, it seemed like the Los Angeles Kings were the team to face when needing a good performance. However, after some a win and another good performance against the Colorado Avalanche, the Kings were in no mood to be bowled over.
So, it should be no shock that the Blues had their customary slow start and the Kings almost capitalized. LA managed to put together some odd-man rushes and came very close to scoring in the first couple minutes, even though they were technically being outshot.
The Blues just looked disjointed in the first period. The passing was quite bad, rarely hitting a man and too many that were pure blind passes.
St. Louis seemed to turn things around and their efforts earned them a power play. Normally, that was a death sentence for team offense, but the Blues managed to get some decent puck work going.
Torey Krug would get off his own drought and end the team’s power play drought in the process for a 1-0 lead. It was a good feeling to have the special teams seem special.
Despite the Blues going to the intermission with the lead, it still felt they had been outplayed. The Kings showed that was true by scoring the first goal of the second period.
Fortunately, the Blues did not let the Kings claim too much momentum. St. Louis battled back and would regain the lead minutes afterward, with another goal from the blue line, this time a wrister from Vince Dunn.
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All that nice build up was flushed down the drain late in the period. The Blues could not stay out of the box.
Carl Gunnarsson was called for a weak holding penalty and then the Blues committed yet another too many men penalty. Of course the Kings scored on it, because the Blues deserved to give up a goal after that nonsense.
To their credit, the Blues clamped down more and prevented any further bleeding. They generated enough offensive push to avoid the dreaded final five minutes of defending their zone and nothing else.
St. Louis even scored a rare empty net goal for a 4-2 win. Now, they just need to not split the series.
I’m not really sure what has happened to the Blues passing, but they need to find a way to fix it. This was not a consistent issue throughout the game, but it was bad at the start.
The Blues looked like a club hockey team the way their passes were not even close to the intended target to start the game. They would clean things up and hit some tape for awhile and then it would go off the rails again.
Making things worse, the Blues were bad at passing within their own zone. In the second intermission, they had eight defensive zone turnovers, many of which were unforced errors.
You can only use the cliche it’s early in the season excuse for so long. You can only fall back on the fact that many of these penalties are weak for so long.
The Blues simply have to stay out of the penalty box. It does not matter if you have the best penalty kill in the league or the worst, you are constantly disrupting your team’s flow if you have players in the box or killing penalties.
Even if you take away the five-on-three goal given up, the Blues had everything mixed up due to their penalty kill in the second period.
Ryan O’Reilly played an entire 2-minute shift since he got stuck out on the ice on the far wing while killing a penalty. That forced the Blues to continually shuffle the lines while he caught a breather.
You’re denying ice time for someone like Thomas and Mike Hoffman because they don’t kill penalties. It’s a bigger problem than just the PK percentage
Pros: Defensive scoring
One of the big things fans expected from this current group was scoring from the blue line. It’s been somewhat inconsistent early on, but we saw the return of the defensive offense in this game.
Krug’s first goal was just an offensive player not wanting to defer, which the Blues need more of. Instead of just dishing it around, Krug took a shot and it went in because the goalie did not see it cleanly.
The same could be said of Vince Dunn’s goal. Neither of those shot were blistering pucks that had a vapor trail. They were good shots that took advantage of the situation, which the Blues tend to pass up too often.
Justin Faulk had another good game, even without getting on the score sheet.
Pros: Dynamic offense
While it was inconsistent and disappeared at random, we continued to see how dynamic this Blues offense can be. Whether it’s guys being able to utilize their speed or others finding needle-thin seams with passes, when St. Louis is clicking, it is fun to watch.
Thomas’ pass to set up Perron was a good example. It seemed to come from nowhere, but Thomas knew exactly where he was putting that pass.
Thomas was fantastic on his puck control. Jordan Kyrou did not get a goal, but he continued to impress with his overall game too. He’s shifty and confident, taking shots when needed and holding up when it was not quite there.
The Blues just need a little more finishing and this should all click.
This is one of those games every fan will see differently. Some will accentuate the positives and others will dwell on the negatives.
Personally, I fall into the latter just a bit. We should all be happy for the win and the two points, but it’s hard to feel good about the way it all went down.
The goals were all earned, so the offense was ok, but just ok. Despite outshooting the Kings, you did not get the feeling the Blues truly controlled the offensive side of the game.
There are still too many passing lanes left open for a team that is trying to clamp down on the defense. While the calls are admittedly weak, the Blues are taking too many penalties and messing up their entire flow because guys are getting too much/too little ice time on special teams.
On the positive side, the Blues finally clicked on the power play the first time and looked decent the second time. Zone entries on the PP are still pretty bad, especially when the Blues are good at that five-on-five, but at least they are getting zone time.
Jordan Binnington was solid and the team did not rely on him too much. That said, there were a lot of chances the Kings missed on or a late defensive stick managed to avoid an otherwise easy score for LA.
The Blues have no time to dwell or celebrate. It’s a quick turnaround with game two Sunday at 7.