The St. Louis Blues came into their seventh game of the season facing what, in terms of the standings, might have been their biggest challenge yet. While Colorado has more high-end talent, the Vegas Golden Knights are just as deep as the Blues.
Things did not get off to a great start. Vegas scored on a two-on-one, made worse by the fact Alex Pietrangelo got an assist.
Less than a minute later, the Blues worked some magic. St. Louis created havoc with their forecheck and then David Perron snapped on home on the short side.
St. Louis kept generating the momentum. They scored immediately off the faceoff and made it 2-1 on another Perron goal.
Two minutes after that, they doubled the lead. Another forecheck after a turnover led to a steal along the boards. Brayden Schenn set up Jaden Schwartz in the slot and he slapped it upper glove side for a 3-1 lead.
The Blues then took a foolish penalty late in the first period. They managed to kill that off, though they had been relying on Jordan Binnington too much the last four or five minutes of the period.
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The Blues luck ran out early in the second period. After two players converged on the puck carrier in the corner, Max Pacioretty slipped into the slot and sniped one to make it 3-2.
The game got a little sloppy. The Blues were generating some really good pressure on a power play and then Schenn took a silly penalty.
Vegas almost scored on their ensuing power play, but Binnington made a great shoulder save to preserve the one-goal lead. The Blues tipped the pendulum back the other way, but got stoned on a couple great chances from the Perron line.
The game pinged back and forth with Pacioretty ringing one off the post. Moments after that, Pietrangelo knocked Jordan Kyrou off the puck, only for Kyrou to muscle Petro off and score a breakaway.
Nobody seemed to know what led to the moment, but Mark Stone took a cheap shot at Tyler Bozak at center ice with a reverse hit into the chin. While the Blues were unable to score, they got a great team building moment when Justin Faulk got in a fight with Stone immediately after the power play.
The third period was incredibly strange. In involved two delay of game calls against the Blues, a too many men penalty against Vegas and a made up slash on a partial Blues breakaway. Despite all that, there were no goals scored in the first eight minutes.
St. Louis got very careless though. They kept taking penalties and eventually Vegas would capitalize on a five-on-three, scoring off the crossbar to make it 4-3 with more than nine minutes left.
You just got that feeling that the Blues were going to cough this one up. That ended up being true as Vegas tied the game late in the period, proving St. Louis is incapable of holding a lead in Vegas.
The overtime period was almost as crazy as the third. While there were no penalties, though there should have been one on Petro, chances were traded back and forth like stocks.
Thankfully, both Perron and Schenn scored in the shooutout and the Blues eeked out a win on the road.
Pros: Jaden Schwartz
I’m not too big to admit when I’m wrong or when a player finally gets their act in gear. Schwartz did that in this game.
Over the last week or so I’ve grown tired of hearing how hard Schwartz works and how, since last offseason, irreplaceable he is. Never mind the fact he has not done a blasted thing so far in 2021 and was just as poor in the passing game as anyone in that last LA Kings game. Nobody ever recognizes that.
That said, the Schwartz everybody kisses up to showed up in this game. He was flying around, helping out away from the puck and smashed the puck into the net.
Schwartz is a goal scorer, but like other Blues he often does not shoot enough. This time, despite pressure in front of him, he still fired the puck and reaped the rewards.
Cons: Cheap shot on Tyler Bozak
The NHL has given us no reason to think they will investigate Stone’s cheap shot against Bozak. That is the kind of play the game needs to get rid of as opposed to a hockey play where a player’s shoulder glances against another player who was expecting a hit.
As stated earlier, I did not see an altercation earlier in the game that would have provoked this. You would like to think this was at least retaliation for some perceived slight?
Regardless, Stone went down by about 100 notches in many Blues fan’s estimation of him.
Pros: Jordan Binnington
While the Blues overall defense was quite a bit better, they still needed their goaltender to stand up. Binnington was up to the challenge.
He did not have to make any Dominik Hasek type of saves, but Binnington needed to be sharp. Despite the Blues scoring early, Vegas was getting the better of the shot battle all night long.
While many were routine saves, Binnington was called upon to bail the Blues out a few times. His glove save near the end of the second period might been mostly luck, but it was still about good positioning and keeping the glove high.
Speaking of the glove, Binnington made two top-notch saves with the trapper on a penalty kill in the third. He had to make plenty of good saves at the end of the first period too.
Cons: Dumb penalties
In the eyes of fans, and some coaches, there is no such thing as a good penalty. However, there’s a difference between an effort penalty or just being too rough and taking objectively dumb penalties.
Firing the puck 3/4 of the way down the ice and over the glass while you are on the power play is a dumb penalty. Putting your stick between a guy’s legs to initiate a trip, surrendering another power play, when you had defensive help is a dumb penalty.
The Blues might have only surrendered one power play goal, but you just cannot go into the box that many times. You cannot expect your goaltender, who played fantastic, to bail you out of 5v3’s either.
If St. Louis stays at five-on-five, they win that game in regulation and exert no more effort.
Pros: Jordan Kyrou
I don’t mean to keep gushing over this guy, but the sudden turnaround for him has been amazing. I knew he had the offensive talent, but figured deficiencies in other areas would keep him out of Craig Berube‘s lineup.
The speed at which he adapted to Chief’s challenges is inspiring. He has not sacrificed a bit of offense to do it either. In fact, he’s getting even more offensive chances due to his defensive efforts.
Kyrou did not get an assist, but his pressure on the forecheck caused a mistake that led to the team’s third goal. Kyrou was a one man show on the team’s fourth.
He blocked an effort by former Blues captain, Pietrangelo. Kyrou proceeded to outmuscle the bigger defenseman, turn on the jets and then scoop it over the goalie for the goal. He’s probably been the team’s best player over their first seven games.
The Blues deserved to win this game. They also deserved to lose this game.
Fortunately for them, they secured the second point in a season where every point is precious. Having to go to a shootout when you had a two-goal lead is not the way to do it, however.
On the positive side, for two periods, we saw St. Louis Blues hockey. They were flying around, getting in on the forecheck and creating general havoc, even if they were not clobbering guys along the walls.
They had their big guys step up and play well. The top six forwards were all excellent and, with an exception here or there, the defenders were very good as well.
Binnington was superb in this game. He made great saves look mundane and is a big, if not the main reason they won.
Now, regardless how it happened, a win in this game was slightly expected. It’s up to the Blues to break this curse and play this same style in the next game.