The St. Louis Blues were ready to get back on the road after losing three of their four games they had on home ice. Unfortunately, as we all know, a new arena did not provide a new opponent.
It was the Blues against the Arizona Coyotes for the fifth time in a row. Thankfully, the Blues came out ready in the early going.
St. Louis drew an early penalty. While that would normally not be anything to celebrate, it ended up being a good thing here.
The Blues worked the puck early and Justin Faulk smashed the goal home for a 1-0 lead. You could not ask for a much better start, outside that game from a couple weeks ago where St. Louis scored two in the first minute and change.
Much of the rest of the period went by with little to see. The Blues briefly thought they had a 2-0 lead when Ryan O’Reilly hit the back of the net, but unfortunately, the puck went under the net after it had been lifted. It would stay 1-0 through the first 20 minutes.
Things did not start as well in the second. The Blues looked disjointed and on their heels to begin.
The refs did not make matters better as they continue to make the sport look like a joke. They called a holding penalty for pushing a guy from behind.
St. Louis managed to kill that off, but Arizona was building pressure. The Blues did answer with a few breaks down ice.
St. Louis was fortunate not to be trailing after 40 minutes. Failure to clear the puck and just jabbing at it led to a second Coyotes goal, but it was ruled offside after video review.
The third period was a mixed bag. The Blues created a few chances and rang one off the crossbar. They let the Coyotes have their chances too, with too many scramble plays.
Arizona started taking over. The Blues had good pressure and hit both posts on a power play, but the Coyotes came just as close to scoring shorthanded and then kept the Blues on their heels for the next two shifts.
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These are the kinds of games that turn on a dime and St. Louis showed that. After all the Coyotes’ pressure, the Blues scored the next goal after a fantastic effort to avoid an icing led to a second Faulk goal.
St. Louis had to take a lot more pressure though. For whatever reason, they always look fatigued at the end of games when the opposing goaltender is pulled and Arizona hemmed them in.
Thankfully, the Blues managed to dig the puck off the wall and spring Ivan Barbashev for an empty net goal. Moments later, they accomplished the same thing for Brayden Schenn and it ended in a 4-1 Blues win.
Pros: Quick start
Call it whatever you want. Say they’re not prepared, don’t have energy or tired – it does not matter.
The fact is that the Blues have been slow out of the gates most games in 2021. Whether they won or not, they have not been fast starters, with a few key exceptions.
The interesting thing is when the Blues do have a quick start, they often score. When the Blues beat Anaheim on January 30, they scored two goals in a minute and three in just over two minutes.
They didn’t have that good a start here, but they scored first, which has not been the case in awhile. The icing on the cake is the goal came on the power play.
Beyond just a quick start, the Blues did what they need to do more often. They got the defense moving, while knowing where the puck was going.
The problem with the power play is not talent, but they hesitate or dust the puck off once too many and the defense closes. On this attack, there was no time.
They went boards to point to circle to point and then scored in a matter of moments. As soon as David Perron saw the defense moving to him, he dished it right back to Faulk for the hammer.
Power plays will always be a fickle thing. If they could move with purpose and not let the defense pressure the way they want, the Blues would be much better off.
For years, Blues fans have complained about officiating. Most of it was due to our own bias seeing thing through Blues glasses and we would not have felt the same way if roles were reversed.
2021 is something completely different. These are not just bad calls but calls that have no business being made by any official at any level and also easy calls to make that are not.
Though we give them a hard time almost every game, I have always contended that hockey is one of the most difficult sports to officiate anywhere. That said, the way 2021 and this game have gone, you honestly wonder how these guys made the NHL.
Oskar Sundqvist was given a holding penalty for pushing a guy from behind. Colton Parayko was called for holding because he did grab a jersey for one second. Robert Bortuzzo‘s call was at least semi-acceptable, but it was only called because the Arizona player could not stay on his feet.
The offside that took away the Coyote’s second goal in the second period was an embarrassment. Linesmen used to have eagle eyes and make you marvel how they saw things in real time and now they’re missing things your average Joe is seeing.
Speaking of missing things, Mike Hoffman was a step ahead at the hashmarks and reached the puck first, but the linesman still called it an icing call. Even the penalty on Arizona that gave the Blues their first goal was weak – yes, it was interference, but not really.
When you make the NFL look like they know what they’re doing, you’ve gone the wrong direction.
Pros: Effort on Blues 2nd goal
The Blues second goal came against the flow of play. St. Louis was absorbing a lot of pressure, but they managed to keep it out whether by skill or luck.
The play that led to the goal was meant to be an icing. Jordan Kyrou had no intentions of letting that happen.
Not only did he beat the icing call, but he gained enough speed to get to the puck first. He did not just touch it and go, but grabbed possession to allow his teammates to catch up.
Kyrou took it along the wall and then snapped a nice pass through the slot. Faulk was charging in and ripped it for the second goal.
Faulk has been the team’s best overall player for much of this season. Kyrou has looked like a veteran, comfortable with his spot on the team.
Their combination on what proved to be the game winner was just solid and smooth. It was a testament to the work both have put in during the offseason and during this season.
Cons: Likely injury
It’s too early to speculate, but let’s get real. The Blues probably lost Sundqvist to a head injury in this game.
St. Louis has gone from one of the deepest teams in the league to barely having NHL talent on every line. Now, they lose their Mr. Fixit who does it all.
Maybe, by some miracle, Sunny will be fine. However, when you land on your shoulder and your head does not snap into anything, yet your teammates have to help you off the ice and you’re not holding your shoulder – that’s a head injury.
Though St. Louis won by three, this was not a 4-1 win and we all know it. It easily could have gone the wrong way and almost did.
If St. Louis was not bailed out by a missed offside call, they probably don’t generate enough offense to come back and win. As it was, they were doing a lot of defending.
Arizona is a better team than many of us gave credit to prior to the season. However, they’re only two lines deep and they make the Blues look like they’re chopped liver more times than not.
In a shortened season, you take the wins how you can get them. Hopefully, this will give the Blues confidence heading into the next two.
It’s easier said than done, but they have to find a way to step on the Coyotes’ throats. The Blues are more talented on paper, top to bottom, but they just cannot keep Arizona down.
Sneaking by will only cut it so much. For now, we take the win and hope the Blues play better in the next game, especially with the chances of a goaltender change.