The St. Louis Blues came into their second consecutive, fourth overall, game against the Anaheim Ducks, looking to solidify some momentum. They beat San Jose, made it two wins against Anaheim and were looking for three in a row in this second game.
The first period did not get off to the best of starts. It was not a bad period, but it was quite sluggish.
The Blues were forced into more the game Anaheim wanted to play as opposed to one the Blues would dictate. It stayed that way for much of the first period, until St. Louis got a power play.
Up until this point, that was not something to celebrate. After all, the Blues came in with the NHL’s third worst power play.
Nevertheless, they got it cooking tonight. Oskar Sundqvist scored the first goal of the game, collecting the puck in front of the net and scoring on a spin and stuff around the goaltender.
1-0 was the score into the break. It remained that way until about the midway point of the contest.
St. Louis had another man advantage. This time, it was Brayden Schenn taking advantage, ripping one home from the right wing with a screen in front.
Around four minutes later, the Ducks cut the lead in half. It was a fluke goal where St. Louis tried to clear, the puck went off a Ducks player and in.
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If not for that goal, this game might have been a laugher. Instead, the Blues had some nervy moments.
St. Louis and Anaheim did not have a ton of energy in the third period, but both were trying hard. The Blues got rwarded for that as Zach Sanford scored, on the power play, to regain the two-goal lead.
The Ducks brought the pressure. St. Louis managed to withstand it for most of the game, but Anaheim finally got one in with their netminder pulled, cutting it to 3-2.
The Blues would make that hold up. 3-2 was the final, getting them their third win in a row.
Pros: Special teams
For the first time in forever, the Blues’ special teams was special. While you do have to consider the opponent, you cannot argue the results of the team’s power play.
St. Louis went 100% on the man advantage. Who knows when the last time that happened was. It feels like a lifetime ago, no matter what the answer is.
It’s not just that the power play scored, either. It’s the fact they scored in all the ways you want your power play to score.
Sundqvist scored a solid goal by being in tight to the net. Schenn scored on a ripper, showcasing skill and a willingness to not pass the puck off for no reason.
Last, but not least, the Sanford goal was just gritty.
It was a great drive to the net by Jordan Kyrou. After pushing to the far side, his shot glanced off the pad for a juicy rebound. Sanford was in the right place at the right time, and also had the strength to keep the defender at bay. The Blues need more of that from him on a more consistent basis.
It was not just the power play either. The penalty kill kept Anaheim off the board too.
The Ducks were 0-3 on the power play. The Blues have recently been very passive on the penalty kill, inviting too much pressure.
In this game, the Blues were applying the pressure. They did not allow the Ducks to have too much time to get set and work the puck around. That’s what special teams are suppose do get done.
Cond: Fluke goal
Despite the final score, the Blues got good goaltending. The first goal to go in for the Ducks was about as lucky as you can get.
If you want to include this on the negative side, Jordan Binnington has made a habit of looking behind himself in 2021 and that’s not a good thing.
Regardless, this puck should not have gone in. The initial shot was deflected, but Anaheim had a player on the side of the crease, waiting for a chance.
The puck popped up in the air, off the backside of Binnington and was managed to be cleared. Unfortunately for Ryan O’Reilly, the puck went right to the opponent who banged it in.
It’s just one of those fluke things. Normally, we’d praise the effort on defense, but it just happened to go the only place on the ice you did not want.
Detractors will point to the late goal given up and two scored against him, overall. Nevertheless, Binnington was a key to victory in this game.
He was cool and composed, which is how he must play for the Blues to win. Binnington possesses the athletic skill to make the spectacular plays once in awhile, but it’s not his game. He needs to get to his spots early and control the rebound instead of trying to react.
That’s what we saw in this game. Rebounds were under control more than in other recent games.
Binnington was positioned well and getting to his spots early. He was on top of his crease, whether at even strength or even penalty kills.
Especially in the second, Binnington made some key saves to keep the Blues ahead by multiple scores. While he has not been bad lately, it was nice to see the smooth, easy going Binnington return.
Cons: Playing down
No offense, but Anaheim is a bad team. We can sugar coat things saying there are no easy games in the NHL, but the Blues don’t have any business losing to this team on any night unless their goaltender steals one.
For the second game in a row, the final score was far tighter than it had any business being. This should have been a two or three-goal win, but it’s just one instead.
The Blues take their foot off the gas far too much. Yes, it’s a shortened season, but there’s no need to conserve energy within a game. You don’t have to go balls to the wall every shift, but you can’t let teams back into the game simply because you want to have a shift or two off.
Sunny had a great game. It was not just stuff on the score sheet that made him so noticeable.
While he did score a goal, and a nice one at that, it was his efforts on the second that were more impressive. He chipped in twice on that one.
Off the faceoff, Sundqvist fired the puck back to the point. This would give him an assist after Torey Krug fired the puck to Schenn, the eventual goal scorer.
Instead of just standing around, he planted himself right in the goaltender’s kitchen. This was instrumental for the goal.
While Schenn’s shot had a ton of pace on it and it was well placed, most goaltenders make that save if they see the shot. Only the location of the shot would have given it a chance by itself.
Because Sundqvist was using himself as the ultimate screen, it was a great goal and one that was needed given the final scoreline.
This was an odd game. It was not poorly played, but the Blues played more to Anaheim’s level than vice versa.
The Blues get roped into things they have no business engaging in. While St. Louis reestablished their defense, they just were not keeping the clamps down either.
For as bad as Anaheim can be, the Blues relied on their goaltender far too much too. You cannot have one of the worst teams in the conference outshoot you and not expect it to be noticed.
That said, the Blues did enough good things to get the win. For once, they capitalized on their power plays.
Nobody expects them to score on every power play. That’s not realistic.
However, if they could challenge the opposition every time as they did in this contest, they’d be a lot better off. They’d be more entertaining and a lot less frustrating.
In the end, they got the two points in regulation. They really only surrendered that late goal because you can barely count the first one.
Now, the question becomes whether Vladimir Tarasenko will play in the next game in Los Angeles. Time will tell, but a clean sweep of the two games in Anaheim is pretty nice.