The St. Louis Blues came into this game against the Los Angeles Kings of two minds. On one side, you had the momentum of three previous wins on this road trip through California.
On the other side, you had the recent memory of the Kings just making you look like fools. We got both sides of that coin on display in this game.
Things started out quite well for the Blues. For once, a too many men on the ice penalty was not called on them, but their opponent.
It only took the Blues 20 seconds into their first power play to keep the good mojo going. After scoring three power play goals in Anaheim, the Blues made it four in that area with David Perron firing a laser in to make it 1-0.
The goal came on the first shot of the game. There were not many after that, or not enough anyway.
Ville Husso was under siege most of the first period and much of the second. The Blues only managed five shots on goal the entire rest of the first period, while Husso had to make 12 saves.
The Kings had another eight shots in the second, compared to just five for the Blues. Despite the lack of support, Husso made it stand up until the end of the period.
The Blues had a defensive breakdown after a long shift. The forwards could not backcheck quickly enough and Marco Scandella got pulled out of position by having to challenge the puck carrier. Still, the Blues were fortunate to have a tie game.
In the third period, that luck ran out. Similar to the Blues’ goal, the Kings got a power play goal under a minute into their man advantage. Dustin Brown made a decent move at the net, but the puck actually went in off Justin Faulk‘s skate, who has been flush with bad luck like that recently.
It seemed like the game was heading to another boring loss. The Kings’ trap in the neutral zone and pressure defense in the offensive zone was stymieing the Blues consistently.
St. Louis generated next to no offense. That is, until they pulled their goalie.
The Blues charged into the zone with the six-on-five attack and Perron scored again. He took advantage of the bodies in front and wired one in for a 2-2 tie.
At that point, the Blues were playing with house money. They had no business getting a point, so anything else was pure gravy.
They got that gravy 1:30 into the overtime. With a delayed penalty called, the Blues worked the puck around with their four men, set up a one-timer on the right circle and Mike Hoffman blasted it in for the 3-2 win.
Pros: Man advantage
The interesting thing about sports is how things can turn around without warning, for good or bad. In this instance, it’s been a good thing.
Prior to this California trip, the St. Louis Blues power play had been quite awful. It’s bounced around toward the bottom of the league and was even just a couple spots from the bottom.
Suddenly, the power play has come to life. Not only are they getting chances on goal, but they are scoring goals, which is just as important or more so.
The Blues are not wasting time either. They got into the zone, got some space and Perron ripped it. In the past, they would have passed it five more times before even looking at the goal.
What is more, the Blues are actually dangerous with any man advantage. In the past, they could not buy a goal with their own goaltender pulled.
The only goals scored in those situations were into their own net, but now you almost expect the Blues to score six on five. Again, they wasted no time getting into a dangerous area, mucking up the front of the net, and Perron just put it on goal. Good things happen when you do all that.
Completing a trifecta for the second game in a row, the Blues got another goal a man up. While it won’t go down as a power play goal, the Blues were up four-on-three and Hoffman was set up for a blistering shot.
There was no wasted time, looking for some pretty pass across the top of the slot. The Blues got it to a sniper, setting Hoffman up for what he does best.
More from Analysis
- St. Louis Blues and Cardinals Similar In All The Wrong Ways
- St. Louis Blues Pros/Cons From 2022-23 Game 82 At Dallas
- St. Louis Blues Pros/Cons From 2022-23 Game 81 Vs Dallas
- St. Louis Blues Pros/Cons From 2022-23 Game 80 At Minnesota
- St. Louis Blues Pros/Cons From 2022-23 Game 79 Vs NY Rangers
It’s not the same as the Anaheim game where the Blues scored three legitimate power play goals. However, making a team pay for their mistakes, be it too many men or letting the Blues hang around, is exactly what you want those special units to do.
Cons: Not enough push in the middle
This con can be taken two ways and both are applicable. In the figurative sense, the Blues just don’t challenge the Kings enough.
We can talk about injuries, depleted lineups and lack of chemistry all we want. The bottom line is the Blues have enough talent to get through Los Angeles, but they don’t.
St. Louis doesn’t have the high-end speed, but the Arizona Coyotes did a fine job of breaking through the Kings. Arizona has talent, but barely more than one line’s worth.
Even in spite of their injuries, the Blues still have a good top six. Brayden Schenn, Jordan Kryou, David Perron, Ryan O’Reilly, Sammy Blais and Zach Sanford all have enough talent and just enough speed to challenge the Kings defenders.
If nothing else, the Blues still have enough bigger bodies to get to the front of the net, even if only for a moment. For some reason, they buckle under whatever the Kings do to them.
They got the job done in the end, but St. Louis had dominated five-on-five unless they were playing the Kings. Even with an early goal to build on, the Blues just could not really break down the Kings defense.
Coming off a 60 point season, there was always the worry that David Perron might regress back to the median in terms of his production. He’s become much more versatile with the Blues since returning, but you always wanted him to be more dependable.
He has been just that lately. In 2020, Perron was an overtime master.
In 2021, he just finds ways to score big goals. He managed to get the Blues on the board, electing to not be selfish when passing options were available.
That’s not a bad thing either. Call it selfish or whatever, but the Blues consider Perron a shooter and a scorer. For him to take the opportunity is what they want from him.
The same is true near the end of the game. There was enough time left for him to circle back and get everyone set up in the zone. Instead, he saw an avenue to get the puck through and fired it.
Beyond just the timely goals, Perron plays such a solid overall game now. If he would ever eliminate the stupid offensive-zone penalties, there would be almost no negatives about his game.
He works hard all the time. Though he was not credited with hits in this game, he still plays the body when necessary. Though it would have been nice to keep him, Perron has become a better player each time he went somewhere else.
This is one of those games where you take the bookends and try to forget the rest. The Blues had a solid opening and a great ending, but the middle was very bad.
Perhaps very bad is an overstatement, but it’s just so frustrating having the same team dominate you over and over. The Kings are not a good team, nor an overly talented team.
They have some youth, but they’re still waiting on some of their prospects to make the jump. While they play an extremely regimented and difficult system, the Blues make them look much better than many other teams.
At this point, even with this win, playing the Kings in the playoffs would be less appetizing than just about any other matchup. Still, the result was a good and fair one for the Blues.
You’re not going to dominate every game. When you have your struggles and still get a win, it’s that much better.
It helps to get good goaltending too. Husso looked on route to a shutout until the defense let Jeff Carter fly into the zone unopposed.
There was not much Husso could do about either goal. Being down a goal was poor luck for him.
Credit the Blues for the final push. They could have packed it in and said get them tomorrow.
Instead, they found the energy at the end and got it done.
Now, we see if the gamble pays off. The Blues played Husso so they might have their better goaltender in the second game, taking pressure off the defense a bit.
With the win in the first game, it was a solid gamble. Hopefully, the Blues can get the minisweep.