The St. Louis Blues returned to the ice after an extended road trip on the west coast. Despite having three days off, they played as though this was the second of a back-to-back at the end of a trip.
The Blues played reasonably well in the first period. That said, Jordan Binnington was the only reason they were in the game.
For whatever reason, St. Louis has become extremely irresponsible with the puck in their own zone over the last couple weeks. While the Blues and Golden Knights traded chances in the flow of play, as we’ve become accustomed to, it was the turnovers that killed St. Louis.
A giveaway by Mike Hoffman set up Vegas for their first goal. Less than a minute later, the Blues let Vegas double them up.
Vince Dunn gave Marco Scandella a puck he could do nothing with. Scandella just tried to whack at it and all but missed, giving it right to Vegas who quickly put it in front for an easy goal and a 2-0 lead.
The Golden Knights held that into the second, but the Blues did keep plugging away. The captain, Ryan O’Reilly torched one past the goaltender just over five minutes into the second to cut the lead in half.
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The good feelings only lasted about another five minutes. Torey Krug got spun around and lost track of backside pressure with Vegas getting another one-time tap in goal.
St. Louis came out with good energy in the third period, but were not forcing enough pucks through on net. Regardless, due to their persistent pressure they earned a penalty after absorbing a lot of pressure defensively.
Though the power play was impotent through most of it, they got the chance they needed. Following a blast from Hoffman on the right circle, Zach Sanford jammed home the rebound to tie it 3-3.
The Blues special teams kept coming up big. After killing off a tough penalty, they drew a power play of their own. Roughly halfway through the man advantage, David Perron gave St. Louis their first lead of the game after a scramble play.
Vegas tied it less than a minute later. After that, the Blues seemed content to see the game into overtime.
They got a few chances here and there, but sustained pressure was something hard to come by. In overtime, the Blues took a penalty and you just felt it was over from there.
While the penalty kill had been good all game, four-on-three is just hard to defend. The Golden Knights eventually got the play they wanted set up, going point to left circle to right circle for the one-timer and the game winner.
We can talk about injuries all we want and they’re not going away. St. Louis is missing some of their key players, there is no denying.
Turnovers have nothing to do with injuries though. You might say the rookies are the ones making them, but more often than not, that is not the case.
Both of Vegas’ first period goals came off turnovers. Both of those turnovers were by veteran players. You simply cannot have that.
The numbers are just abhorrent too. Six defensive-zone turnovers in the first period by the Blues and 11 through two periods of play.
I don’t care if St. Louis had to promote their entire AHL roster just to field a team. You cannot give the puck up in your own zone that much.
You cannot do that against any team, much less one of the best in the league. I’m not sure what Craig Berube can do about it, but it’s not sustainable.
I’m not going to pretend to be a Zach Sanford fan and I likely never will be. The guy is played too high in the lineup compared to what he actually provides and gives you no consistency.
That said, I will give credit when it’s due. Sanford had an excellent game against Vegas and he was down as one of my positives before he even scored his goal.
Sanford was engaged in all three zones and that’s what the Blues need from him. Maybe his comfort level was back being connected with O’Reilly and Perron.
He was very good defensively, playing almost four minutes on the penalty kill. Even at five-on-five, Sanford was diving around, knocking pucks away and playing the body.
Sanford got involved offensively too. Too often, he’s a ghost out there, but he made smart plays and picked up an assist as well as his goal.
He was also careful with the puck, not contributing to any of the Blues turnover woes. They just need this more often out of him.
It’s been so long since Tarasenko scored a goal, we almost forgot what it felt like. Vlady has been putting in the work every game since he’s been back, so it was great to see him put one in the back of the net so early after coming back.
With scorers, you worry about their confidence if they come back and don’t get one after several games. Like a hitter in baseball, they start trying too hard.
This was the perfect goal for him. He didn’t need that pretty snipe. He needed to get a goal by being tough and driving to the net for a rebound, proving he could withstand any hit that might come. None came, but that’s not the point.
That goal sparked him. In the third period, he was cutting up the wing and taking plenty of crosschecks along the way. While no other goal came, it was just a good performance that continued to build him and put any doubt about the shoulder out of his mind.
We can accentuate the positive and say it’s another point gained against a difficult team that you’re trying to stay close to. We can talk about the power play, which was 2 for 3 and has scored in six straight games.
It’s great that Tarasenko got on the board. Jordan Kyrou looked more comfortable on a different line and picked up an assist.
Binnington was very good and made some huge saves to earn the point. It was not a bad 60 minutes of play, overall.
The bottom line is it’s a loss though. If the Blues don’t make boneheaded plays with bad turnovers, the Blues pick up a win in this game.
Instead, two turnovers led to two goals. As Berube pointed out in his postgame conference, the defensive zone coverage was not good and likely cost the Blues another goal or two.
It’s an odd season and a different season. St. Louis has a different look on the blue line, but you can’t keep blaming that either.
They’re allowing too many shots and playing too poorly in their own end. Even getting Colt55 back won’t solve that completely.
They need to figure it out or they’ll just be trading points left and right with teams ahead or right behind them.