As the St. Louis Blues pivoted northward from Los Angeles to San Jose, they were in search of something – anything – good. They had lost five-straight games and were in a spot where any further bad news might send the team into a true tailspin.
Injuries had mounted, but were no longer an excuse. The team was actually starting to get healthy, with several prominent names returned or about to return.
It was time to see results on the ice. The product was getting worse instead.
St. Louis entered this game 3-1-2 against the San Jose Sharks. While that record is technically .500, it felt a lot worse because the gut punch losses in overtime.
The wins had all been close, with the Blues needing to come from behind when Jordan Binnington was yanked from his last start against the Sharks. The way this contest started, it looked like a similar path.
St. Louis came out with a decent amount of energy in the first period. They were doing a lot of the little things that had gone wrong in other games, but they came up empty.
Despite winning the shot battle, St. Louis had no goals to show for it. They were fortunate their defending was good, thus not surrendering a goal either.
The Blues were a little hard done by the first goal against. They were actually on the power play in the second period.
However, a fanned shot on the left circle led to a break out of the zone for the Sharks. Of course, this occurred right as the penalty ended, so a two-on-one turned into a three-on-two, even with the back check starting to catch up.
The defense backed off too much. San Jose bided their time and snapped one in to take a 1-0 lead.
It was the way things had gone that started to take hope away. The Blues were playing better, but without goals, it doesn’t matter.
St. Louis kept funneling pucks to the net in the third, but ended up shorthanded, both on a penalty and in terms of players on the bench. Another injury came in the first period and it seemed the Blues were going to come up short in the third.
With the Blues on the kill, Tyler Bozak tried to just pin it in the corner. Kyle Clifford came in for support, stole the puck and actually tried shooting it and it went in. It was deflected off of Bozak, giving him his first goal of the season in just his second game since returning from injury.
The Blues could not seal the deal in regulation, pushing yet another game into overtime against the Sharks. In spite of their record, San Jose seems to still match up well against the Blues.
It was not a clean overtime and Binnington had to make some saves to keep the Blues alive. They ended up taking it for a shootout.
Finally, Vladimir Tarasenko put the Blues on top with a nice move and shot from a tough angle that banked in off the goal stick. Then, Binnington brought back memories of the Cup Final with a diving, sliding toe save to get the Blues the win.
Pros: Overall competitiveness
A lot of fans on social media were not overly pleased, and they have right to be. This team is more talented than they are showing, especially with the returning players.
However, despite the less than stellar score line, the Blues were better in this game. Maybe it was the return of Jaden Schwartz, who was playing with a lot of guts in his first game back.
Defensively, St. Louis was flying around, getting to a lot of plays they had missed in recent weeks. They were flying around, throwing hits with purpose, but also getting in shooting and passing lanes.
Justin Faulk returned to his early season form, showing himself to be the team’s best overall defenseman. He threw two hits, which there were likely more but that stat is odd, and had a takeaway as well. He disrupted a lot of passes too, which he had missed on prior to this game and those often ended in the back of the net.
Much of this was not on the stat sheet. It was just a general feel that the buzz around the team had returned. Now, they just need to solidify the attack.
Credit where it’s due, Vince Dunn did not have a terrible game. He showed flashes again and played well in spurts.
However, the Sharks goal falls on him to an extent. There are things that transpire during any goal that could have changed things, but the most glaring one was Dunn backing way off and then mysteriously going for a block when one was not needed.
Dunn seemed too eager to deny the cross-ice pass, despite the back check essentially taking that option away. The drop pass came and Dunn was left in no man’s land, as he had retreated too far.
He went down in a blocking position when, if he had stayed on his feet, he might have been able to cut off the angle and get a stick to the puck. Instead, he basically just blocked his own goaltender instead of making a solid defensive play.
The stats are not coming quite, yet, but you feel like Vladimir Tarasenko is about to hit one of his patented hot streaks. He is finally playing like he’s healthy and has no fear.
Tarasenko had four shots on goal, showing he’s realizing what this team needs from him right now. He’s also not shying away from the physicality, throwing two hits and also digging in for several battles.
The chemistry was not 100% on, but you could tell that he was meshing with his old linemates right away. It’s just a matter of time before the team’s best scorer starts getting goals more fitting of his talents than his first one was.
The move he put on the goalie to win the game was just beautiful.
We’ve seen snazzier moves and harder shots, but we’ve also seen that puck slip away. It was the patience along with the skill that made this winner better.
Oskar Sundqvist is one of those heartbeat players. St. Louis relies on him for energy, physicality and even leadership by example.
His luck might have finally run out. Sundqvist had been playing banged up since he’s a warrior.
He had not finished a couple games, but always came back just as strong in the next one. I’m not sure that’s happening here.
Sundqvist collided with Clifford late in the first period. It appeared to be a knee issue, though that is speculation.
What makes it worse is that he had to be helped off by two teammates, which is never a good sign. Sunny has an MRI scheduled, which also makes a quick recovery less than likely.
The shame of it is he’s already been bruised and battered and was soldiering through it. The Blues were finally getting healthy and now it’s another man gone.
A win is a win and the Blues really needed points, so you take it any way you get it. In the grand scheme of things, the Blues were the better team and deserved the W.
However, while the cliché thing to do is to call these wins character building, it would be nice to see an easy win for once. St. Louis just has to struggle so much with these games and that’s when small mistakes kill you, as we have seen.
The Blues cannot play a perfect game, so needing to be perfect to win is pretty hard. Nevertheless, there is no need to be overly critical.
St. Louis was doing a lot of the little things right. They outhit their opponent, killed them in the faceoff circle and were generating chances. They simply came up empty until late in the game.
If St. Louis mirrors that effort, they’ll win their fair share of games down the stretch. They just need their top lines to start clicking instead of coming up close.
The goaltending was very good again. That might not seem like a big statement, but it’s been a question mark as Binnington has struggled.
The Blues will be right back at it. They play the Sharks at 8 pm on Saturday.