The St. Louis Blues were coming off one of their worst performances of the season in their last game against the Vegas Golden Knights. Righting the ship would be no easy task.
Their opponent was the Minnesota Wild, one of the hottest teams in the entire league. Nevertheless, the Blues came out determined.
Brayden Schenn dropped the gloves right off the opening faceoff. We had seen that from Schenn before when the team needed a jolt and while it might not have won the game, it gave the team some life.
The Blues were not great in the first period, but at least there was some jump. The offense was not overly gritty, but managed some chances on goal.
The Blues outshot the Wild 10-2 in the first. They were not grade-A chances, but at least it was better than two shots in one period. The defense was solid too.
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Unfortunately, nothing good lasts with this 2021 team. The Wild would score on just their third shot of the game.
After a rush from zone to zone, the Blues defense got caught puck watching. With each defensive switch on the back check, the Blues would just cycle a new person to the puck and this left a man wide open by about four feet on the back side for an easy one-timer.
The Blues kept things in the offensive zone for a decent amount of time. Unfortunately, this seemed to play into the Wild’s plans.
The Blues got a decent amount of shots, but nothing overly challenging to the goalie. Meanwhile, Minnesota got almost no shots, but threatened each time.
The Wild doubled their lead late in the period. Another counter attack, this time coming down the left side, and a quick shot to the near post beat Jordan Binnington when it had no business going in and the Wild had a 2-0 lead.
The third period just kind of went by. The Blues did not play poorly, but there was no real drive to get that goal.
They were not without energy, but there is a difference between no energy or fight and no will. St. Louis was skating, but they lacked the will to break down the Minnesota defense.
Even with the goaltender pulled for almost three minutes, the Blues didn’t really threaten. Minnesota is a good team this season, but St. Louis didn’t trouble them nearly enough.
I’m trying to find positives out of this game and it’s hard. The effort was better than the game against Vegas and there was actual offensive pressure and zone time.
As a broadcaster, I often say it’s never a bad idea to put a puck on net. With that in mind, you can’t not take 37 shots as a good thing.
We can discuss the quality of the shots or the placement, whether that’s the part of the ice they came from or where they hit the goalie, but there were at least shots. Maybe it’s grasping at straws, but I’ll take 37 shots and at least 10 per period over a period with two shots on goal.
Cons: Lack of will
I honestly take no joy in saying there’s something missing from this team. There are players that gave a lot of blood and sweat over the last two years, coupled with new guys that have more talent than any of us could ever dream of.
However, there’s just not enough drive. There’s not enough will.
The Blues did not play a bad game. I thought the first period was pretty decent.
Their passing was alright and other than a few bad plays, the defense did a good job. There just seems to be a lack of will right now though.
I realize you cannot play a full season, or even just regular season games with the passion and brutality that we saw in the 2019 playoffs. Yet, when that will seems absent as a whole, it’s worrying.
The Blues did not push into the middle of the ice. If/when they got to the middle, there was nobody there for the rebound.
Minnesota played a solid defensive structure and kept most shots from the perimeter. Goalies will take shots from angles all day. The Blues need to push their way into the middle and come in waves instead of this one and done nonsense.
The truth is, this was just one of those games. St. Louis didn’t play poorly, but they also didn’t do enough to deserve to win.
You credit Cam Talbot for making 37 saves, but he did not steal this game. You credit the Blues defense for limiting Minnesota to 11 shots on goal, but they also gave up too many rushes and some grade-A chances that ended up being blocked.
So, the stats tell the story, but only part of it.
There is no doubt that Binnington needed to save that second goal. He lacks the big save that this team needs right now, so maybe that was deflating.
However, even if he stops that, the Blues still lose 1-0. Maybe there’s some momentum change if the game stays 1-0, but the Blues never had that true push where you felt they were just one chance away from making the comeback.
Maybe it’s grief. The news of Bob Plager’s death was just one day old and many in that locker room were close to him because he made sure to make it that way.
It’s just disappointing that the Blues cannot take care of a fatigued team. For the second game in a row, the Blues had the night off and were playing a team on a back-to-back game and the Blues lost both.
The Blues just need to be better. Hopefully games against Anaheim can bring some wins.