Playing against any professional team is not an easy thing, so no win should be taken for granted. However, with the St. Louis Blues playing the worst team in their division for two straight games, you would think they could exit that mini series with three or four points.
Instead, the Blues entered their second game in three days against the Anaheim Ducks looking to take just two points out of two games. When the game was over, the Blues could not even do that.
Things looked promising as St. Louis got on the board first. After failing to score the first goal in eight straight games, it was nice to actually have a lead.
Ryan O’Reilly banged in a nice backhand pass from Vladimir Tarasenko, making Craig Berube‘s decision to shake up the lines look very wise. That line would prove to be one of the team’s best all night long.
St. Louis dominated the opening 20 minutes, as they had the previous three games, but actually got goals. The Blues doubled their lead with a blistering Tarasenko one-timer from the circle on the power play.
Alas, as St. Louis likes to do, they failed to make all that last. The second and third periods got progressively worse.
The Blues were not bad in either frame, but they were lackadaisical. They failed to take care of the puck well enough and it felt like every mistake ended in the back of their net.
While you can argue that’s only two mistakes, it does not matter. While he was not incredibly sharp, Jordan Binnington bailed the team out several times, so this game could have been lost in regulation.
The Blues just lost their edge. On the tying goal, everyone was where they needed to be, but there was no fire.
Robert Thomas backchecked into position, but didn’t really do anything to disrupt the play. While it was not a clean break, the play basically came down to a two-on-one and that cannot happen.
The Ducks second goal was just as much luck as anything. While working the puck around, Jordan Kyrou tripped over his own skates, leading to a break the other way.
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The Blues failed to step up at the right time. Anaheim just streaked in and tied it up on a goal that should not have happened.
St. Louis showed little energy until the dying moments of the third. They pressured and got good chances, but the game was decided by then.
Once it went to overtime, you had a feeling it would end the way it did but not how it did. The Blues literally never possessed the puck in the extra period.
The Ducks just kept cycling back and resetting. Eventually, the Blues gave them too much opportunity to cut up the right wing, which had been their attempt every single time, and a little chip shot beat Binnington over the glove hand for a 3-2 win.
Pros: The start
We’ve seen the Blues have good first periods the last few games and come up empty. You could almost argue they were not as energetic or dominant in this particular period, but at least they got some goals.
They were the kind of goals the Blues needed too. The first one from O’Reilly came by driving the net and possessing the puck in the middle of the ice. That’s something we have not seen enough of.
The second one came off the power play. This PP unit has been streaky at best and pathetic at worst, so getting one in was fantastic. It was made even better by setting up what should be the Blues’ bread and butter, which is getting the puck to Tarasenko on the dot (not the blasted blue line).
Maybe the Blues thought it would be easy the rest of the way and took their eye off the prize. They need more openings like this game though.
Cons: Ducks goals
I was going to break these up, but we’ll keep it simple. Neither of these goals really should have been scored.
The first one is more excusable. It’s a lost faceoff and an unfortunate bounce after Torey Krug tried to whack it through the neutral zone and got cross checked in the process.
Still, Thomas got juked out of his jock strap and that led to a two-on-one. Justin Faulk also needs to just guard the pass.
If Binnington gets beat by Ryan Getzlaf, so be it. You can’t guard the pass, lunge at the puck carrier and expect to deny anything once the pass comes across. Guard the pass alone and let the goalie handle the puck carrier as best he can.
The second goal was just a lack of concentration. Kyrou will get the blame due to falling down, but the goal could still have been prevented.
You’d like Binnington to make a save there, but it’s not one he had to have. Backhanders are hard to judge, so the only gripe is it felt his body was a little closed in, not taking up much of the net.
Blues fans have this really stupid love/hate relationship with Tarasenko. He’s not Brett Hull and never will be. Get over it.
There was actually veiled blame at Vlady on social media. While the stat is a fact, the idea that the Blues only having two wins since he came back is hardly anything to do with Tarasenko himself.
Tarasenko was great in this game. He was taking charge and showing confidence in his health, dipping the shoulder and driving on defenders quite a few times.
He pushed past the defense and set up the opening goal of the game. He fired a slap shot from the right faceoff circle, which is something we’ve begged him to do more of, to score the second goal.
Tarasenko has been showing a feisty side too. He had five hits in this game, in addition to playing the body a lot more than you’d expect from a scorer over the last few games.
Cons: Line changes and faceoffs
These two are slightly unrelated and could/should be things that don’t bite you as much as they did the Blues. However, both partially led to the lack of flow in this contest.
For the line changes, I’m not sure if that’s players or coaching. Whatever the case was, it was messy throughout.
There was a stretch of 3-4 minutes where St. Louis never had one, consistent unit on the ice. That might not sound like much, but based on an average shift, you could probably get six or more line changes in that time span.
With the team struggling with chemistry anyway, that’s a lot of guys not on the same line playing together. For example, Kyle Clifford was in the offensive zone with David Perron and Brayden Schenn in the first period. While it was different guys caught out there at different times, that was a reoccurring theme. It’s hard to get a flow when you’re not with the linemate you assume will be out there, whether that’s offensively or defensively.
As far as the faceoffs go, it’s getting to be frustrating. The Blues have great depth up the middle and all their main centers are healthy, unless you qualify Oskar Sundqvist as a center these days.
Thomas was terrible on the draw, winning just 33% of his faceoffs. He’s the one that lost the draw on the Ducks’ first goal. That’s unacceptable for a player you hope could be elite in the middle.
Schenn only won 40% of his chances. Tyler Bozak won 50% and O’Reilly wasn’t that great at just 53%. No offense, but you know things are bad when Jacob de La Rose was the best faceoff man at 67%. There’s too much talent up the middle for them to struggle this much, especially against a bad team.
This team needs an easy win and there’s not going to be one any time soon. These games against the Ducks were supposed to be the easy toss softball hits for them and they collected one point out of four.
All teams in the NHL have talent, but the Blues should not be losing to Anaheim ever. They’re not good and their goalie is not good.
The Blues had the Ducks goalie looking nervous and shaky in the first period and then they made him look like a veteran capable of stealing a playoff series. You cannot do that. They have to jam the knife in and twist it, not pull it out and hope the opponent bleeds to death.
You can tell this team has no confidence now. The goals looked like relief rather than excitement. The goals against led to slumped shoulders and every mistake seemed to be a here we go again reaction.
This team has gone through a lot, but they seemed to handle adversity better than good fortune. They’re getting healthy and playing worse than when they had AHL guys filling multiple spots.
The goaltending is not bad, but it’s not winning them games. The offense is nonexistent as two goals will not win you games in today’s NHL (not to mention getting shutout multiple times too).
Maybe rest will do them good. It’s not an acceptable excuse because every team has played roughly the same amount of games, but those west coast swings can drain you and the Blues were basically confined to hotels.
Whatever the case may be, they have to win. Do whatever it takes at this point, because losing pretty is not working.