The St. Louis Blues had a lot of things going against them heading into their fourth game against the Colorado Avalanche. They had fallen out of a playoff spot, were consistently giving up games late and still had to face one of the best offensive teams in the game.
St. Louis needed some good things to happen. It seemed as though they might get it.
Ville Husso went through half the period without surrendering a goal and made some good saves too. It seemed like he had shaken off his early-game jitters, but then he let in a bad goal.
Nathan MacKinnon is one of the best players in the league, but he’s made the Blues goalies look silly for two nights in a row. Husso made himself as small as he could get and didn’t play the angle right, allowing the Avs to take the 1-0 lead.
Still, the Blues were doing lots of good things. They kept the Avs off the board on two power plays in the first and won the majority of the faceoffs.
Offensively, they kept generating chances, though it felt like they would come up empty. After consecutive scramble plays, they couldn’t score. Finally, when it seemed least likely, Ryan O’Reilly swept in the tying goal late in the period.
In the second period, the officiating just went crazy. Steve Kozari seemed as though he thought he was getting paid by the penalty as he just started making things up.
Somehow, the Blues kept the Avs off the board during a five-on-three, giving them a little momentum. Still, the Blues kept turning the puck over in their defensive zone, trying to give the Avs the momentum back.
The Blues got some good pressure, but they still seemed off. Despite hanging with the Avs the entire period, they were still sloppy on their passes, making poor turnovers and costing themselves offensive chances by putting the puck to nobody in particular.
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The third period was a good bit of back and forth, but the Blues still fail to challenge. They continue to get only single-digit shots in the period when the game is truly on the line and that’s not good enough.
Additionally, their best players keep falling apart. Ryan O’Reilly, one of the team’s best defensive forwards, doesn’t clear the puck in the final minute of play and Colorado scores the game winner with 40 seconds left.
It’s garbage the way this team keeps finding ways to lose. I still believe they’ll make the playoffs, but I’m not sure they deserve to at this point.
Pros: Penalty kill
The Blues penalty kill was not dominant in this game. They still surrendered some dangerous chances against.
However, they absorbed the pressure and, more often than not, kept the Avalanche from swarming them to death. The problem with the Blues on many recent games, is they allowed the opponent to have way too many whacks at it.
This time around, the Blues limited the Avalanche to one, maybe two chances, each time around and they confidently cleared the puck. St. Louis spent almost 1:20 on a five-on-three penalty kill and actually looked confident.
St. Louis usually ends up scrambling and giving up a back-door play. They were well positioned, challenged when they had to and kept the Avs out.
The mere fact a fan knows the name of a referee means he’s not doing his job correctly. Unless you’re Ed Hochuli and you’re known for flexing on first down calls, fans houldn’t know who the officials were, except if they just like knowing who the ref is.
Steve Kozari literally made every single call in the first two periods. I’m not sure if he just wanted screen time, wanted to test his microphone or just wanted to be a jackass.
90% of his penalty calls came when he was the trail official and another one was when the play happened just off his shoulder, likely out of his peripheral vision. Basically, that means he guessed on the majority of those calls.
He saw someone go down or a stick break and assumed something illegal happened to cause that. This is a sporting event at it’s highest level. No matter how fast the game is, you can’t be guessing. Either you saw it or you didn’t.
Things got so bad that Jake Walman literally fell trying to reverse his skating on the end line and they called that a penalty on the Avalanche. The officials did talk it over and change the call to no penalty, but it still pointed out that the trail officials are just making these things up based on the result. A player is down so the opponent must have caused it. I made the comment on Twitter that the NHL now has penalties that would not be called in junior or even peewee hockey and the focus is even more on safety at those levels.
There is no doubt that the goal Husso gave up to give the Avalanche a 1-0 lead should not have gone in. Credit to MacKinnon for putting the fear of god in the goalies, but there was no reason for it to go in. Husso made himself small instead of large.
Other than that, he was huge in this game. He stopped a clear breakaway, played the angles correctly on some backdoor plays and also stood tall on scramble plays.
Husso did exactly what you want your goalie to do. He stopped the ones he should have (except that first one) and kept out a few you did not expect.
Allowing the first goal keeps up the shaky narrative, but the Blues do that no matter who is in goal. Husso kept them in the game as long as possible and that’s what a goalie needs to do, especially when the offense is struggling.
Cons: Finding ways to lose
The Blues are making their own problems right now. There is no reason they needed to lose this game, but here we are.
Your goalie plays a hell of a game, but allows one bad goal that kind of costs you the game. Your captain and most reliable player makes a terrible decision along the wall in the final minute of the game, leading directly to a goal against and that definitely cost you the game.
The refereeing was terrible, but the Blues killed them all off, but that still takes you out of the flow of the game. I don’t want to hear about this quality over quantity nonsense any more either.
The Blues are not getting pucks to the net enough. They run into hot goaltenders and as soon as things don’t go their way, they stop trying to shoot and go for pretty plays that have not worked this year or last year.
I realize that simply saying a team needs to score more is like asking a hitter to hit more homeruns or asking a golfer to hit the fairway every drive. Yes, they need to do that, but it’s hard.
That said, they just have to score more. They are not good enough defensively to win games 1-0 and I’m one of the few that still thinks this is a good defensive team. They’re just built differently now.
There’s just no urgency to this team. There’s no push.
Yeah, we see fights and scraps and the occasional guy sticking up for their goalie, but that’s all superficial at this point. Vladimir Tarasenko tries every now and then, but nobody is really driving to the net saying they’re taking the team on their shoulders and getting it done.
There’s still too much passing when you should shoot and too many turnovers when you need to just get the blasted puck out. This team is not the late 1990’s, early 2000’s Detroit Red Wings. They cannot fling the puck anywhere on the ice and expect it to hit the tape of a teammate.
They need to be 100% positive of where a pass is going. There are no more moral victories.
Close games are not good enough. Even just getting to overtime would not have been good enough.
This team needs to win. They could have won, but just did not get it done.