The St. Louis Blues came into their April 7 game against the Vegas Golden Knights in desperate need of points. They had lost seven in a row and only gained one point in all those games too.
Given how Vegas had dominated them during this season, there was not much hope going into this contest. In the last game, the Blues gave Vegas their best shot and came up empty.
However, the Blues were determined not to let that happen a second time in a row. They came out with a purpose and got the results too.
The Blues were flying in the first period. Just 48 seconds into the period, the Blues finally scored first, which is something they had not done in 10 of their previous 11 games.
St. Louis sprung a breakaway. Shrugging off some lame trade talk made by fans, Vladimir Tarasenko snapped one over the glove hand for a 1-0 lead.
The Blues didn’t really settle back, but they had to absorb some pressure. Jordan Binnington scrambled a couple times, but made the saves and was aggressive in his net.
St. Louis doubled their lead at 7:21. Scoring from almost the same spot as Tarasenko, Sammy Blais scored in his first game back on the ice in quite some time.
The second period featured too many nervy moments. The Blues got a little careless with their sticks and picked up two penalties within a short time of one another.
Though they had to spend too much time in their own zone, the Blues managed to kill both of those off. Their goalie was their best PK player and sometimes that just has to be the case.
St. Louis relied too much on their goaltender, including on a third penalty late in the period. Thankfully, Binnington was up to the task.
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In the third, it was extremely hit or miss. The Blues had plenty of chances early in the third period.
They were putting on pressure and forcing some great saves. One included a two-on-one with Jordan Kyrou and Kyle Clifford, but unfortunately Kyrou telegraphed his pass, allowing the Vegas goalie to cheat on the save just enough.
Conversely, the Blues were allowing a lot of chances against. The one good thing to say is they kept the odd-man rushes to a minimum, but they were still playing with fire with icings.
Just when it seemed the Blues would continue to be snake bitten, to an extent, they got their insurance goal. After Kyrou waited far too long, the rebound popped toward the blue line and Jake Walman scored on a prone goalie for his first NHL goal.
The good feelings couldn’t last for too long though. Vegas broke the shutout with about four and a half minutes left. It was a seeing-eye shot from the right side that barely snuck in under the cross bar.
The Blues made the ending even more nervous by taking another dumb delay of game penalty. Somehow, the Blues killed it off.
They did not manage to get an empty net goal, which made for a scary ending. Still, Binnington stood tall and the team came up with a big win to end their losing streak.
Scoring your first NHL goal is always a special thing. However, the goal was merely the icing on the cake.
Walman played an excellent game, start to finish. Despite being paired with the defensively challenged Vince Dunn most of the night, the duo backed each other up and made several good, defensive plays.
Walman, in particular, was solid and used his speed to his advantage. There was one play where Vegas had a partial break, but Walman caught up in a couple strides and swept the puck away with a great back check.
The goal was just a solid effort to track the puck. Walman didn’t wait for it to come back to him at the line, but charged at it and ripped it in.
Cons: Dumb penalties
There are very few things considered a smart penalty, but they do exist. If a guy is streaking in on your goal and you haul him down instead of allowing the breakaway, most fans can accept that.
The Blues continue to take silly ones that show they are either too antsy or not moving their feet.
St. Louis had two delay of game penalties for shooting the puck over the glass. Personally, I think that needs to not be a penalty any longer, but for right now it is and you have to be more careful.
Robert Thomas‘ clear, in particular, was unnecessary. Thomas was almost alone in the corner (light pressure) and had enough time to cut back for a cleaner forehand look and make a better play. Either because of fatigue or fear, he simply scooped it immediately and it went out.
The Blues got away with it, but you can’t expect a hot and cold PK unit to keep a 0 on the board every night.
What more can you say? The Blues needed their goalie to steal one and Jordan Binnington did just that.
The strange thing about this game is there is little doubt the Blues played so much better as a team than they had in any other game recently, except perhaps one of the Colorado games. Nevertheless, they allowed 51 shots against.
That means Binnington made 50 saves. Many of them were high quality.
Binnington did not have to make the highlight reel saves much, but when you’re being worked that much, they all still count.
What was good to see was how confident he was in his positioning. He was out of the crease, challenging and kept square to almost all the shots as opposed to shrinking into the net.
When he had to scramble, he did. He did not over-commit though, keeping his cool and not over sliding.
The offense still needed to be better and close more of their chances. Thankfully, it didn’t cost them because Binnington was on his game.
It’s weird to think the Blues actually played a reasonably good defensive game when allowing 51 shots. That just shows how potent Vegas can be.
The Blues blocked 25 shots, which means Vegas had well over 70 shots taken if you include the ones that went wide. The Blues withstood the barrage.
Tarasenko came up big in this game. You’d like to see him get that second goal, but just the fact that he scored one and was inches away from a second one is a positive sign, especially in a win.
Colton Parayko is not 100% physically well. That is clear from his lack of mobility, but what a warrior to still gut out over 20 minutes on the ice.
Justin Faulk has completely turned it around. After fans wanting his head last year, he’s now the guy the Blues put out on the ice in crunch time, late in the game.
The Blues need more decisiveness from Jordan Kyrou. He picked up an assist, but he has to start shooting again and passed up two chances for passes. The two-on-one for Clifford should have been a Kyrou shot and let Clifford crash for the rebound.
Nevertheless, it was a great way to get out of the loss column. This was not a game the Blues stole, though Binnington “stole” the game. The Blues worked just as hard as Vegas – harder for spurts – and deserved this win.
Now, the key is to keep it going. St. Louis cannot fall back against Minnesota. They have to replicate this effort and take it to the Wild over the weekend.