Coming off a very solid win against the Vegas Golden Knights, the St. Louis Blues were ready to prove that effort was no fluke. The Minnesota Wild were merely obstacles in the way of the Blues exorcising just about all of their recent demons.
Jayden Schwartz got the monkey off his back with a goal just before seven minutes had been played. The good vibes didn’t last too long as Minnesota scored 34 seconds later to make it 2-1.
The game would never again be that close. Schwartz scored his second late in the period and then Sammy Blais potted one about a minute and a half later for a 4-1 lead by the time the first period ended.
It was an offensive explosion for a team that had struggled to score. Most fans would have been fine if the game ended there, but there was still apprehension that the Blues would take their foot off the gas the rest of the game.
Just 69 seconds into the second period, the Blues alleviated those fears. Ryan O’Reilly stepped into a slap shot and grabbed a 5-1 lead, beating the goalie on the blocker side.
O’Reilly doubled his pleasure not long after. The captain would score on the penalty kill, adding a rare shorthanded goal to the Blues total.
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Justin Faulk capped off the second period with a nice shot to make it 7-1. It was already a laugher, but the fact the Blues could even think about scoring this many was incredible.
It wasn’t even done there. You could not blame the team if they played the fourth line the entire period, but they did their best to stay sharp while not actively seeking out goals to rub salt in the wound.
Even so, they added two more. Jake Walman scored (though it looked like O’Reilly tipped it, so that might be changed) and Ivan Barbashev scored the first power play goal for the Blues in their last seven tries.
It was a 9-1 win and a thing of beauty.
Where in the world were the Blues hiding all these goals? Was the Easter Bunny hiding them deep in the forest and the Note finally found them?
Nobody expects nine goals in one game, but what a display. This is the kind of game the Blues needed, even more than the big win over Vegas.
During their losing streak, and even during a couple wins, the Blues just seemed like a team in desperate need of something to go right. Plenty went right in this one.
The first goal was a class pass and a solid finish. Schwartz needed some goals to get himself feeling like he was contributing more than just energy, like any third or fourth line player can.
O’Reilly needed to find the back of the net again. While he hadn’t gone that long without scoring, the Blues needed their captain to lead in more than just the ceremonial ways and he did.
The defense was jumping into the play all night, causing Minnesota fits. It was like watching what so many teams had done to the Blues recently and it was joyous.
As I was writing this, this did change the eighth goal to O’Reilly. So, on top of all that explosion, you get a hat trick as well.
Cons: Losing another shutout
There was very little to pick on in this game. If anything, it was another failure to get a shutout.
The Blues have not put a single 0 up on the board in 2021, unless you want to count the times they failed to score. There’s been a few too many of those.
It’s not as though they deserved a shutout in this game. If anything, it would have been more appropriate for Jordan Binnington to get the shutout against Vegas when he was standing on his head.
In this contest, he only had to make 25 saves. After the first period, none of them were that high on the danger meter.
Still, it would have been good to get him a shutout. Surely the Blues will have one before the year is done, but maybe not.
Fans have been pretty down on Robert Thomas this year. Beyond his injury problems, he seemed to regress after a great start to the year.
In that first game, we saw Thomas make moves and passes that seemed like he was ready to ascend to an elite center level. Then, after the injuries, he just hit a wall.
Prior to this game, Thomas had not picked up an assist in 11-straight games. When that’s his bread and butter and he’s not doing that, he’s just a body out there.
Craig Berube didn’t know where to put him. Chief even shifted him to the wing for a bit in an effort to spark him.
The Thomas we know is in there showed up in this game. The set up on the Sanford goal was exactly what the Blues need from him.
He split the D with the pass, had perfect weight and pace. It was just a great pass.
Thomas would add another. While it was not as pretty, it meant just as much.
Thomas showed resiliency by sticking with the play after being tripped instead of giving up and just taking the power play. He had the vision to fire it across the ice and Faulk would finish it off.
Who knows what to expect tomorrow. We should not expect this much offense from the Blues and we should not expect the Wild to make so many mistakes or play so poorly.
That does not mean the Blues cannot win back-to-back games on back-to-back nights. If their effort is anything close to what it was in this 9-1 win, they can get the job done.
As far as this game went, it was just a dominating performance. Whether it was fueled by the “We’re coming” from Binnington in the previous game or not, the bottom line is that this team has found a spark.
They cannot afford to let the Wild pour any water on it. The Blues need to find their legs early and get the job done.
St. Louis put in a good effort in the 9-1 win, but given the score, they didn’t have to skate as hard as you might in a close effort. That means there should be gas in the tank to respond to Minnesota’s early push in the next one.
The key will be for St. Louis not getting discouraged if the goals don’t come as early as they have the last two. It’s all about replicating effort.
Keep up the clean exits and getting pucks in deep. Keep everything simple and just outwork the opponent as they did in this game.