The St. Louis Blues were riding high following two, impressive wins over the Colorado Avalanche. As they say, every team presents its own challenges and the Minnesota Wild did just that.
The Blues came out in the first period and, while it was a back and forth frame, the Blues actually got the better of the play for most of the period. Getting the better of play and getting results are different things though.
St. Louis outshot Minnesota, they had jump and energy and the passes were connecting quite well. Then, the Wild scored.
It was one of those goals Jordan Binnington would like to have back. He immediately put his head up to the sky when that happened and you can often tell what kind of night he’ll have based on body language, so this was worrying.
There was slightly more than two minutes left, so that was good and bad. It limited the amount of time the Wild had to capitalize on the momentum, but also limited the time the Blues had to mount a quick comeback.
The second period quickly devolved into the usual middle frame for the Blues. They allowed the second Wild goal just 32 seconds in.
The Blues looked lethargic, though they were trying their hardest to get out of it. The body just didn’t seem to want to respond to what their minds were telling them to do.
The Wild more than doubled the shots the Blues had in the second period. Beyond that, the chances they created were high, making almost all 16 shots from Minnesota dangerous.
The one bright spot for the Blues was a Mike Hoffman power play goal halfway through. The joy from that was momentary because Minnesota regained their two-goal lead just a minute later.
St. Louis was fortunate to escape the second period only down by two. It seemed like it would just be one of those games.
Instead, the Blues completely flipped the script in the third period. They outshot the Wild 12-3 in the third and did what the Wild did to the Blues in the second by making almost all their shots actual chances to score.
Hoffman added his second of the game with another power play score. Jordan Kyrou basically scored by accident to tie the game.
St. Louis pulled one final rabbit out of their hat. The team that almost always gets had in the final minute actually scored the game-winning goal with just 23 seconds remaining. Robert Thomas scooped one over the goaltender’s pad after winning a puck battle on a partial break.
It was another great win, even if filled with frustrating moments. Points are paramount.
Nobody will ever mistake Mike Hoffman for any kind of defensive player. Though he has begun adapting more to the Blues style than some of us thought possible, his deficiencies without the puck are still quite evident.
When you put the puck in the net, nobody cares. After all, that’s really the only reason the Blues brought him in. Playing the typical Blues style is something people expect when things are going wrong elsewhere.
If not for Hoffman in this game, however, there is no hope of winning. His confidence when shooting the puck is evident and is also rubbing off on other players, which can only be a good thing.
The first goal was a bit of good fortune. After a fantastic pass from Vladimir Tarasenko, Hoffman seemed to not get it as cleanly as he would like. Upon seeing the replay, he did catch it cleanly, though the puck was fluttering, but he had enough behind it for it to ramp off the goalie stick and in.
The second one was vintage Hoffman. Set up in his favorite spot, on the right circle, Hoffman unleashed one between the goalie and the post.
Even when Hoffman didn’t score, at least he was not afraid to shoot. He led the team with six shots, which was one more than Justin Faulk‘s five and three more than the next closest guy (Jake Walman for those wondering).
Blues fans need to soak up this power play supremacy. It likely will not be back next season since it is 99% likely that Hoffman will be gone.
However, it’s here for now and he’s starting to find his grove with this team. With the playoffs potentially on the horizon, that’s a great thing.
This was nowhere near Binninton’s worst game of the season. It likely doesn’t even get in the top five and maybe not top 10.
However, he was off in this game. Anyone who denies that is just being defensive.
His body language was not good. He was fighting to make just about every save, which shows his determination, but also shows he was not fluid and calm.
The first goal was a prime example. He saw the shot well enough that he makes that save more times than not, but he tried to pin it with the blocker instead of just jabbing it away.
It’s not a terrible goal. We see those go in all the time around the league.
It’s a shot he can save though. It was worrying because when Binnington has not saved those shots, the team usually responds in kind. It can snowball on him and his demeanor can get worse as time goes on. Fortunately, they picked up their goaltender instead of leaving him on the hook.
Cons: Second period
I played sports my entire life, though clearly not at this high a level. Nevertheless, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen something so consistent as the Blues’ second period woes.
How can an intermission throw off their chemistry, timing and energy levels so much? Much of it has to be psychological, but there’s no reasoning that would make sense.
Most fault the long change, but both teams have to endure that. It cannot be due to rest or lack thereof, because even in games when the Blues had almost a week off, they’ve had bad second periods.
What was doubly frustrating about this one was the Blues fooled you into thinking they’d figured it out. They had two, consecutive good seconds against Colorado. Why would it go back the other way in Minnesota?
It did and could have cost the Blues the game. Fortunately, though he was struggling, Binnington made several saves and kept the team afloat while they figured it out.
We should not pretend like the Blues dominated this game. It was a pendulum game that swung back and forth. The Blues were a bit fortunate it swung back their direction by the time the final horn sounded.
Binnington was not at his best. Marco Scandella had an awful game – he lost several puck battles and also failed to clear the front of the net on a screen that preceded the Wild’s second goal.
Robert Thomas had a fantastic game. He’s still not there yet, but we seem to be seeing a Thomas closer to what we all got so excited about at the very first of the 2021 season.
Faulk was a mixed bag. He was great offensively, but got outmuscled a couple times on the defensive end, which even he seemed frustrated by.
Zach Sanford almost assured himself a spot on the healthy scratch list after another terrible turnover at the end at he game. His goalie bailed him out.
Overall, it was just a great team win. Even the guys that played poorly did enough to contribute to the W. That’s what the Blues need at this time of year.
What was also good to see was the entire team not devolving into poor play. So many games this season have seen the entire roster play poorly all at once, leaving nobody to pick up the slack.
In this game, Hoffman provided the spark that spread to guys like Kyrou and Thomas. That sparked the top line guys. While they didn’t factor in the scoring the way you’d like, they found a second wind based on the play of their teammates.
The win put the Blues temporarily above the Arizona Coyotes by three points, though the Yotes were still playing San Jose at the time of writing. Regardless, the Blues are proving to themselves they can compete with these teams and that’s a big confidence boost.