The St. Louis Blues were looking to extend their winning streak to five games, with a potential third-straight win over the Minnesota Wild. It wasn’t going to be easy from the start as the Blues were without Vladimir Tarasenko and Torey Krug before the puck even dropped.
Despite this, the Blues have finally found their groove and re-found that next man up mentality. The players that step into the lineup are chomping at the bit and sliding right in.
The first period in this game was mainly uneventful for about half of it. Both teams had a good chance or two, but there was a lot of ineffective transitioning between zones by both squads.
The Blues kept things steady though. They limited the Wild’s chances, keeping them off the shot board for over three minutes, and then the Blues offense clicked.
After a scramble below the end line, the puck came free in front and Jordan Kyrou slammed it through some legs, off the far post and in for a 1-0 lead.
Not even two minutes later, the Blues doubled the lead. This time, after a similar play, Sammy Blais whipped it into the top shelf for a 2-0 lead.
Unfortunately, part of those second period difficulties popped back up. St. Louis didn’t start the second badly, but they weren’t crisp and seemed on their heels a bit.
The Wild got on the board after a poor defensive transition. Marco Scandella retreated to the front of the net instead of finding a player coming into the zone. He partially screened his goaltender and didn’t have time time to get out and block the shot.
The bad thing about the goal was it came just minutes after Jordan Binnington made two unbelievable saves. However, while the Blues absorbed a little more pressure, the Blues did not fall back into a defensive shell. They pushed back.
In a goal from pure effort, David Perron restored the two-goal lead. Somehow, while on his belly, Perron swept it in and made the score 3-1.
In the third period, there was not near enough from the Blues. They settled in and allowed the Wild to get too much of their game going. The Blues only had seven third period shots.
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The Wild just kept coming. They weren’t overwhelming the Blues, but they got the job done.
Minnesota made it 3-2 with an unbelievable tip on a shot that was going yards wide. Then, with under a minute to go, the Blues allowed another tying goal.
You had the feeling this wasn’t going their way like the previous one. The Blues just never looked right offensively in overtime and Minnesota had too much control.
Eventually, the Wild scored for the winner. While the numbers were technically even, the Blues forwards did nothing to help and it basically became a two-on-one for a 4-3 Minnesota win.
Cons: Failing to hold the lead
Regardless of how it transpired – this game feeling quite different than the previous blown lead – the bottom line is that the Blues gave up sizeable leads in two consecutive games. They did claim three points in those two games, but it’s not good enough.
Results are great, but you need wins, not morale victories. All credit to Minnesota for their effort, but this was a game that had designs on being the first shutout for the Blues. Instead, due to lapses in intensity, the Blues surrender four and lose.
It’s human nature to let up a bit, but the Blues had it in them to sweep this series. You jump on top and look the better team for long stretches, but don’t go for the kill.
The third period needed more offense. Even if you don’t score, the Blues just didn’t generate enough push forward into the offensive zone and you can’t defend that long.
When a goaltender allows four goals, you don’t normally think of it as a good night. Despite that, Jordan Binnington was great in this game.
There were arguments about his ability to save the first Minnesota goal. I give him a pass because it was a blast shot and even if his defender did not truly screen him, just that body in your area can take your eye off for a split second and that’s all it takes.
Binnington deserves credit for getting the team the point. He made two unbelievable saves in the second period, just before Minnesota eventually scored.
He also made a sprawling save in the third, somehow sealing his pad to the ice to prevent a goal there. If any of those go in, this game goes the other way in regulation and the Blues get nothing.
Binnington is the kind of guy that won’t be happy because four went behind him, but that’s the goalie’s mentality. The Blues cough up this game well before overtime if he’s not as sharp as he was.
Cons: Final play
When the game ended, I saw a lot of people jump on Justin Faulk right away because once you’re the Blues fans whipping boy, it’s hard to leave that alone for long. Nevermind that Faulk did what a defender will do in that situation.
The defensive help needed to come from the forwards. Both Robert Thomas and Jordan Kyrou were tired after making a sprint up the ice, but they still needed to show a little more.
Kyrou got juked at center ice and then never really pushed to get back. Thomas’ positioning isn’t terrible, but he got too deep too early and stopped skating, making it impossible to defend the pass with anything more than a feeble jab that was three feet away from the puck.
Fresher forwards or more defensive minded forwards might have avoided that situation, but eventually those guys have to learn.
It does bear mentioning that Zach Sanford was on the ice again for the tying goal. He didn’t shoulder responsibility like the previous night, but this late in the season, you cannot afford to take that risk in order to give the guy a confidence boost.
Still, regardless of who was on the ice, the Blues just didn’t sustain it long enough. They should have won that game.
Minnesota pushed and pushed, but there was not an overwhelming force coming at the Blues. That was a team St. Louis can and should have kept at by and just took their eye off the prize.
It’s one of those situations where any Blues fan would have jumped at the idea of taking nine points out of 10 in five games against Colorado and Minnesota. However, the way the one point lost transpired, it’s hard not to be sour about it.
It didn’t need to be given up. The Blues surrendered it.
St. Louis got outmuscled and seemed to relent from the physicality. Statistically, the Blues outhit Minnesota, but it felt like St. Louis was taking the brunt of the actual punishment.
The difference now is that fans will brood on this game for a day or two. The players have to forget about it right now.
The Blues have not done well enough this season against the basement teams and they have Anaheim coming up. They need to dominate the Ducks, get four points and move on to the next set of games afterward.
Faulk kept with his man until Kevin Fiala got him off balance and made the pass. If you actually watch the replay, there isn’t time enough for Faulk to readjust because the return pass came so quickly.