The St. Louis Blues came into their final matchup with the Anaheim Ducks in a game that was just short of a must win. Obviously, the Blues still needed help to clinch a playoff spot on this particular night, but they needed to get their own business taken care of first.
It wasn’t going to be easy, but not because of the opponent (or maybe it was because of the opponent). It’s hard to get up for games against Anaheim because everyone knows they don’t have much to play for.
Additionally, focus was taken off the game almost immediately. The Blues rightly played a tribute video for former captain David Backes, but the standing ovation may have been a slight distraction for the players.
Whatever the reason, you could tell the Blues just weren’t incredibly interested in this game. They had an ok first period, but they weren’t out for blood.
The Blues did press a little and got 11 shots on goal. However, other than their one power play goal scored by Mike Hoffman, the Blues didn’t generate a ton of dangerous chances.
Don’t get me wrong, they had a couple. Unfortunately, they were just as likely to shoot wide as they were to score on those chances.
In the second, the game became even more of a drag. The game just had a feeling of exactly what it was – a game nearing the end of the season that didn’t have a ton of meaning, other than a win would help the Blues possibly clinch the playoffs.
The Blues lackluster play would bite them in the rear eventually. After some sloppiness through the neutral zone, the Ducks worked the puck around and tapped home a dribbler when Niko Mikkola broke his stick and did not get one from Zach Sanford in time to thwart the play.
Things didn’t get much better early in the third period. The Ducks connected some good passes, but the Blues looked like they were skating in quicksand and the Ducks took the 2-1 lead with 2:15 gone in the frame.
It almost got even worse. There was a sliding mass of humanity into the Blues crease and Jordan Binnington had his legs taken out from under him and also cut his chin. Thankfully, he would stay in the game.
More from Analysis
- St. Louis Blues and Cardinals Similar In All The Wrong Ways
- St. Louis Blues Pros/Cons From 2022-23 Game 82 At Dallas
- St. Louis Blues Pros/Cons From 2022-23 Game 81 Vs Dallas
- St. Louis Blues Pros/Cons From 2022-23 Game 80 At Minnesota
- St. Louis Blues Pros/Cons From 2022-23 Game 79 Vs NY Rangers
The Blues just couldn’t do much else throughout the third period. Clifford had the best chance to win it, but was denied by a good save and the post at the same time.
Overtime was just atrocious. The Blues had some shots, but they were fortunate not to lose during the five minutes with as sloppy as their play was.
Once it got to a shootout, you knew what the result was. The Blues have won shootouts, but that’s the exception to the rule. They just don’t score well enough in them.
They got blanked on all three shots and Anaheim’s second shooter roofed one for the Ducks to get a 3-2 win.
It’s not as though this was a well played contest for 60 minutes and then the Blues fell apart in the overtime. So, we should have expected the results we got.
Nevertheless, you still go into every overtime thinking your team might end it 30 seconds in and send everyone home happy. That was not the case.
While the Blues seemed disinterested during regulation, they were just disjointed in overtime. It was a mess.
On offense, the Blues had opportunities, but they also passed up several. Brayden Schenn had a great chance to let her rip, but just kept carrying the puck all the way around the net and eventually lost it.
Colton Parayko got a golden look and shot wide. It was not the best of efforts.
In the team’s defensive zone, it was almost even worse. The Blues set up two glorious chances for the Ducks with just awful passes.
One was a really dumb drop pass that just sat within a couple yards of the blue line with nobody even close to it. The other blindly put it into the slot right in front of the Blues’ net and the game should have been over there, if not for Binnington’s great save.
Nobody is ever going to confuse Hoffman for a defensive player, but he’s getting the job done as well as can be expected for someone that has never played that style. Additionally, Hoffman has been red hot in just the area the Blues brought him in for.
Hoffman has proven to be a power play dynamo. His one goal in this game was 17th of the season and seven of those have been on the power play. Additionally, Hoffman’s last three goals have been on the power play.
He’s also become so much more confident. He hit the target three times and took a handful of other shots that didn’t register because they were blocked or went wide. Still, it’s nice to have someone that actually looks to get pucks on the net instead of trying to set up pretty plays every time.
Cons: No help for the goalie
This should not have been a game that Binnington had to work much. Yeah, Anaheim has guys fighting for jobs and playing time in the future, blah, blah, blah.
The Blues are a better team with more talent. They needed to come out, keep possession of the puck, pressure along the walls and get more done in the offensive zone.
Instead, they allowed far too much pressure. Binnington had to face 35 shots against a team with just 16 wins.
That might be more acceptable if this was a track meet game, but it wasn’t. The Blues only generated 23 shots themselves.
St. Louis was just so sloppy. The whole game was just a hot mess as there were 39 statistical giveaways combines, 18 of which were committed by the Blues.
The problem with St. Louis, as ever, is they give it away in cheap areas. While the Blues cut down the D-zone turnovers (8), they were bad in the neutral zone and weak on the boards. Late in the game, St. Louis had two guys below their own endline against one Ducks player, who was tying the puck up. He came out of that scrum with the puck.
That’s just not good enough.
Pros: Backes tribute
How things ended was not the smoothest with the Blues and their former captain. However, if this was the last time he’d play an NHL game at Enterprise Center, it was the best way to send him out.
The team had a nice video tribute they played at the first stoppage, which made Backes very emotional. It was also the right thing to have his parents there.
Clearly, as fans of the Blues, we’d rather the Blues won the game, but it would be a lie to say it wouldn’t have been nice for Backes to get a goal. That would have been 250 for his career and getting it in St. Louis would have been special.
After the game, the team continued to honor the former leader. They played a video with Backes’ wife and children.
Backes shed plenty of tears on the night, including some more during a postgame interview with Darren Pang. Sure, it’s silly to give the top star of the night to a player that played 10 minutes, but it was still the right thing to do.
The reason this loss sits so sour is not because the Blues failed to clinch a playoff spot. It sits sour because they gave it away, almost from the start.
The Blues played like they knew there was several tomorrows as far as their playoff lives went. That’s not a great mentality to have at this time of year.
Nobody expected them to come out and try to staple every Ducks player to the dashers. But, to have the kind of weak energy they showed was no good.
It was boring to watch, quite frankly. Some fans got a thrill out of overtime, but that’s a to each their own kind of thing.
There was no business even getting to overtime.
The frustrating thing about this team is they really have the entire unit take their foot off the gas. You didn’t really see a couple guys or an entire line take the team on their shoulders and say let’s do it. All 18 skaters just kind of coasted through.
There were a few individual moments here or there, but it just wasn’t enough and not what you’d expect from a team looking to get set for the postseason.