The St. Louis Blues came into their fourth game of the season red hot. However, the worry was how much they struggled with the Los Angeles Kings during the shortened-2021 season.
That worry became personified with how the first period began. Perhaps it was due to the pregame festivities – any ceremony that changes how long it takes until puck drop seems to throw off the home team – or maybe it was a strange feeling of superiority.
Whatever the case, the Blues did not come out of the gate strongly. They were outshot 9-3 in the first 11-plus minutes and Los Angeles would score first.
The Blues were weak on a clearance and the Kings got a quick shot. Despite a block in front, LA took the loose puck and ripped it past Jordan Binnington.
However, that awoke the mighty Blues. They picked up their physicality and got back to their game after that.
Three minutes after the Kings took the lead, the Blues would strike on the power play. David Perron got started on what would be a hot night and tied the game with a one-timer from the left circle.
The Blues would take a penalty shortly before intermission. Instead of just trying to see the period out, St. Louis kept on their toes.
A careless pass through the middle was kicked away by the Blues at their own blue line. Ivan Barbashev tapped the puck into the air, split the defenders and scored a shorthanded goal to make it 2-1 just 1:13 before the period ended.
The Blues put their foot on the Kings throat in the second period. They would add three more goals in the middle frame.
Things got a little loose in the third period. James Neal got his first on home ice in 2021-22, scoring on the power play, but then the Blues allowed two goals in 4:20, giving the Kings life in the final 20.
Fortunately, St. Louis clamped down after that. The Kings still had shots, but there were not grade-A chances that really put the fear of the maker in anyone.
Additionally, Perron would score another power play goal with 8:20 left in the game. That made it 7-3 and the Blues would see that score as a final.
St. Louis won four regulation games to start a season for the first time since 2013-14. They’ll face the Kings again at Enterprise Center on Monday.
Pros: Quick run down
There were so many positives out of the game that it’s easier to run them down in quick hitter, list format…so, here we go.
– O’Reilly continues to be a beast in the faceoff circle. He won 68% of his draws on this night and has not really been that close to 50% at all this season. Those numbers will even out eventually, but he’s money so far.
– Neighbours gets his first NHL goal. It wasn’t a truly highlight reel goal, but it was a fantastic pass and any time someone gets their first ever goal, it’s special. The kid celebrated like he’s done it dozens of times already and was more impressed by Schenn’s dish than his own finish.
– Special teams. The Blues were 4-7 on the power play, which was a unit that borderline sucked last season. Now, they’re a force to be reckoned with. St. Louis also got another shorthanded goal, which was something you have not seen at all the last couple seasons. The goalie would likely want that Barbashev shot back, but the bottom line is it went in and the effort leading up to it was great.
– Assists aplenty. Torey Krug continues to have a bounceback year for the Blues. He picked up three helpers in this one. Vladimir Tarasenko continues to prove the doubters wrong. He had eight shots, five of them on target and ended the night with two assists. There were 12 total assists across the team’s seven goals.
If I’m honest, I’m kind of picking at things just because this was not a perfect game. In fact, the Blues probably had a more consistent 20 minutes in their previous win against Vegas.
But, to their credit, Los Angeles showed that they are not a fluke with their good start. Whether they maintain it is up in the air, but they’re more than just a hot team out of the gate.
That said, the Blues allowed them just a little too much. The first goal was a weak clearance and then a slightly slow attempt to get back into position.
The second goal was a good one, where the Kings just took advantage of a rush play. You could argue that Robert Bortuzzo got twisted around, but after he hit the breaks to attempt stopping the initial pass, there was no way he could know that Dustin Brown had snuck in behind. The Blues needed to stop that play in the Kings zone, but once it got out, it was going to be tough.
The third goal was poor coverage. Too many guys got stuck puck watching on the strong side of the ice. The fact that anyone was wide open, let alone wide open at the backside edge of the crease, was a lack of focus. Binnington made the save, but there was nobody around to even put a body or stick on.
Things happen over the course of a game, but you would like a little more focus even up by five at the time the other goals started.
Pros: Hat trick
It was David Perron’s night on this night. He scored the first Blues goal of the game and the last.
The only thing that might have improved the evening for Perron was if he nabbed the game winner. Neighbours got that honor.
Still, it was a heck of a night for French Toast.
He gets the first on a pretty one-time blast from the circle. The second was just good net-front presence, scoring off his body after a Krug shot.
The third may have been the best. Tarasenko pushed the defense back due to all his earlier shots and then set up Perron with a good pass. Though the angle was tighter than the first, Perron scooped it high again and got goal number three.
Picky people will say the Blues should have held on for a 6-1 or 7-2 win. Doubt the defense if you will, because they are still making a few too many mistakes, but you cannot doubt the end results.
The Blues have won four games to start the season for the second time in four seasons. They’ve won four regulation games for the second time in eight seasons. So, it’s a good start and they’re really taking it to their opponents.
Just about all the forwards had great nights. Perron’s three goals were the most by a Blues player in a home opener since Brett Hull had four in 1996.
It will be interesting to see how the Kings respond since these two teams play again, though with a day’s break in between. For now, the Blues have been solid for four straight games, with only minor hiccups.
We would all like to see more consistent, tougher defense, but let’s stop over praising the 2018-19 defense. That squad was thought of as questionable going into the season and it was not until they found a second and even third level in the playoffs that we got the hindsight we have today. This current group will continue to improve and find their own way, even if it’s a different type of success than that team had.
Eventually, all these goals will dry up and the team will need that defense. For now, it’s fun to see a team capable of putting up this kind of offense and not feeling like they’re playing beyond themselves.
Next, it’s not on to Cincinnati, but it’s on to Monday night for another game against the Kings. That one should be much closer, but the Blues are more than capable of winning another one.