The St. Louis Blues got off to one of their best starts in franchise history through four games. They could have been excused for a bit of a clunker game after that.
They did just that in their second game against the Los Angeles Kings. However, despite not being at the peak of their powers, they still got the end result.
The Blues actually came out in the first period and looked quite good. They stayed on the front foot, using their offense to be their defense.
Because St. Louis was pressuring the puck and getting shots on goal, they allowed the Kings absolutely nothing. L.A. did not get a shot until 7:28 had been played in the first period.
The Kings basically had no chances in the first period at all. Statistically, they were given a few, but the Blues limited the Kings shots and thus the chances.
Offensively, the Blues got plenty of shots on goal in the first, but it didn’t feel like they really tested Jonathan Quick with the actual shots. St. Louis actually got him working more when the puck went wide, but the Blues were able to corral the puck quickly and cycle it back out.
Ultimately, the first and second periods went by with no goals at all. However, the Kings started getting a foothold in the second.
The Kings outshot the Blues 12-3 in the middle frame. St. Louis was not completely off during the second period, but it was very lackluster.
The Kings kept up some pressure, especially on their power play, in the third period. Ville Husso really looked comfortable in net.
Finally, 3:08 into the third, the Vladimir Tarasenko of old returned. He slipped past defenders and wired a shot over the blocker side for a 1-0 lead.
It looked as though the Blues were going to have to make that one goal stand up. Instead, Tarasenko would get number two on a breakaway with about four and a half minutes left.
After that, the Kings didn’t put a serious threat on goal. They had chances, no doubt, but the Blues never let them have a sustained offensive push where they started coming in waves and you felt a goal coming.
David Perron put the icing on the cake with a bank-shot goal into an empty net. The Blues finished off their fifth win of the season with a 3-0 final.
I hate to say I told you so, but I like to say I told you so. Yes, it’s only five games in and, yes, Tarasenko is a notoriously streaky player. This is vintage Tarasenko though.
So many people were so sure that the Blues absolutely had to get rid of him. He was finished.
Three goals and six points through five games would seem to suggest otherwise. His reaction to the crowd would suggest otherwise with him and the city too.
You could see the happiness and emotion on Tarasenko’s face when the crowd was chanting “Vlady, Vlady, Vlady” during the postgame interview. It was not the first time we had seen him smile in 2021, but it felt like the first time in a long time.
He deserved it. He has been putting in the work in every game this season so far and got the results in this game.
Both goals were special. The second one seemed plain, but when you analyze it, you see the quality.
Tarasenko knew he could break out of the zone early because of his puck awareness and knowing there was no danger in doing so. Then, he was so calm and gave Quick absolutely no hint of what he was going to do that Quick got frozen and it was just a smooth, low shot that beat him.
The first goal, however, was something to behold. This was the Tarasenko we all thought could be a 40-50 goal scorer.
No looking to pass. Nothing but confidence and a strong drive to the net.
That’s about as good a move as I’ve seen Tarasenko make in person. The only goal that I know for sure was better in his career was that breakout against the New York Rangers where he juked through what felt like the entire team.
Cons: Kings defense
For the Kings, this was a plus, but for the Blues, it was a bad thing. St. Louis just couldn’t get anything going after that initial 12-14 minutes in the first period.
Even in the first period, when the Blues had shots, they weren’t really generating that sustained pressure. The Kings implemented their strategy very well.
On social media, I saw several people noting the sloppiness of the Blues and their habit of making too many passes. I counter that with the fact that the Kings gave them nothing.
St. Louis had to keep passing because Los Angeles was literally taking away all the lanes. While not nearly as boring as the 1990’s New Jersey Devils, this reminded me of the Jacques Lemaire Minnesota Wild teams.
It was not a trap, so to speak. Still, the Kings managed to really turn this into a game in quicksand more than ice.
That statement seems counterintuitive, since the Blues still had 35 shots and three goals. Overall, however, you could tell the Blues were the better team and just could not get going because the Kings game planned to shut them down after getting shelled the game prior.
Cons: The “second” line
Really, outside of individuals, nobody had a great game for most of this contest. It wasn’t as though the second line stood out as playing poorly.
However, it was just an overall lack of anything that made them stand out in a negative way. Each one had individual moments, but they just lacked something as a unit.
This was disappointing because they had so much chemistry in the team’s first couple of games. The suspension to Buchnevich seemed to throw off their cohesion.
The top line was not special, but you still saw the effort and hustle. The third line had the best game and not just because Tarasenko scored.
Again, the second line was not bad, but they just didn’t accomplish anything. It seemed like their shifts just went by with nothing going on.
Kyrou had some great zone entries and continued to showcase elite-level stickhandling. Still, as a trio, it wasn’t the best overall outing.
Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the Blues goaltending waters, Ville Husso made some waves last season and not the good kind. His sporadic play splintered the fanbase that had hoped it was done with goaltending arguments online.
In his first game of 2021-22, we saw the goalie the Blues had hoped would be their starter of the future prior to Jordan Binnington leapfrogging him and winning a Stanley Cup. We saw what the team sees.
In the first period, there was nothing for Husso to do. The Kings had seven shots, but they were all from angles or the outside.
It was in the second and third periods that Husso won the game. The Kings ended up with three power plays and Husso had to make some big stops on each one, especially in the third.
He finished the night with 34 saves. Husso also earned the second star of the night and would have been top star on a night when Tarasenko did not score two goals.
It was not just the saves, though. Like Binnington, Husso just looked so calm in net.
He did not have a bunch of frenetic moves. He knew where to be and where to position his glove and made tough stops look easy.
The Blues are now off to their best start in team history. It’s weird to think about saying that after just five games, but the Blues have never opened a season 5-0 before.
What’s more impressive than the record is how it’s happened. They thrashed teams, they outplayed potential Cup winners and never looked like they were punching above their weight class.
Outside of a shift here or a period there, this was probably the Blues worst game of the season overall. They still pitch a shutout and score three goals.
Some of my criticisms may stem from being at the game. I’ve learned that live views and those on television can be quite different, even though you’re seeing the same action.
Nevertheless, it was another win and more early cushion. Right now, the Blues are taking full advantage of less than stellar starts by their divisional foes.
Whether mediocre or great, the Kings have been a team the Blues struggle with. To beat them rather handily in two-straight games is an accomplishment, regardless of where the preseason analysts placed them.
The Blues came out and handled their business in a game where they were not clicking on all cylinders. They stuck with their game, made a few tweaks when they realized what the Kings were doing and the patience paid off with another win.