The St. Louis Blues were trying to wash out the bad taste left in their mouths after a shootout loss to the Los Angeles Kings the previous night. They had an extra opponent for the second night in a row though.
It seemed like the Blues would be in for a long night in San Jose as the officials just started making things up. After a brief power play for St. Louis, the officials called a clean check boarding and then when normally-quiet Vladimir Tarasenko got put in the box for saying a bad word, you know things were in store for a long night.
The Blues got another penalty called, this one a double-minor when there was no apparent blood. San Jose scored on the ensuing power plays, which was to be expected.
St. Louis got some good fortune though. They forced a turnover and a two-on-one break ensued, which ended in a Brandon Saad goal for a 1-1 game.
Things seemed to be turning around when the Blues were put on the power play. Unfortunately, they got worse.
The Blues were very careless with the puck, trying too many passes that had little chance to succeed. This eventually bit them when Logan Couture got a partial break and snuck one underneath Joel Hofer. The shorthanded goal for the San Jose Sharks made it 2-1.
In the second period, the craziness continued. The Blues tied it 2-2 when Pavel Buchnevich was set up for a nice whip shot.
That lasted a mere 29 seconds. Hofer was beat when his pads separated for a split second on a deflected puck and the Sharks grabbed a 3-2 lead.
Saad had enough of that. He flicked one past the goalie on the blocker side to tie things 3-3 with about half the game remaining.
The third period was a slight ping pong affair. Each team went zone to zone and created some chances.
Interestingly, the Blues best chances came from Robert Thomas. The man who never shoots actually shot the puck and kept coming up empty.
Fortunately, the defense clamped down enough to hold the lead. Thomas would eventually get his first of the year on an empty net goal and the Blues got a 5-3 win.
Pros: Free agent signings
It was quite the night for all the guys brought in by Doug Armstrong over the summer. Whether picked up by trade or free agency, the new guys chipped in.
Buchnevich’s goal was a showcase of why they brought him in. He’s been a little snake bitten early in the season, but this was why they picked him up – a strong shot and well placed.
Saad had a heck of a game. While you’d love him to have capped it all off with a hat trick, he scored when they needed him most.
Every time the Blues needed a big goal, the puck found it’s way to Saad. There were worries about his cardio status, given him being out for over a week, but he was fine in a back-to-back.
One might argue that one, if not both of Saad’s shots should have been saved. It does not matter. He put himself in a good spot, let it go and it hit the back of the net.
On top of all that, the goal by Neal was just quality from top to bottom. If you want to get technical, Bozak was an offseason addition, even though he was previously a member of the team.
Bozak started that entire play by hounding the puck the entire way. Eventually, he got the steal, the puck filtered to the front and Neal finished it off.
Cons: Puck control and passing
From a statistical point, the Blues only had five giveaways. This is curious as it felt like they were continually handing the pucks to the Sharks.
Even if they were not called clear turnovers, the bottom line is that the Blues were sloppy with the puck. Again, it’s not just letting the opponent take the puck, but where.
Zone entries were weak for the second game in a row. Decision making was rather poor too.
When the Blues allowed the shorthanded goal, you could sense it coming. Their pass selection was quite bad and they had already given up clean possession a couple times prior to that, even if they held the zone.
Even when the Blues had the 4-3 lead, they tried getting too cute. Kostin made several miscues that might get him scratched the next game.
Jordan Kyrou made a foolish backhand pass that was never likely to get where he wanted with time waning. The Blues were fortunate the Sharks didn’t turn that into a break.
Once the team calmed down, Hofer did not have a ton to do. The shot toals and chances against were kept relatively low.
Hofer faced 26 shots, giving him 23 saves on the night. The Sharks were limited to 11 scoring chances, so Hofer was not tested a ton.
Nevertheless, he made the stops when the Blues needed him. Whether by luck or otherwise, he made a huge skate save early in the game and that proved to be a big difference.
Perhaps it was not the prettiest of games or didn’t feature mind-boggling saves, but it’s the guy’s first win of his career. He was not a bystander and did what you want a goalie to do.
For the second night in a row, the Blues played very sloppy but got the result they deserved.
In Los Angeles, they did just enough to earn the point, but it would have been a steal to grab two points. In this game, the Blues were marginally better, but still deserved to get the win when you view the game as a whole.
That does not mean there is not plenty to clean up. The Blues played a bit too much like a team with house money and that’s not a good thing.
While it’s not an excuse, the officiating was pretty horrible again. They’re just making stuff up now.
It’s one thing if you’re consistent, but when you set the bar with a phantom boarding call, you make fans look for every single non-call after that.
I loved the effort from Bozak through most of the game. Though Vladimir Tarasenko’s point streak came to an end, he was still getting shots off and mixing it up. I liked to see his fire early, even though it got him an unsportsmanlike penalty.
The passing was questionable at best and bad at worst. Even so, a win is a win is a win.
The Blues are now 7-1-1 and remain atop the Central Division.