The St. Louis Blues are a team in a bit of a crisis right now as we have seen just about a quarter of the 2021-22 season. In a time when things should be working now that the lineup is healthy, the Blues are bouncing back and forth like a tennis ball slammed between two brick walls.
As has been the case in the last handful of games, we saw the best and worst of the Blues in Chicago. Instead of going for the jugular against the Chicago Blackhawks, they pulled defeat from the jaws of victory.
St. Louis got off to a great start. They scored the opening goal of the game just 59 seconds in, taking the crowd out of it almost from the start.
It was a pretty play, which may have been the problem later on. Nevertheless, Jordan Kyrou slipped one through the slot and Pavel Buchnevich buried it for the 1-0 lead.
About 4:30 into the period, it seemed as though Chicago tied it. An awful pass by Jordan Binnington from behind the net got picked off by Jonathan Toewes and he scored in the empty net. Fortunately, upon review, it was called offside and the Blues held the lead.
The Blues capitalized on their good fortune. They doubled their lead at the end of the period.
It was the second unit on the power play that continued to impress. Ivan Barbashev tipped a shot from the point and then scored on a second attempt.
The offense dried up the rest of the game.
In the second period, the Blues had just six shots on goal. Though that sounds bad, and is, Chicago only had six as well, so it evens out.
For the third, St. Louis only managed two shots on goal. Give Chicago credit for clamping down if you want, but two shots in 20 minutes of an NHL game is unaccaptable.
Chicago cut the lead in half just 34 seconds into the second period. It was an odd goal that saw Binnington make the save, the puck pop into the air and a Chicago player was literally standing in the middle of the crease to bang it in.
Then, the Blues just got caught defending for too long. With no sustained offense of their own, the Blackhawks eventually broke through and tied it.
A shot from the point got deflected in front. Chicago evened things out with just over five minutes to go.
Finally, the ridiculous overtime format burned the Blues again.
The Blues forwards got caught puck watching after a giveaway in the neutral zone. Kyrou went after the puck carrier, but Brayden Schenn floated that direction too. This allowed Patrick Kane to sneak in behind, force a two-on-one with Alex DeBrincat and Debrincat scored the game winner.
Cons: Not enough physicality
Those of us that enjoy a more old school type of game got very spoiled by the 2019 Blues. They were so full of energy and obliterated their opponents during the 2019 playoffs that we got very spoiled.
Those of us that realize it’s a long season know that you cannot play that exact style for 82 games during a regular season. You’re going to have games where the intensity just is not there.
However, when you’re playing a former rival in Detroit and then a current rival in Chicago and you barely make the effort to take a body, it’s disheartening. This is especially true when the Blues lost a player and there was almost no response until Schenn got into a fight in the second.
Statistical hits are not the only thing you can go by as sometimes hit totals are low but the physicality and edginess was there. That did not feel the case in this one.
The Blues were almost doubled in the hit department as the Note had 17 and Chicago had 33. Some of that is due to the Blues possessing so much in the first period, but some is simply because the Blues seemed disinterested.
Maybe they are gun shy, having just got everyone healthy. If this team is worried about getting hurt, we’re in for a long one.
Pros: Quick start
I’m sure there’s worse teams out there, but the Blues often seem more affected by odd start times than your average team. That was not the case here.
The Blues were ready right off the hop and scored in the first minute. Recently, it feels like the Blues have been the team getting scored on early, so it was nice to see the guys turn the tables.
On top of that, the goal and setup was nice. The one thing this year’s team has been able to do is to drive the net with regularity and it has paid off more times than not.
Cons: Failure to hold on
There’s loads of blame to pass around. In case you need to figure out who you want to blame, just take a look around social media.
Of course, there’s the usual blame Jordan Binnington crowd. I wouldn’t blame him for the loss by himself, but he just doesn’t look quite comfortable.
The pass that led to the goal that was disallowed was just insane. I really have no clue how he didn’t see Toewes.
The first goal was just bad luck. Nobody expects a puck to arc like that.
The second goal, I’m not sure what the defenders should do. They were all on their man, but it got deflected. Perhaps you could say they needed to keep Chicago from getting that close to the net, but you’re not allowed to rough anyone up away from the puck these days.
The third goal, the two forwards just fell asleep. The communication for the Blues just seems lacking.
As an overarching thought, it’s very discouraging that this team is so shaky with the lead. Maybe that fits because the Blues can’t seem to hold the lead or come from behind.
Cons: Perron out
David Perron left the game with an “upper-body” injury with over eight minutes left in the first period. Not only did the Blues not really respond to the hit, clean or otherwise, but they didn’t go out an win it for Perron either.
It’s useless to speculate whether Perron will be out or play in the next game. Upper body could mean concussion or shoulder or some sort of stinger or who knows what.
The last time I guessed whether an in-game injury would be long term, I was completely wrong. Still, upper body just seems like it will be more than just this game missed.
A loss is a loss, no matter who it is to. That said, when you view the last two games in a vacuum, it’s stomach turning.
Yes, parity and all that. The Blues took one point out of a potential four against Detroit and Chicago. That is just not good enough.
A couple weeks ago, we were praising this team for the next-man-up mentality and the depth proving they could be a Cup contender. Now that they have a healthy roster, they keep stumbling over their own skates.
I fully expect this team to rebound and get on the same page., similarly to how Ryan O’Reilly finally got his legs under him after recovering from covid. Hopefully, it will not take too long.