The St. Louis Blues continue to be a puzzling team through this point of 2021-22. They are capable of dominating some of the best teams in the league and then turning around to look like some bone heads.
The second option is what we saw when the Blues traveled to Florida to take on the Tampa Bay Lightning. St. Louis was up against it right from the start.
Hours prior to the start of the game, the Blues found out they would be without Jordan Binnington and Justin Faulk. Binnington was not as big a deal because Ville Husso was scheduled to play this game anyway, but not having Faulk made a big difference.
The defensive pairings were thrown into a chaotic situation and it would cost the team in the end, though there were not any other options. Overall, the Blues just had an up and down game.
St. Louis found themselves down early again. The Lightning scored on a rebound just over seven minutes into the first period.
The Blues didn’t manage to mount much in the first period. They only had eight shots and none of them troubled the goaltender very much.
In the second period, the Blues got going a little more. Part of that was because they got onto the power play.
In part to having two power plays, the Blues had 15 shots on goal in the middle frame alone. They tied they game on a nice Brandon Saad goal with under six minutes to go in the period.
The third period started well, but got out of hand rather quickly. Despite the Blues having the better effort to start the third, the Lightning grabbed the lead.
The Blues were called for a high stick, whether you agree with it or not. The Lightning scored on the ensuing power play, grabbing a 3-2 lead.
St. Louis answered on their own power play. They simply wore down the Lightning penalty killers and then Pavel Buchnevich snatched the tying goal with over half the period left to go.
Hedman got a second goal with under 10 minutes to go. That was all they would need as St. Louis just could not really muster enough chances to capitalize.
Overall, the effort was there, but the team seems worn down by these last minute injury/protocol announcements.
Cons: First period
The Blues were not really that bad in the first period, especially compared to some of their other gong shows they’ve had. Unfortunately, the end result spoke for itself.
St. Louis needs to find a way to keep teams from scoring early. They also need to find a way to have a lead after 20 minutes of play as well.
The goal is what it is. It was a rebound and not much the goalie or anyone else could have really done about it.
The thing is more about a general thing. For a team no longer really built on pure effort alone, they have enough skill to have more offense. There was nothing going five-on-five and eight shots is not going to cut it.
Pros: Power play
Call it whatever you want. Maybe it’s the arrival of Jim Montgomery or maybe it’s just having different personell.
The Blues power play is keeping them afloat right now. We can argue whether that’s good or not because the team used to butter its bread with five-on-five play, but the man advantage is rolling.
The weird thing is the cyclical nature of the units. When the top line is going well, the second unit struggles and vice versa.
For the last week or more, the second unit has been the better five-man play. They move the puck well, are quick on their feet and wear out the defenders because they don’t allow the defensive box to get set and just rotate.
Saad and Buchnevich get the glory of the goals and deserve the credit for the finishes. Scott Perunovich continues to grow as an NHL player and looks like he’ll be a power play quarterback of the future and Robert Thomas also continues to shine in that role.
Before anyone accuses me of blaming this loss on the goalie, that is not the case at all. Husso made some good saves and was steady, especially given the up and down nature of the play in front of him.
That said, he gets the nod in this section because he needed to stop that first Hedman goal. It was a heavy shot, but that’s not the point.
Husso is a quality goalie and makes most of the stops he should. When you see a shot the entire way from near the point, that’s a stop he needs to make.
Husso just kept his glove a little too low for too long. The shot was quick and he didn’t react. The Blues needed the save in that moment though.
Statistically, this game did not have many turnovers. There were only three statistical giveaways, but all three were credited to the Blues.
Making matters worse, two turnovers led directly to goals. They came in crunch time too.
St. Louis had just tied the game up and needed to build upon that goal. You don’t expect the captain, one of the smartest players on the team, to give it up.
In O’Reilly’s defense, it was an awkward spot along the boards and he was on his backhand. Nevertheless, he has to hoist that out or send it between defenders and get it out. Instead, it goes right to Tampa and they score after one pass.
The second one was even worse. The puck just gets sent into the middle of the ice where no Blues were and it leaves a Tampa player wide open to score.
Cons: Defensive blunder
I don’t get into the whole blaming certain individuals the way other fans do. We’ve seen too many people write someone off or want them ridden out of town on a rail and then reverse it, like Jay Bouwmeester, to believe the masses know what’s best.
However, I am more than willing to call out specific plays. The play that led to the Lightning’s fourth goal was one that needs to be called out.
Three things go wrong on this play. Firstly, though not the most important, is Niko Mikkola losing the board battle. In his defense, he does tie up his opponent, which allows a teammate to get the puck, but that also created another problem which we’ll get to in a moment.
The second problem is the fact there’s two defenders on one side of the ice. There are not just two Blues players, but two actual defensemen.
The main cause of this is likely that both were left handed players. It’s natural to be on that side of the ice as a left-handed player, but either Mikkola or Scandella needed to be guarding the slot. It was probably Scandella out of position as Mikkola was already taking the puck.
Lastly, the pass that set up the goal would have been a highlight reel assist, had it been to the right team. Instead, Scandella makes either a blind pass or one using only his peripheral vision right into the slot.
While Hedman is a defender, he’s not going to bail the Blues out and miss on an opportunity like that. You don’t make that play anyway, but much less with a world-class player lurking in the wings.
Scandella likely thought he was giving the puck to Saad for a breakout. However, his positional error was compounded ten fold by the awful pass.
Cons: Bally Sports Midwest
I know, I know. First world problems.
However, I’m really sick of this third-tier app. Things worked just fine when it was Fox Sports Midwest, so all you had to do was use the same system and slap a new name on it.
Instead, Bally came up with their own garbage and it’s been terrible.
For those that have TV and don’t know what I’m talking about, the Bally app is awful. If you play it on your phone and cast it to your TV, you either get no clear picture or it pauses about once every minute.
When that becomes too annoying, if you try casting it with your computer, it only mirrors the video. So, you have a stream on your TV and one on the computer, which gives another grainy picture because of the bandwidth used, I assume.
Then, focusing on this game specifically, I could not even watch it. I tried every option – phone and two different laptops – and all of them gave me an error.
Thankfully, the radio stream still worked. However, this is not just a Blues problem because I’ve seen dozens of complaints from fans across all sports. It’s another example of a brand pretending to care, but not putting the proof in the pudding.
As far as the game goes, it was just a downer. The Blues were not at their best, but how can you be when you’re dressing 11 forwards and seven defenders and then find out you’re down your top defender?
St. Louis is doing their best to have that next-man up mentality, but when there’s no time to prepare for these things, it’s going to affect you. These are not excuses, but a reality.
The players that hit the ice needed to do better and, again, we saw flashes of them doing that. They just weren’t better for long enough.
The end result of this game was fair, just like the one in St. Louis. Tampa simply did more and deserved the win.
The sour taste for the Blues is that they were still in it and could have had a chance if they did more and played smarter. Don’t make those turnovers and maybe the finish is different.
Win some board battles or get more pressure in front of the net and not allow one of the league’s best goalies to see everything and maybe you have a different result. Those things were not done and the turnovers did happen and here we are.
Going forward, it’s rough. Florida is one of the league’s best and the Blues will be out of sorts for roster makeup again. Hopefully they can band together and get some points out of the next two.