The St. Louis Blues wanted to extend their home winning streak to eight. They also wanted some revenge after being beaten by Anaheim 4-1 earlier in the season.
That was going to be a difficult task. Earlier in the year, the Blues had a semi-healthy lineup and did not know how to contend with Anaheim’s speed. In this one, the Blues were almost half made of guys from Springfield (not really half, but feels like it) and also shorthanded after an injury to Jordan Kyrou the night before.
Even so, the Blues manage to find ways to hold their own. Despite a reasonable start to the game, the Ducks would score first, smashing in a rebound at 12:32 of the first period.
Similar to the previous game, the Blues were not without chances. Niko Mikkola blasted one off the post, but it ricocheted into the corner instead of anywhere the Blues could jump on a rebound.
The offense was lacking overall, however. The Blues got outshot 10-7 in the the period.
It seemed like the Blues were destined to be somewhat snake bitten in this contest. Their best chance to that point came with a little over five minutes played in the second, but Pavel Buchnevich never even got a shot off on a breakaway.
However, just minutes later, another cobbled together line came up big. Brayden Schenn found Nathan Walker who drew all the defenders to him by waiting on the right win, slipped a cross-ice pass to Oscar Sundqvist and then the big Swede tucked it home to tie it 1-1.
The Blues got a little sloppy after that, but not too bad. A penalty taken by Scott Perunovich was ultimately killed off as the team’s special teams continued to be solid.
A few minutes after that, St. Louis’ third ranked power play got onto the ice. Despite having four shots on that man advantage, they didn’t come that close to scoring.
In fact, the Blues almost gave up a goal immediately after the penalty. Springing a two-on-one, Jon Gillies made a fantastic save on the cross-ice one timer, keeping the game tied heading into the third.
The Ducks came out strong in the third period. They had 10 shots on goal before the midway point of the period, which was one shy of their total each of the previous two periods.
Despite being put under pressure for much of the period, the Blues struck again as Schenn decided to celebrate his 300th game with the Note in style. Schenn picked up his second assist of the night, setting up the red-hot Aussie Nathan Walker who put the team up 2-1 with just 7:40 played.
The goal came on just the fifth shot of the period for St. Louis. It was a great wrist shot from the left of the slot, utilizing the Anaheim Ducks defender as a screen.
The Blues couldn’t hold the Ducks at bay forever though. With six and a half left to play, Anaheim tied it up when the Blues could not sweep the puck out of the crease. Gillies made several saves on the doorstep, but eventually the Ducks tapped one in.
In the final two minutes, the Ducks put on the pressure. Gillies saved the game with another save on a two-on-one.
It was a hard earned point, though the Blues could have had two in regulation, but it was still a decent push to get into overtime.
The Ducks hit the goalpost with 3:51 left in the extra period. St. Louis had some possession, but never really generated much.
Unfortunately, the Blues had one mistake cost them. Perunovich was careless at the blue line and the turnover led to a breakaway.
Perunovich hooked the Ducks forward on the way down and gave up a penalty shot. Gillies had no chance to stop the penalty and the Ducks won 3-2, so the Blues had to settle for one point.
Before anyone gets too excited, there is no way Nathan Walker stays on the Blues once this team is healthy. However, we’ll get into that possibility in a moment.
That said, he’s doing all he can to earn every single minute that Craig Berube wants to give him. Walker is just flying up and down the ice, getting in the middle of things, creating havoc but also creating offense.
He figured into both Blues goals in a big way. The first one was just a beautiful pass across the slot to set up Sundqvist.
The second, was just a nice drive down the ice and a terrific finish. There wasn’t a lot of power behind the shot, but Walker timed it perfectly to slide it past the defender so the goaltender would see it late.
Four goals and five points in three games is not too bad for someone who was barely on the radar in training camp.
Cons: Another injury
At this point, I guess we should just expect the Blues to play shorthanded the rest of the season. They lost another player with no guarantee anyone will be back for the next contest.
Schenn left the game at one point, but came back. He picked up his second assist in that time too.
However, randomly in the third, he left the bench again and never returned. In the overtime period, Darren Pang announced Schenn would not return and had an upper-body injury.
The Blues were already without Jordan Kyrou. Despite being removed from the protocol list, Tyler Bozak has not been deemed ready either.
Now, we have no clue who the Blues will have dressed for their next game. It was ridiculous long ago, but now things are just funny. You have to laugh to not cry.
Full disclosure, I did not give the Blues much chance to win this game because of their goaltending. We had seen a glimpse of Gillies in the preseason of 2021 and he looked like a guy that needed to be in the AHL.
Playing against a fast team that actually has more goals than the vaunted Edmonton Oilers, it seemed as though this would be a long night. Though Gillies was not to blame, after the Ducks scored first and had so many shots, that seemed to be playing out.
Instead, the young goalie was playing to prove something. He was steady and calm and kept the Blues in this one the entire way.
He was not making Hasek like saves, but that’s not his game anyway. Gillies is a big body with enough athleticism to get into position and make a big block.
He did that all night long. He stopped two huge two-on-ones and made several toe saves on some deflected pucks too.
The way he played, he deserved the win. He stopped 36 shots, many of which were quality chances. Unfortunately, not everyone gets what they deserve and Gillies had to settle for the one point.
I really have no clue how to view this game. The Blues had long stretches where they were quite good and continued to show gigantic resiliency given all the injuries and men out of the lineup.
That said, they have a full compliment of defenders and there’s still a few too many mistakes for one’s liking. There wasn’t a ton to do about any of the goals against, but there’s just an overall feeling of not enough physicality by the guys guarding the front of the net. The league has legislated some of that out of the game, but there’s not really enough body on body either.
That said, what can you say about the mental makeup of this team? You lose another forward, even if it was late in the game and they still had a big chance to win this game.
The fact the bottom six, no matter who they are, keep stepping up to the plate is amazing. Normally, if the Blues were counting on guys named Walker or Logan Brown or Dakota Joshua, you would think they’re in big trouble, but for now it’s great because you know that eventually the top-name guys are going to get it right.
Ultimately, it’s disappointing to let two points slip away when you’re ahead in the third. Given the course of the entire 60-plus minutes, getting a point is a fair result though.