When the St. Louis Blues have an extended break, such as during the 2021 Christmas break, you never quite know how they will look coming out of it. You might get an energized team, ready to go or you might get a sluggish team that looks as though they’ve not been on the ice in months.
Fortunately, at least at the start, we got the former. The Blues came out with lots of jump in front of a hot crowd.
Despite a lack of actual shots on goal, the Blues generated plenty of chances right off the hop. St. Louis made the most out of the shots they did have on goal.
The Blues scored the opening goal of the game. Normally Robert Thomas is setting up plays, but for just the third time this season, he finished one off for a 1-0 lead on just the second shot of the game.
St. Louis got their second goal shortly after. Jordan Kyrou made a push back toward the top of the goals list, scoring his 10th of the season to make it 2-0 Blues.
Unfortunately, the good feelings didn’t last long. Just as the goal was being announced on the PA system, the Oilers snapped one past Jordan Binnington for a 2-1 score and giving every indication this game was going to be a track meet.
The Blues kept pressing on the offensive end. The thought almost seemed to be the best defense was playing offense, which isn’t too bad if you can hold the puck.
Kyrou had another couple chances, though this time he was forced to an angle that prevented the best chance to score. Thomas also had a look, but this time he tried to force it back into the middle for Vladimir Tarasenko who crashed into the net, but could not get the puck in with him.
Tarasenko didn’t take any stuff though. After Oilers goalie Mike Smith tried to give him a face wash, Tarasenko shoved him right back, knowing he was going to be attacked for touching the goaltender.
That all preceded a power play. The special teams unit that has been a bright spot for St. Louis all season accomplished nothing, failing to really even generate a good look on goal.
Opening the second period, the Blues got right back to it. Klim Kostin had a Hull-esque one-knee shot that sailed over the goal and then moments later, Scott Perunovich almost found Logan Brown on the back door for a tip that went just wide.
With no goal scored, the Blues took a cross checking penalty about three and a half minutes into the second frame. Despite giving up some good looks that should have been finished off, the Blues killed that off to retain their one-goal lead.
Those missed chances burned the Blues eventually. With about 12 minutes played, Connor McDavid rang one off the post from the left wing. The rebound was filtered to the right circle and a seeing-eye shot got through traffic to tie it 2-2.
The Blues did not stand by and let Edmonton come at them though. They pressed right back and eventually regained the lead as Tarasenko broke past the defenders and scored after a backhand, forehand move making it 3-2.
St. Louis wasted absolutely no time increasing their lead in the third. With a full two minutes of power play time on fresh ice, it took under a minute to get the goal. Brandon Saad scored his 12th, fifth power play goal, to double the advantage at 4-2.
The Blues came up empty on their next power play. You’re not going to score on all of them, but it was a fantastic effort to put the nail in the coffin and it went by the wayside.
St. Louis had more than two minutes with an empty net, but they failed to get one. Fortunately, their defense and goaltending was solid almost all night long and the team finished their 4-2 win for their 18th win of the year.
When it comes to skill players, you never quite know how a break will affect them. Just like baseball players, skill guys would rather just keep going and going because the stoppages disrupt their flow.
However, along with a handful of other guys, Jordan Kyrou looked like he just played a day or two ago. He was on point.
Playing with Thomas and Tarasenko, especially the latter, has not always clicked for Kyrou. In this game, it was a well-oiled machine.
Kyrou was flying around the ice just like you want him to. He picked up an assist on the first and third goal and then his goal to grab that 2-1 lead was something special.
It has to be noted that it was horrible defending to allow Kyrou to just glide into the middle for that scoop. Nevertheless, the patience after the push past the defender and the ability to outwait the goalie was exactly what you want from a goal scorer.
Similar to what was stated about Kyrou, there was reason to think we might get a Vladi that was off. In addition to just not playing for 10 days, Tarasenko was also missing his two Russian teammates.
There was good chemistry with Thomas earlier in the season, but Tarasenko and Kyrou have had an odd time when paired together. In 2020, Kyrou deferred too much, to the detriment of both players.
That was not the case in this game. It was though this trio had played all season together with the way they were snapping passes to one another.
Tarasenko was exactly what we’ve always wanted from him. He was using his power to drive past fools, his skill to generate shots and his vision to set other guys up.
The pass he made on the Thomas tap in was something you see from an elite center. Tarasenko also showed good vision to make the cross-ice pass to set up Kyrou’s breakout on his goal.
Last, but not least, we saw the Tarasenko of old on the goal.
This was not as pretty or showy as that drive past three defenders in New York years ago, but this was one of those plays where Tarasenko was not going to be denied. He just blew past two defenders, took the pass and then made no doubt on the goal.
Add to that driving the net and mixing it up with the goaltender and you had a heck of a night from Vladi.
This was not the cleanest game ever, but there really was not much to pick on from the negative side. There were mistakes, just like any game, but there was not a single moment or single player to pick out as having a poor performance.
Jordan Binnington did not have the best game of his career, but he made some important saves. It was an important rebound for him after allowing four goals in Winnipeg.
Binnington and the defense stood tall against some of the best scorers in the league. Leon Draisaitl managed to get one in, but St. Louis stepped up and kept the other big boys off the mark. Sure, McDavid came close hitting a couple posts, but the bottom line is they didn’t hit the back of the net.
Niko Mikkola had a very good game. He was on the ice for one of the goals, but overall he was a steady, stay at home defender, which is what the Blues need from him.
Offensively, it was a shame St. Louis only got four. Ryan O’Reilly was good, Saad was wonderful, the Tarasenko line was fantastic. Logan Brown was on the brink of scoring a couple times, Klim Kostin continued to show flashes and Nathan Walker did his best to play like Sammy Blais.
This game did not have a feel like a warm up game at all, but it was a great way to hit the ice prior to the Winter Classic which will be played on January 1. St. Louis could have easily overlooked this game and got blown out by a team that scores in waves.
Instead, the Blues came in with a game plan and put it into effect from the start. Now, they can focus on the pomp, circumstance and joy of playing in this upcoming event. They may need to focus on staying warm too, but that’s another matter.