Sports are a wonderful, yet frustrating thing for fans. When you see the St. Louis Blues pretty much dominate a team as good as the Washington Capitals, you expect that to carry over into the next game.
However, playing Western Conference teams is different than playing an Eastern Conference opponent. On top of that, divisional games are simply different than any other.
The Dallas Stars might be extremely inconsistent, but they still have talent and are capable of winning any game they play in. The example of that is the fact the Stars ended the Pittsburgh Penguins winning streak, which was a feat the Blues failed to accomplish.
While this game did not have the nastiness of an old-school rivalry, it was definitely an old-school divisional game. Neither team wanted to make a key mistake that might cost them the contest, so the chances were few and far between.
The Blues had the better of the early offense in this game, but that doesn’t mean they had a lot. The Blues mustered 10 shots on goal, but there were only a handful that looked as though they might score.
For the most part, even the good looks were breakouts with no traffic and the telegraphed shot made an easy save for Brayden Holtby. St. Louis held the Stars to just 7 shots on goal, playing a steady defense.
The Stars came out stronger in the second, but the game remained tight. Halfway through the contest, the shots were still very low.
The Stars were doing more buzzing though, while the Blues were getting the random shot with no sustained pressure. Eventually, that pressure from the Stars got them the lead.
Right around the midway point in the game, the Stars got the Blues scrambling on the defensive end. A shot failed to get through on the near side, but the reaction got Jordan Binnington out of the crease and the Stars would just barely knock it in off the pad as it went to the far wing.
A few minutes later, the Blues got a power play and looked to score the tying goal. However, for the second power play in a row, the Blues passed it too much and got no rebound opportunities on any of their shots since most went wide and the one on goal was easily punched away by Holtby.
The third period opened with the Stars on a power play. The Blues needed to thank their lucky stars, and Jordan Binnington, for the score not being 2-0.
Binnington went into scramble mode two or three times on that power play. The Blues gave him very little help, not clearing the puck once, but the goaltender made some very good saves to keep it a one goal game.
Following that kill, the Blues turned up the intensity, but still felt like they would not break through. Brayden Schenn was stoned on a partial breakaway and Logan Brown failed to get one in on a scramble play about five minutes in.
Things got crazy late in the game. The refs started handing out penalties like candy, whether they were real or not.
Despite not calling a clear slash on Dallas on a Jordan Kyrou breakaway, David Perron got called for a trip that was simply a finished check. The refs evened things out by handing the Blues a power play for a hook on Dallas that was not a hook.
The Blues scored on the ensuing power play with Ryan O’Reilly banging home a loose puck in front. St. Louis went right back on the power play since there was a delayed call prior to the O’Reilly goal.
28 seconds later, Kyrou proved to be the hero. He scored by banking one in off the defender and the Blues held on for the 2-1 win.
I openly admit that I have never been and never will be a fan of Jamie Benn. After all, I had a petition started by Dallas fans to say I shouldn’t be allowed to write columns since I called him out for his nonsense.
I’m sure he’s a wonderful person off the ice. On the ice, he’s a scumbag. Pure and simple.
He showed it again today. To be fair, the hits he throws are fine for the most part.
He’s a big player and plays that old-school power forward style. It’s all the other crap he does that makes no sense.
Slashing Klim Kostin on an unprotected part of his forearm is just not necessary. Benn will probably say he meant to hit him on the glove, but you could easily fracture a bone even with a little flick of a slash.
It’s part of a rivalry to have players you hate, but Benn ranks up there with any Chicago or Detroit player for hatred with me.
Cons: power play
While the Blues power play has been good statistically this season, they have been nonexistent the last handful of games. That continued against the Stars.
It is one thing to not score on a power play, but look decent. The Blues did neither in this game.
The first three power plays were completely useless. St. Louis has never been a good zone re-entry team, but they usually dominated the faceoffs and got set up.
In this game, they usually lost the initial faceoff and then faced an uphill battle to get back into the zone. Even when the Blues did get set up, they just passed and passed, but really did not get the Stars defense to move much.
They passed up shot opportunities. The shots they did take either missed or ended up being easy saves.
Even more concerning, the effort level was terrible. If there was a miscue or battle for a puck to keep it in the zone, the Blues stood straight up, giving them no chance to win those battles or make up for the mistake.
Pros: Playing until the final buzzer
Truth be told, I wrote that con section on the power play before the game was over. However, even scoring two late goals on the power play doesn’t take away how bad that unit was earlier in the game.
That said, the Blues showed exactly why you play until the final second is gone off the clock. Despite having some momentum built up from the midway point in the third period, it seemed as though Dallas was destined to get a shutout and win.
Instead of letting that Perron penalty take it all away, the Blues just kept plugging away. They finally took advantage of a weak call against the Stars and the captain came up with a huge goal.
The Blues kept their foot on the gas pedal, which was something they had not done for 55 minutes. The Kyrou goal was a lucky one, but it also proved why you just put pucks on net, which was also something they had not done with regularity earlier in the game.
The odd controversy for the Blues net will likely never end in any of our lifetimes, no matter who is in the net. Even so, the idea that some are already wondering about the level of play for Binnington astounds me.
That is not to say you cannot question a player. It’s just silly when some clearly only look at numbers and not any circumstances outside of the goaltender’s control that might have led to the numbers.
For example, if the Blues lost this game 1-0, there would be a certain section of the fan base and sports talk radio that would have chalked it up as another loss with Binnington in the net. The reality is that the Blues only win this game because Binnington kept them in the game for two and a half periods.
St. Louis was borderline awful for 40 minutes of this game. There defense was decent enough to limit the chances against, but they relied heavily on Binnington to bail them out. If Binnington has the pedestrian performance so many accuse him of in other games, this game ends 3 or 4-0.
Instead, the Blues goaltender kept things calm and steady and allowed his team to have a chance at the end of the game. The only thing you could fault Binnington for on this game was losing his stick twice.
Take this win to the bank and cash it before they can cancel the check. If you view this contest as an entire 60-minute performance, the Blues probably did not deserve to win.
They were mediocre at best and just north of awful at worst for about 50 minutes in this game. However, they did just enough to keep themselves in the game and by the time they found their game, they got the result.
This game was a perfect example of the joy and despair of sports. If the situation was reversed, St. Louis fans would feel gutted to drop this game in the final minutes.
Yet we are not in Dallas’ shoes thanks to some great, late performances. Kyrou and O’Reilly stepped up at the exact, right time and Binnington was solid all game long.
The Blues may not have earned two points, but they got two points. Now, they can get an extra day of rest, get the guys off the covid list and play their first ever game against Seattle on January 13.