The St. Louis Blues have been on an interesting string of games lately, facing teams they either had never seen like Seattle or teams they had not faced in years. On this night, it was the first time Blues fans were seeing the Toronto Maple Leafs in town in just about two years.
The game got off to a bright start for the boys in blue. Just short of the four-minute mark, the Blues forced a turnover and cashed in.
Ryan O’Reilly made a great poke check as the Maple Leafs tried to exit the zone. Two, quick passes later, the puck was back with O’Reilly and he popped a little saucer shot in for a 1-0 lead.
That lead did not last long and, sadly, neither the the Blues defensive composure. Toronto tied it less than 90 seconds after the Blues scored after an odd faceoff play.
The Maple Leafs racked up two more goals in less than four minutes, grabbing a 3-1 lead. It was hard to pinpoint what happened, but the Blues were not doing the little things and this led to open players in extremely dangerous spots on the ice.
Toronto made that two goal lead hold up despite a Blues power play. St. Louis got a little energy from some late period physicality, but whether that would do anything for them the rest of the game was yet to be seen.
The one thing the Blues had in the back of their minds is they lead the league in come from behind wins. They showed why early in the second period.
The captain, O’Reilly, struck again before the four-minute mark. It seemed as though he would be a one-man show, but the next shift proved just as fortuitous.
St. Louis poured on some steady pressure. Finally, Brandon Saad jabbed one in and the game was all knotted up, 3-3.
That enjoyment lasted barely three minutes. Timothy Liljegren got his first NHL goal on a quick shot from the point that found its way through a maze of bodies and the Leafs were back up, 4-3.
That scoreline stood a little longer than the others, but not the entire period. The Blues scratched their way back in again.
Of all the possibilities, very few would have picked Niko Mikkola to score the next goal. That’s exactly what happened after he slammed in a shot on a play started by Jordan Kyrou dashing past everyone on the right wing.
Eventually, the amount of calls against the Blues caught up to them. While I disagree with the quality of the “holding” call on Klim Kostin, the Maple Leafs have the fire power and it was a matter of time before Auston Matthews made them pay. It was 5-5 with about eight and a half left.
The game seemed destined to go to overtime. Then, the bottom fell out for the Blues.
A horrible collection of defensive gaffes and an awful goal given up by Binnington made it 6-5 Toronto with 3:15 left. Despite some chances late, the Blues could not muster another tying goal and their home win streak ended at 13.
Cons: Defensive structure/decisions
Some fans will point at this player or that player for the reason Toronto scored so many goals in a short span in the first. Of course, there will always be those that want to blame the goaltender, but the reality is that this was more a failure of structure as opposed to even a single defender.
The Maple Leafs first goal was a product of poor communication.
Oskar Sundqvist had his back to the rink and there was no indication to him of a problem. You can hear the shouts from the bench, but not until the puck was about to be stolen and there was nothing he could do.
This allowed Mitch Marner to get the puck against the flow of the defenders and have a nearly uncontested shot from the left hash. Upon further inspection, it actually ramped off Justin Faulk‘s stick, further compounding the issue.
The third goal was just as egregious, albeit different.
Before the goal is even scored, at the four-second mark of the clip, the Blues have three players on or below the goal line. Admittedly, I’ve only ever played goal, so perhaps I’m wrong, but I just don’t see any reason for that many people to be that close to their own goal when there were not three Maple Leafs down there. Maybe if there’s a scrum.
Of course, it did not help matters that Alexander Kerfoot is clearly holding Niko Mikkola, thus giving the Blues only one defender back once Jonathan Tavares picks the puck between Mikkola’s skates. Tavares made a superstar shot, going bar down, but it didn’t pass the eye test since the Blues had three players almost within stick’s length but none of them in a position to actually do anything about it.
Add in all the truly awful turnovers in that period and the game could have been even more out of hand.
The entire game was not all that great for the Blues defense, but they turned it around for the most part. However, the game-winning goal was just atrocious.
Yes, even as a staunch defender of goaltenders, Binnington had no business allowing that last goal in. The Blues put him in that spot though.
St. Louis was tired and at the end of a shift, but that does not excuse lazy, poor thinking. Marco Scandella was apparently desperate to get to the bench because he just flings the puck around the boards just so he can get off.
Faulk was nowhere near where that puck was and he should not have expected it. You don’t make that reverse pass unless you know 100% your teammate is still behind the net. Scandella had no business putting it back across and once he made the pass, he had no business vacating the ice. I get that he’s tired, but you’ve made the mistake, put Faulk in a no-win scenario and force Mikkola to try and get off the bench even quicker because you’re gassed.
I’m not quite sure why this guy still amazes me since we should expect these things by now. However, it’s not just the goals he scores at this juncture. The guy is proving himself to be an elite passer too.
There are some that will say that’s a fairly routine pass. It’s not about the difficulty of the pass itself, but the vision and knowledge of where his teammates are.
Kyrou forces everyone to follow him, respecting his speed and potential stuff play. He then simply spins, finds an open Thomas, who cashes in.
Kyrou’s second assist was nice, but different, again. This time, he just turned on the jets, outraced everyone around the net and set up Mikkola in front.
Like the first, it’s not an unbelievable pass, but it’s about everything leading up to it.
Other than on faceoffs, I thought the captain had a great game. He led by example and broke out of a slight scoring slump.
O’Reilly did have a goal in the Dallas game, but he’s been quiet on the goal scoring front prior to that. O’Reilly came into this game with just six goals to his name.
He’s not considered a goal scorer, but even he has mentioned he feels he needs to put the puck in the net more. He kept up that idea by scoring twice.
They were key goals too. O’Reilly scored the team’s first two goals, giving them the lead initially and then getting them back into the game when it had been 3-1 prior.
O’Reilly does need to be better on the dot, where he normally dominates. That doesn’t take away from his first multi goal night since April of last year.
This was a very entertaining game, but also frustrating.
The Blues were very impressive to score that many goals and have an opportunity to win, especially considering they were missing two of their top three goal scorers and four of their top 10 point scorers. They continue to show their depth and mental resiliency.
On the flip side, they had no business playing this style. It’s great to know you can hang with Toronto, but the odds of winning a game that was going to feature 11 goals were always going to be in the Maple Leafs favor.
The Blues made too many errors and too many cost them. People will blame Binnington, lazily, but the game could easily have been 4 or 5-1 in the first with the way the Blues were coughing the puck up.
The Blues had several quality games as individuals. As a unit, it just wasn’t there on this night.
However, while disappointing, there is nothing to hand one’s head about. A point was within grasp, two would have been believable and it just didn’t happen.
Regroup and take down Nashville on Monday.