Knowing the St. Louis Blues were going to retire Chris Pronger‘s jersey, this was a night plenty of fans had been looking forward to for some time. I rarely tune into pregame shows for hockey, but made a point to have everything done so I could see the entire ceremony.
As far as the ceremony went, it was everything we could have wanted. There was humor, touching moments and memories galore.
The only drawback was when it was over. I say that mostly because I knew what was coming.
In my lifetime, Pronger’s jersey is the fifth to be retired while I was aware of such things. St. Louis got an impressive victory during Bobby Plager’s retirement, but other than that, it’s been a mixed bag of performances.
When Brett Hull, one of the franchise’s biggest stars, had his night, the Blues got embarrassed 5-1 by the Detroit Red Wings. I was at that game and, needless to say, it took all the fun out of it.
Whether it is banner raisings or jersey retirements, the home team often struggles in the early portion of the game, even if they eventually win. This game was no different.
The Blues offense was anemic at best and nonexistent at worst. They had three shots through half the period. They ended the first with 10, but they had barely looked like challenging the goaltender until the last four minutes.
The Predators were outworking the Blues, getting to every loose puck before St. Louis could even think of it. They scored first too, scoring 4:05 into the game.
Just when it looked like the game was slipping away, Ivan Barbashev cashed in. The Russian winger struck 19 seconds later, giving the Blues hope with a 2-1 score.
St. Louis took that heartbeat and gave it plenty of CPR, getting all the blood flowing again. Ryan O’Reilly scored on the power play just over 90 seconds later, making it 2-0.
That was just the start for the Blues. They came to play in the second, showcasing how the second has been one of their best periods all season.
Barbashev roofed one on the blocker side 5:19 into the middle frame. St. Louis kept control the rest of that period, other than a penalty in the middle portion of the game.
Still, St. Louis needed to be careful with a two-goal lead against a team ahead of them in the standings – at least they were ahead before the game.
The Blues looked good in the early portion of the third period, giving fans every indication they would take the win home. As the game wore along, the Preds pushed and the Blues started absorbing too much pressure.
The shots against were not unbearable, but Nashville was getting chances from dangerous areas. Eventually, the Blues cracked, allowing a scramble play to be scored on with 8:27 left.
Nashville really turned up the heat and kept the Blues running around like chickens without heads. Husso had to be on point and there were also a few diving blocks by guys like Robert Bortuzzo to keep the Preds from tying.
Just when it looked like the Blues were going to surrender the equalizer, they found a way to push back. After some good steals, St. Louis set up a two-on-one, Barbashev found Schenn for the one-timer and it was 5-3.
Cons: Second Preds goal
Nothing can be taken away from Forsberg’s determination and strength on this play. However, the worry is that it could have and should have been shut down and was reminiscent of some defensive decisions against Toronto.
If we’re going to be critical, Faulk needed to do more. I understand he’s trying to defend straight up and not take a penalty, but he should have just dumped him on his butt and taken the penalty.
Additionally, Torey Krug needs to at least throw out the stick, even if he doesn’t think it will accomplish anything. In his defense, he thought Faulk had it handled, so was guarding against the pass, but given how it turned out, he looked unprepared by just standing there.
Last, but not least, Husso just looked odd on this play. Instead of tracking with the player, he seemed to be guarding against the five-hole floater. This made it almost impossible to recover once Forsberg drove by and got the puck reached out beyond the left pad. If nothing else, as close as Forsberg got, you’d like to see Husso try a poke check.
Again, it’s a great individual play, but three guys could have stopped it had they made some different decisions.
I don’t have a clue if this is sustainable, but Barbashev is having a career year. We are not yet half way through the year and he has already tied and then surpassed his career best for goals.
Can he reach 25-30? Possibly.
It’s still a stretch to think a third and fourth line guy will eclipse his career number by more than 10, but it’s not without the realm of possibility. The guy’s shot is dialed in and he still has that effort level that made him so difficult to play against when he was regularly in the bottom six.
He almost had a hat trick in the third period. Only a last-second deflection kept him from burying it into an empty net.
It wasn’t just goals for Barbashev in this game. The pass to Schenn for the team’s fifth goal was top notch.
He ended the night with four points, two goals and two assists.
While it’s a little more surprising coming from Barbashev, we almost expect these kind of nights from Brayden Schenn. Even so, he’s had some struggles in this season, so to get him going was really good.
Like his teammate, Schenn had four points as well. Barbashev got all his assists on Schenn goals and vice versa.
Schenn was extremely economical too. His two goals came of three shots.
That entire top line was incredible, with O’Reilly chipping in his third goal in two games too. No need to break up this trio soon.
Not only was this a good performance to wash the taste of the Toronto loss from our mouths, but it was a solid win on a night the team honored one of their best. We saw a bit of evertying.
In reality, it was only a fight by definition since guys dropped the gloves, but there was a fight. There were hits and goals. Other than the stick work on the body, this was the kind of game that Pronger would have been right at home in.
The Blues got great performances from their top line. Some of the other guys were a little invisible, but they made a mark here or there to at least help out.
Defensively, there’s still work to do. Right now, St. Louis is a team that pays for all their mistakes or needs luck to not pay.
That’s a dangerous edge to live on, so they need to either do away with the mistakes or find a way to support one another so that the mistakes are not as costly. Easier said than done, but it has to happen.
Overall, this was a really good win. The Blues are now tied with the Predators on points and just two behind Colorado.
They have to keep the focus and not overlook a weak Seattle team on the road coming up next.