The St. Louis Blues continued their road trip in the Pacific Northwest, visiting the Vancouver Canucks for the first time since January of 2020. While the game did not go as you would draw it up, the Blues made the most of it anyway.
St. Louis came out with some good jump. The better of the looks for the first five minutes or so belonged to the Blues.
However, looks did not translate to shots. Though St. Louis was playing against a fourth-string goaltender and the Canucks had an emergency backup who is an Art major from the University of British Columbia, St. Louis was not getting enough pucks actually on the net.
The interesting thing was that the 10 shots the Blues got in the first period would be the most they had in any single period. It was also more shots than the second and third put together. That’s how it goes sometimes.
The Blues were absorbing a good deal of pressure once the Canucks got their legs under them. Ville Husso was tested often from about the five minute mark onward. If not for him, the Blues may have trailed by more than one in this contest.
As it was, the Blues were actually hard done by the fact the Canucks scored at all. St. Louis managed to kill off an entire five-on-three power play, but the Canucks scored mere seconds after it ended while the two Blues players were about to enter the zone.
Fortunately, it only took 2:03 for the Blues to tie things up. Justin Faulk dished it off, drove the net and had a beautiful tip in the slot, through the legs, to even things up 1-1.
St. Louis earned a power play late in the first, but ran out of time in the period to do much about it. The Canucks killed off the remainder in the second period.
The Blues would not let the second opportunity pass them by. An elite pass from Vladimir Tarasenko from the right wing, hit the tape of Brayden Schenn at the edge of the crease and an easy tap in made it 2-1 on the power play.
Joran Kyrou would double the lead with a little over three minutes left in the middle frame. It was a nice shot by the Blues leading goal scorer, but also one that likely should have been saved.
Adding salt to Vancouver’s wounds, the Blues scored two goals on four shots in the second period. The Blues would only hit the net three more times in the third, failing to score on an empty net and mostly concerning themselves with defense.
Husso might have wanted the third period defense earlier in the game, since he faced 37 shots in total. However, 21 of those shots came in the first period and only seven in the third, so the Blues did clamp down as things went along.
It was not a win how you would draw things up, getting badly outshot, but as long as you have more goals than your opponent after 60 minutes, that’s all that matters.
Pros: 5v3 PK
Some people who are the ones that like to suck the joy out of just about every situation in life will be quick to point out that the Blues allowed a goal immediately after the dual penalties ended. They will fall back on the idea that it is only a technicality of seconds that made the score not on special teams and the three players out there were still responsible.
To those people, I’d like to see you play over 90 seconds straight on a defensive shift, even in a beer league, and have the gas left to defend some of the best players at whatever level it is. The only negative you could possibly give the three penalty killers is that they never gained possession to clear the zone.
While some will argue they didn’t defend long enough, others could and should say they held out as long as they could and help was about to arrive. It was just a bounce of the puck that put it into an open spot on the back door before anyone could get there.
If the Blues had that same effort on every penalty kill, they’d almost never allow a goal against.
This is a bit of a nit pick, given that the Blues did not allow a power play goal against them. It’s more an idea that they took a risk.
The Canucks have been one of the hotter teams in the league since Bruce Boudreau took over behind the bench. That being said, they’re still under .500 and only have more wins than four teams in the Western Conference.
Boil it all down and they’re just not playing that great this season. There is talent there, but it’s not being utilized.
With that in mind, the lack of power play success could be attributed to the Canucks as much as the Blues defending. One way or the other, giving a team four power plays is not a recipe for success.
In theory, you could say the Blues were only shorthanded three times since two of the four power plays came concurrently during that five-on-three. Whatever the case is, the Blues gave the Canucks plenty of chances.
In a game where it was only decided by two goals and the Blues offense was relying on timely plays instead of sustained pressure, going to the box that frequently is a risk. You can argue the legitimacy of the penalties – we all like to harp on the refs – but St. Louis rolled the dice and won. That might not be the case if you give a better team that many power plays.
There will always be a small group of fans that are not pleased with Justin Faulk, mainly because in their eyes he took Alex Pietrangelo‘s spot. I could write an article why that is not the case, but that’s not for this space.
The reality is that Faulk has been one of the team’s best overall defenders this year. We saw a little bit of everything from the mustached bandit in this game.
We saw some great offense. The wherewithal to keep charging the net after making the drop pass at the blue line got the Blues their first goal.
Some defenders will peel way off and go to the wing so they can get in position on the blue line. Others might just do a pass by to give a vague screen attempt.
Instead, Faulk drove the net, settled into the perfect spot and made a beautiful tip in.
Faulk also got an assist on Kyrou’s goal. That gave him two points on the night and the Blues needed those points.
Defensively, Faulk was not throwing people around like Chris Pronger, but given his size, he’s still one of the more consistently physical players.
The Blues relied extremely heavily on their goaltender in the first period of this game. While Husso’s action lessened as the game went on, he still had to be an integral part of this win.
What was impressive about Husso is how calm he is. He doesn’t make many flashy saves, but that boils down to good positioning.
Any night you have 37 saves, you know you were under fire. Husso is definitely giving management things to think about going into this offseason.
As mentioned, this is not how you draw up a win. The Blues had a five-on-three power play against, they allowed 21 shots in the first period alone and only had 17 total shots themselves.
The bottom line is getting the win and staying healthy. Everything else takes care of itself.
It doesn’t matter if you have 40 shots or three shots. If you get three goals and hold your opponent to one goal, you’ve done your job for that 60 minutes.
St. Louis doesn’t get to enjoy the win for long. They play Calgary next.