The St. Louis Blues are definitely a puzzling team in 2021-22. They’ve gone from one of the worst second period teams in recent years to the best. They’ve gone to one of the best road teams in recent years to only winning at home.
They have also eschewed the normal thought process that getting the lead is the best way to win. St. Louis leads the league in comeback wins, but apparently scoring first is a bad thing for the Blues.
Of course, the Blues have wins when they score first, but not as much recently. In Calgary and at home against the Winnipeg Jets, the Blues got on the board early, only to embarrass themselves afterward.
St. Louis got off to a fantastic start. They were playing with great energy, creating chances and looking dangerous.
That danger would be capitalized on when the Blues got on the power play. They strung together fantastic passes and Brayden Schenn repaid the favor from earlier in the week, connecting with Vladimir Tarasenko to make it 1-0.
The Blues continued to challenge the Jets, but could not put another one in. Sadly, they got in their own way.
A poor play by Ville Husso, combined with Jordan Kyrou and Justin Faulk colliding gave the Jets their first goal. Of course, it had to be a former Blues member Paul Stastny to put it into essentially an empty net.
Despite this setback, the game felt like it was in the Blues hands. They had the better of the play, only got scored on due to their own mistakes and were unlucky not to have more goals themselves. It should have been set up for a win.
Instead, things went downhill. Winnipeg came out in the second period and took it right to St. Louis.
The Blues continued to turn the puck over and were no longer winning the puck battles. The Jets took the lead off a turnover.
Winnipeg grabbed a 3-1 lead on the power play. St. Louis shouldn’t have been shorthanded, but they failed to kill off the penalty whether you agree with it or not.
In the third, the Blues came out looking to get something done, but they did themselves in again. The offense was technically there, but they also blew several opportunities by missing the net or turning the puck over.
Despite potential calamities, the Blues were only down by two until late. They simply could not muster any goals and eventually Stastny cashed in on an empty net to make it 4-1.
Losses happen, but this one was harder to take since the Blues looked so good early and then disappeared.
There is a certain section of the fandom that will never quite be happy with whatever Vladimir Tarasenko comes up with. The truth is the guy is getting things done for his team and returned to form on the offensive end.
We all want goals and Tarasenko is a goal scorer, so those have been absent of late. Nevertheless, Tarasenko had points in 12 of his last 15 games.
After this game, he’s got points in 13 of 16 games. Making things better, Tarasenko scored the team’s only goal, giving him just his second goal in the month of January.
It might not have been an uber-highlight reel goal, but it was vintage Tarasenko. He was set up on the back door on the left wing and the patience, combined with the hard wrister put the Blues ahead.
Of course, this play is mostly about the set up. However, Tarasenko sets up the play by finding Justin Faulk and then getting into open space.
Even after this goal, Tarasenko was part of the Blues best line all game long. They had their lulls throughout the game, like everyone in blue, but he along with Robert Thomas and Jordan Kyrou created the most throughout the game.
This goal kept him on, or close, to a 30-goal pace. Given his streaky nature, he might surpass that.
Cons: Calamity of errors
The first goal the Blues allowed in this game was quite embarrassing. Winnipeg did absolutely nothing to earn it, but St. Louis set it up on a sliver platter.
I’ve watched it several times and I’m still amazed and dismayed at how it even happened.
Faulk slides a pass up the middle to Kyrou, who stickhandles around one and then collides with Faulk. Given Kyrou’s vision, I’m surprised he did not see his teammate coming.
Conversely, why was Faulk coming into that area anyway? Sure, he doesn’t know exactly where Kyrou will take the puck, but why crowd that area one way or the other?
Last, but not least, I’m confused by Husso. It’s a split-second decision, but in hindsight, the Blues goalie should have just come out and smothered the puck.
Once you have two of your own teammates take themselves out of the play, the numbers are not in your favor. Even if Husso doesn’t hit Stastny with the puck, there’s almost no chance he sends it to a friendly jersey anyway.
Just accept the failure of the play and live to fight on with a faceoff in your zone.
Personally, I don’t point the finger at any one of those three more than the other. However, this was clearly a turning point in the game. The Blues never really recovered.
The Blues lost this game of their own accord, that much must be made clear. Still, the horrible inconsistencies of NHL officiating were on display in this game.
Firstly, and maybe most importantly, was the ridiculous penalty against Tarasenko that led to the Jets’ third goal. There is an argument to be had about who is in control of who’s stick and how this affects that stick or this stick, etc.
The problem becomes when this two-man officiating crew looks stupid. Frankly, this call, along with others in recent weeks, makes me pine for the days when it was just one referee in charge of making these decisions and you lived with it.
Now, you have these trail referees calling things that are right in front of their partner and the guy closer to the play let it go. The more veteran official let play continue and even told the Jets player that his own stick got checked up into him.
However, the backside ref sees things from a distance and only sees a stick come up. Being the new guy on the block and not wanting to let anyone get away with something, he throws Tarasenko into the box when the official right in front of the play said it was not a penalty.
More frustrating, there was not even a discussion. If the closer ref talks to the trail official, tells him it’s not a penalty and gives his reason it’s not and the other is simply dead set on it, so be it. However, for a ref to be clear to the players it was not a penalty and then simply give in to the guy that had the worse angle is not acceptable.
The two ref, four official system was supposed to clean up the game and get things right. Frankly, these trail referees make up penalties, making the game worse than it was when the single referee missed things.
Adding salt to the wound, neither referee called a clear trip on Ryan O’Reilly late in the game. I’m sure the argument against a penalty was that there was nowhere for the stick to go, given the collision of two Jets and O’Reilly.
That does not matter. Whether it’s intentional or not, O’Reilly was directly impeded by the stick of an opponent, which should have put the Blues on the power play.
As poor as the Blues were on the power play, it likely doesn’t impact the game, but at least they get a shot. Instead, the Jets clear it down while the Blues are puzzled that they were not given a power play and it becomes 4-1 directly off that missed call.
Cons: Lack of offense
St. Louis got more shots in the third, making their final stats look better, but this sudden lack of any offensive push is disturbing and worrying. Single-digit shot totals are worrisome regardless, but if you’re not even getting seven shots or more, it speaks volumes.
The Blues only had two shots on goal in the second period, only one of which came five-on-five. Let that sink in – two shots in 20 minutes.
Frankly, that seems difficult to accomplish. In my mind, it seems harder to get two shots in one period than it does to get 12. It almost seems like the Blues have to be so focused on defending they fail to even want to go forward.
This is not European football. You don’t just score a goal and try to park the bus.
There is no way in the world you should have only two shots on goal. Single-digit shots is bad enough, and we’ve seen plenty of those periods in recent games. That said, two is just unbelievable.
The only thing that makes it believable is that the Blues are not alone. Vancouver had one shot on goal against Calgary and only two shots on goal through half of their game.
The puzzling lack of offense is disheartening, especially from the Blues, a team we consider a championship contender.
If the Blues played like they did in the first period and the Jets just outshined them, I would tip my cap and say it was just another game. This was not the case.
The Jets deserve credit for being in the right place to take advantage of the miscues from the Blues. That said, the Blues looked like a team that thought Winnipeg was going to give up after 20 minutes.
St. Louis’ effort looked like a team that thought the game was over and Winnipeg was just going to fly home. Maybe the Blues switched their focus to whatever vacation they might go on during this All-Star/winter break.
Whatever the case may be, this was not the way to head into the break. You got schooled in too many facets of the game, including faceoffs. As deep as the Blues are at center, they’ve become surprisingly mediocre on faceoffs over the last week or two.
Not to keep harping on it, but two shots is mind boggling. How do you go from 11 first-period shots to coming within a whisker of not even hitting the net at all?
Given the fact most of the Central Division has games in hand on the Blues, these are points you cannot afford to drop. The Blues need to be showcasing that they’re better than any and every team below them in the standings.
Moving forward, they need to figure some stuff out in the break. They need to figure out the line combinations again as the roster has gone too hot and cold lately.
Are you going to fully back Husso or is this just a “riding the hot hand” situation? Can the team win with it’s current defensive makeup or does there need to be a shift on the blue line.
All of those don’t need to be answered before the puck drops again, but these questions will need to be addressed in the second half. For now, Blues fans just get to stew for a week and a half on this poor performance.