Coming off an impressive win against the Chicago Blackhawks, the St. Louis Blues needed to keep their focus. The Blues have had a tendency to play down to their competition and facing the Ottawa Senators was going to test them in that aspect.
Making matters worse, the Blues were playing in front of only 500 fans since Canada is still going crazy with their restrictions. So, not only did the Blues need to be sharp, but they had to generate their own emotion since they had no crowd to quiet.
After a slow start to the first couple minutes, the Blues finally took hold of the game. They generated several good rushes into the offensive zone and just missed wide on some good opportunities.
St. Louis was doing a little too much passing at times, but they looked like the better team for much of the first. Eventually, they struck first.
On a somewhat out of nowhere play, Brayden Schenn roofed the first goal of the game. The puck just kind of floated through the faceoff circle after a draw and Schenn managed to get untied, just put a blind shot on net and make the game 1-0.
Despite dominating much of the frame, the Blues came out of the first 20 minutes tied. They took a silly too-many men penalty and the Senators scored almost immediately.
The Blues have been the best second period team in the league, or close to it, and kept up that streak. On their first power play of the game, the Blues regained the lead.
While it took a bit to establish their flow, eventually St. Louis showed why they are the second ranked power play in the league right now. They were snapping shots with steam on them and then Pavel Buchnevich passed a shooting opportunity to pass it to the Senator-killing Vladimir Tarasenko. His goal from the slot made it 2-1.
It took only one shift cycle for the Blues to get on the board again. This time it was Buchnevich on the left to Tarasenko on the right, who then found Robert Thomas. One quick move into the middle, Thomas scored to the high, glove side and St. Louis led 3-1.
The two-goal lead was short lived. The Blues failed to clear their zone with about 13 minutes left in the period.
Ottawa got a quick shot from the point that was deflected around the circle. The skipper had eyes and found its way into the back of the net for a 3-2 score.
St. Louis’ second power play was not nearly as effective. They struggled to maintain the zone and couldn’t break down the pressure when they were in the zone. Still, they forced another penalty.
During the brief, nine second, two-man power play, St. Louis was unlucky not to score. Tarasenko hit the post and then Thomas had a defender play street-hockey goalie to deny him on the rebound.
The game continued as just a goal difference midway through the third period. The longer it went, it felt like the Senators would get a lucky one and tie it.
Instead, the Blues just kept on chipping away. The fourth line, which had been solid all game, cashed in after Klim Kostin got denied on the stuff and then Oskar Sundqvist slammed home the rebound into an empty net to make it 4-2.
The Blues never really rested on their laurels. The Senators had a handful of good shifts, but they never truly threatened St. Louis.
The team’s hot line stayed that way, putting in a rare empty-net goal. Tarasenko was the beneficiary and St. Louis won going away, by the final of 5-2.
Normally we associate dominance by Big Daddy Vladi against the Chicago Blackhawks. He did keep that up, scoring a goal in the previous game against Chicago, but he was even better on this night.
Tarasenko came in with a very impressive seven goals and nine points in 12 career games against the Senators. He improved that in this one.
The first goal was just vintage Tarasenko. He got the puck just outside the prime real estate and took that quick wrister for the team’s second goal of the night.
Tarasenko picked up the assist on the Thomas goal by being aggressive. He was set up on the circle, drawing defenders to him, thus freeing up Thomas to make a quick move to the middle and rip the shot up high.
The empty net goal was just icing on the cake. Even before that, Tarasenko had several good chances throughout the game. He came close to another left-slot goal earlier in the contest, but Matt Murray made the save on that one with the left toe.
The three points increased Vladi’s totals to nine goals and 12 points in 13 games. If only the Blues played Chicago and Ottawa every night.
Cons: Early-game graphic
Even though I’m a smart-ass in real life, I try not to pick on the broadcast professionals too much in this space. I know it’s a tough job.
However, there was one glaring mistake that needs to be pointed out. Early in the contest, Bally Sports Midwest was rolling their stats across the bottom of the screen like they do every game.
However, here, they decided to put a little Senators logo with a crawl about Matthew Tkachuk‘s dominance over the Blues and then listed his four goals and the number of points against his team. There were two problems with this.
The first, and most important, is Matthew does not play for Ottawa. Brady Tkachuk plays for Ottawa.
The second mistake is that, literally, five minutes prior to the chyron being used, the announcers said Brady had yet to score any point against the Blues in his career. That’s a pretty big boo boo overall.
Those graphics are 99% likely to have been made prior to the game, so the designer had no idea about the timing of what the announcers said. However, there was no directorial editing of those and it seems to indicate someone in production is not really a hockey person if they don’t know which Tkachuk plays for what team and still managed to make the mistake even when almost all stat pages list the player’s team on their page.
Pros: TBT line
I know I already listed Tarasenko as his own positive from the game, but in general this line was just awesome. They created so many chances for the team that it’s almost a shame they only got the three goals.
Most nights, three goals would be beyond fantastic for any line. In this game, Thomas, Buchnevich and Tarasenko were just everywhere.
Honestly, if not for some good saves or huge blocks, they would have had more. Tarasenko got denied on that toe save and Thomas had what seemed like a partially empty net until the Sens defender went into goalie mode and made a highlight reel block.
I like the Russian line and the speed dynamic that Jordan Kyrou provides if he’s on that other wing is special. Even so, when they’re clicking, this line will just work you to death.
None present elite speed, but their edge work and hockey sense are just so high that they’ll tire defenders out anyway.
This was another great win, similar to the Chicago game, but nothing to be too excited about. In the grand scheme of things, a good team beat up on a team they have absolutely no business losing to.
St. Louis is a team competing for a guaranteed playoff spot and a championship contender. Ottawa is a team competing for a top draft pick.
The Blues needed to win this game because they’re better. Fortunately, they did and left little doubt other than the stretch where it was 3-2.
Going forward, St. Louis needs more of that as they move across eastern Canada. The Blues should not lose to Montreal and if they can play well defensively, they will be right there with Toronto.
The Blues need to take the positives out of this game, but not think too much on it. St. Louis often has this kind of game and then thinks things will be easier than it is in the next game.
Come out strong in Montreal and take care of business like they did in Ottawa.