The St. Louis Blues came into Montreal riding high off impressive wins over lowly teams such as the Chicago Blackhawks and Ottawa Senators. Despite playing to their standards in those games, there was always the worry of playing down to the competition against the Montreal Canadiens.
While it did not feel as though the Blues were slacking off, they definitely did not have a great first period against the Habs. They failed to get double-digit shots in a period again, which is a slightly worrying trend given the team’s reliance on offense this season.
In addition, they allowed the first goal too. After killing off a penalty, the Blues still couldn’t get out of the zone.
Robert Bortuzzo fell asleep in front of the net and got caught puck watching as the carrier went to the far circle. A quick pass past Bortz found the man on the door step for an easy tap in and a 1-0 Canadiens lead.
With about two minutes left in the first, the shots were even, eight apiece. Even so, it felt like Ville Husso was keeping St. Louis in the game while the Blues had generated nearly nothing. St. Louis’ best chances actually missed the net or never generated a shot, such as a couple odd-man rushes.
That said, the Blues escaped the opening frame tied. Robert Thomas scored for the second game in a row, knocking in an empty netter after a great give-and-go from Thomas to Pavel Buchnevich and then back. As icing on the cake, the Thomas goal was shorthanded and came from a two-on-one break that finally converted.
Conventional wisdom said the late-period goal would give the Blues momentum to start the second period. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Halfway through the second period, the Blues had put two shots on goal and none of them were really challenging. The revolving door for the penalty box continued as well, with St. Louis taking two more and taxing all their players who skate on the penalty kill.
The Blues best chance of the period was with 4:37 left in the second. Off the faceoff, a pass from the right boards found Vladimir Tarasenko in the crease, but the goalie got the pad sealed and made a save to keep it tied.
Other than that, there was almost nothing to speak of during this period. These things happen, but given the Blues history of being one of the best in the second period this season, it was disappointing to be so flat.
In the third period, the Blues came out with more jump to be sure. Their execution was still lacking, putting some more chances wide, but at least the effort matched what you would expect from St. Louis.
Just when it seemed like the game was destined for overtime, the Blues finally connected. Tarasenko drove into the slot and fed Buchnevich near the top of the circle.
Despite the tough angle, Buchnevich absolutely ripped a one-timer past the goaltender. It put the Blues up 2-1 with a little over a minute left.
Sadly, the previous premonition proved to be correct. Montreal tied the game with their own tight-angle goal with eight seconds left and the game went to overtime.
The implosion was concluded in overtime. St. Louis never got much going in the awful three-on-three (yes, I despise it) and you could clearly see the goal coming on Montreal’s rush.
The Blues got a point, but lost 3-2.
The Blues finally established themselves a little more in the third period. Prior to that it was basically the Ville Husso show.
That does not mean the Finnish goaltender was making stand-on-your-head saves for 40 minutes, but he made good saves. Montreal may not have had many chances in terms of numbers, but they were the more threatening team for two periods.
The Blues relied on their goaltender to bail them out. Without Husso keeping Montreal at bay, the Canadiens might have had at least two going into the third.
It’s not a huge difference, but going into the final regulation period tied is still different than being behind. It just provides a different mindset and they had Husso to thank for that.
Shutting down a third period breakaway helped quite a bit too.
Cons: Another poor first period
This was nowhere near as bad as we have seen from the Blues in previous first periods. Nevertheless, the fact that the Blues continue to struggle to get up for games from the opening puck drop is very worrying.
Some will point to the coach, but this is not peewees. Craig Berube can’t give a Herb Brooks type of speech 82 games per season and have it work.
It falls on the players to know the game plan, know what the
For right now, we’re just going to chalk this up as a little hot streak. Nevertheless, it’s very encouraging from the young center.
The Blues have goals from Robert Thomas in back-to-back games. He scored in Ottawa and again in Montreal.
Beyond that, he’s just shooting the puck with confidence. That’s huge.
St. Louis doesn’t need Thomas to be a 30-goal scorer or even a 20-goal scorer, really. They need him to be a threat, which is what he has been lately.
Thomas led the team with five shots on goal. Sure, you’d like him to convert another one, but the mere fact he’s shooting more is positive and getting the goal is some sweet, buttercream icing.
The problem Thomas has had is teams know he won’t shoot, so they play the pass. If he’s going to be willing to put the puck on net, you force more decisions from the defender and open your options.
Take your pick for who you want to blame for this. You can easily choose the refs or the Blues themselves.
Whoever you want to blame, the bottom line is the scales were definitely tilted in one direction. Midway through the third period, the power plays were 5-1 in favor of Montreal and St. Louis had taken six penalties. Only a matching minor on one prevented that number from being higher earlier.
Fortunately for the Blues, Montreal really did not do a lot on their power plays. The Blues did a good job of limiting chances against and clearing rebounds when a shot did get through.
However, while I do not personally think they were all nonsense penalties, they were pretty weak. The cross check against Justin Faulk happens 30 times a game.
We still don’t know what Ryan O’Reilly did to deserve a trip. Even the replay never found his stick near anyone that went down.
The high stick against Niko Mikkola in the third looked like the Canadiens player fell into his stick as opposed to it actually coming up.
The ones where you might look more to the player were Robert Bortuzzo. I like the guy’s toughness and drive, but he’s better suited as a seventh defender and having to use him as much as the Blues have has exposed his weaknesses to more teams. He’s too easily riled up and takes silly penalties at times, though the tripping call was also iffy.
You could tell this was a game played in front of absolutely zero fans. Neither team had anything while out there.
You were basically watching a spirited practice instead of a true game. That’s not what cost the Blues in the end, but it plays a factor.
That said, you give the Blues a pass for the first period because we’ve seen that before whether the building was full or not. The second period is inexcusable.
The Blues have dominated teams in the second period this season. The Blues regressed in the second period in Montreal.
They had four shots on goal. The amount of games we have seen two or three or four shots on goal in a period from a professional team is astounding in a bad way. How in the world can you only muster four shots, only one of which was a real scoring chance, in 20 minutes in the NHL? That’s not even taking into account Montreal having the worst record in the league.
When you figure that into the equation, this is just a bad loss. St. Louis had no business letting this game go as late as it did without a lead.
They had no business not finishing off an empty net play. They had no business letting the game get tied.
All of that happened and we got the result we did. I continue to rail against the three-on-three format, but it doesn’t matter.
The Blues got a point, but maybe they did not even deserve that. They were going through the motions for too much of the game and even when they turned it on, it was not on enough to crush an inferior opponent.
Hopefully St. Louis rebounds in Toronto. You can’t fall asleep against that offense.