The St. Louis Blues rolled out of Toronto, and Canada in general, with their heads held high. They won two of three and got five out of six points available to them.
It was on to Philadelphia from there to end their road trip. St. Louis came into the game with two main objectives.
They wanted to get the win to keep their momentum rolling, especially against a lower-tier team. They also wanted to get Jordan Binnington some momentum, since he has not been himself over the last couple months.
As far as how the game began, it was mission accomplished. St. Louis came out of the first 20 minutes with the lead.
Binnington was playing with confidence, turning away all 10 shots he faced in the first. He even stymied a breakaway attempt where the Flyers tried to slide it through the five-hole while cutting to the far post, but Binnington said no.
St. Louis got on the board in an anticlimactic way. After an initial chance was turned out, Brayden Schenn swatted in the rebound, but the referee said it was no good.
Upon a quick review, it was ruled a goal and the Blues were up 1-0. The goal came with 9:10 left in the period, but St. Louis made it hold up.
The second period went by with a lot of back and forth, but not much to speak of for either team. The Blues outshot Philly, but they also out-passed them and over passed by a long shot.
Though the Blues got 11 shots on goal, they needed to have closer to 20 in that period alone. They were looking for the pretty play instead of taking the shots when available and crashing the net on an already condensed defense that would all be turning the same direction at once.
Defensively, it was eh. There was nothing bad and, frankly, the Flyers had better looks in the first period. That said, St. Louis was riding that thin line of being overconfident and getting caught out of position. Against a better opponent, there might have been more pushback in the middle frame.
The third period was more of the same at the start. St. Louis kept having one too many passes and kept getting away with chances that better teams would have buried.
In the first five minutes, St. Louis got away with at least three back door plays. Philadelphia missed the pass twice and a third saw the puck ramp off the stick and go over the net on what seemed like a sure goal.
Though Philadelphia was not overwhelming the Blues with pressure, you could just sense the game was going to get tied up. The Blues were not playing bad, but they were complicating things in the offensive zone and being too lax in their own end.
Eventually, that came true. After the Blues failed to get the puck in deep, Philadelphia came down and eventually scored once they set up in the zone. There was slight interference on Binnington, but enough time elapsed where there was no chance of a call.
Fortunately, the Blues woke up after that. Just a shift or two afterward, Vladimir Tarasenko regained the lead. He glided into the slot, a nice pass found him and a quick swiffer shot along the ice made it 2-1.
The Blues had some good shifts after that, but toward the end of the period it still seemed like the Flyers would tie again. St. Louis was not clearing the zone and there were just too many deflected pucks that did not miss by much or glanced off Binnington.
Thankfully, for my nerves and yours, Ivan Barbashev charged a loose puck at the blue line and won the battle. He kept his footing and scored into an empty net to make it 3-1.
The Flyers kept the net empty, but it was another Flyers miscue and the Blues got another empty netter. Brandon Saad capped it all off and St. Louis finished this portion of the road trip with a 4-1 win.
Similar to the performances of his teammate, Ville Husso, Binnington was not incredibly flashy in this win, but he did not need to be. He needed to look calm, composed and cool.
Binnington faced most of his challenges in the first period. Stopping that breakaway really set the tone for his entire night.
It should be said that the defense didn’t do Binnington a ton of favors in this game. Against a better offense, he might have surrendered more than the one goal against, but that has nothing to do with his play.
Many of those back door plays, Binnington had covered as well as any goaltender could do. We’ll never know if he would have made the save or not because the passes either missed or the shots went off target.
Still, what was impressive about this performance was that it was the Binnington we had come to know the previous couple seasons. He was not floundering around or swimming or looking antsy. He was smooth in his movements, controlled and at the top of his crease whenever he could be.
That’s the Jordan Binnington the Blues need. As much as some love it, they don’t need the wound up version that swings his stick at people. They need the guy that is bordering on looking like he doesn’t care about anything. That’s the version they got here and he made some big saves because of it.
Cons: One pass too many
The Blues had their chances. They had decent zone pressure and finished the game with 26 shots.
Given how the game went, that’s not enough. Craig Berube‘s style is too look for quality over quantity, but the team should have had 35-40 shots in this game.
They kept passing and passing and passing. It would be one thing if it was due to Philadelphia shutting things down and clogging things up, but there were shots available.
We’ve seen this in the past where guys keep trying to be unselfish, but you’re actually doing the team a disservice. There were worse examples, but a clear example was the team’s best line of Tarasenko, Robert Thomas and Pavel Buchnevich getting a three-on-one and Thomas passing up a shooting opportunity to attempt setting up Tarasenko. The Blues got no shot off because the pass was in the skates.
Clearly, the win is important, no matter how it came about. The empty-net goals cushion this one though. They let the Flyers hang around way too long because they were trying to be too cute or too pretty.
Anyone who says they were not a little worried about why Tarasenko missed the game in Toronto is probably lying. That fear of a reinjured shoulder will always be there any time he misses a shift, let alone a game.
However, he showed that it was nothing to be afraid of. Tarasenko came back in Philly and looked like he never missed a minute.
Tarasenko was only credited with two shots on goal, but he was still dangerous most of the game. Some of the chances went wide and, as mentioned, the pass was not on point on that three-on-one. If not for that, he may have had more than one goal in this game.
The goal that was scored is exactly what you want to see from Tarasenko.
It’s great to find Vladi on those backdoorish plays where he’s on the opposite circle. Great scorers need to get into the middle and bury their chances from the slot.
Great scorers find a way to slip in behind the defenders, even though they should be the focal point of the defense. Tarasenko did that on that goal.
The whole play was almost disrupted by Niko Mikkola, who may have thought the pass was for him. Fortunately, Tarasenko kept his focus and jabbed that through the five-hole.
That goal proved to be the game winner, icing that cake quite nicely.
A win here is sweet, but also makes that Montreal game sting a little more. If you told anyone you’d grab seven of eight points on a road trip, every fan would take it, but losing that point to one of the worst teams in the league isn’t how you would envision it.
Focusing on this game alone, it was good but not great. The Blues got away with things that would have haunted them against a better team, but they also did a lot right.
They kept the pressure up when needed and responded when pushed against the wall. Instead of hanging their heads once the Flyers tied it, they just simplified things and got back to work.
Tarasenko’s goal was pretty, but it was a dirty goal from a hard area of the ice. It wasn’t the result of some fancy dangles. It was just concise decision making and quick movements.
The Blues were at their best when they kept things simple. The fancier they got, the more muddled their play was.
Regardless of how or when the goals came, 4-1 is very much the fair result for this game. The Blues were better for 60 minutes and would’ve had no business coughing up points to the Flyers.