The St. Louis Blues came into the United Center riding high. They had won three in a row and four of their last five, claiming a point in all those games too. The Blues were also 6-0-1 in their last seven against their rival.
You simply never know what you’re going to get when you play the Chicago Blackhawks. Even with their inexperience on the blue line, they’re still potent on offense.
Chicago almost got on the board early, through no effort of their own. Justin Faulk flung one from the far corner, hitting the Blues’ net near the post and forcing Jordan Binnington to stretch out to cover it.
Overall, the Blues just looked off kilter. Jordan Kyrou had two great chances, including a breakaway, in the first 10 minutes and got nothing.
The Blackhawks were outshooting the Blues through much of the first. Some of that was a reluctance to shoot, exemplified by Kyrou not even getting a shot on that breakaway.
Further proof of the oddity of this game early on was the scoring chances. At one point, Chicago led the shots 9-4, but the Blues led the chances 6-3. So, the Blackhawks were getting more on target, but the Blues were more threatening, though missing the net.
Nevertheless, Binnington looked good overall. He stopped a Grade-A chance by Kirby Dach with nobody around to help.
We went the entire first period without a goal. This game had the makings of a goaltender duel.
That seemed especially true in the second period. The Blues had several scoring chances, but Marc-Andre Fleury had the answer almost every time – almost.
St. Louis got the first goal a little over two minutes into the period. Jordan Kyrou finished off a tic-tac-toe play to punish the Blackhawks for not clearing the puck out.
That’s when the Chicago goalie seemed like he was going to clamp down. The Blues had a breakaway and a couple odd-man rushes and Fleury had a way to stop them all.
Despite getting stoned over and over, the Blues just kept at it. Once they got rolling, they were hard to stop.
hing\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\nAfter a faceoff win, the Blues got their second at 6:56 of the period. The Blackhawks defense just watched Pavel Buchnevich go goal line to the slot and roof one.
A little over 11 minutes later, David Perron would net one. The Blues passed around the triangle three times before going far circle to near and Perron snapped one in on the power play for a 3-0 lead.
The fourth goal was somewhat anticlimactic. Perron just swiped it on net from the side of the goal and, somehow, it snuck past Fleury for a 4-0 score.
The Blues kept up the pressure. Fleury started to become frustrated with his defenders for the quality of the chances they were giving up.
Conversely, even though Chicago kept pace with St. Louis in shot totals, they didn’t challenge nearly as much. In the end, the Blues could not get Perron his hat trick, but a 4-0 win over your rival will suffice.
Perron has never been the epitome of consistency, but this season he has been especially hot and cold. Prior to this game, he had one goal in his last six games and two goals in his last 19 games.
Perron only had three goals scored since October 28. You don’t expect him to be leading the team at this stage of his career, but that’s a long stretch with little to show for it.
He broke out in this game. Two goals is a great performance and he could have had more.
The first one was particularly nice, continually, patiently cycling the puck from circle to point and across. Once the Blues got Fleury to bite, Perron cashed in. Nevertheless, you don’t score if you don’t put it on net and Perron took a chance that worked out.
On the radio side, Joevy Vitale pointed out that Perron is definitely a player the Blues want to get hot late in the season. Hopefully this is the springboard for a solid second half.
Being a Blues fan, you never really cheer for anything Blackhawks related. Some of my, and likely yours, most hated players of all time put on Chicago sweaters.
However, as a goalie, it’s hard not to marvel at what Fleury did in this game. His numbers won’t show it and the Blues didn’t set some all time record for shots taken, but this game was only ever close because of Fleury.
Four or five of Fleury’s 10 saves in the second period came in the first five minutes alone. Bad defense or not, the Blues had odd-man rushes and partial breaks and Fleury found a way to stop them.
It was fun to watch. It was also frustrating from the Blues perspective because we’ve seen that story before.
Not as much this season, but St. Louis has had plenty of games where they were the better team and lost because they couldn’t beat a hot goalie. Until they got their second one, it felt like that could happen here.
Fortunately, the Chicago defense was so bad that even a standing on his head Fleury couldn’t keep them all out.
Cons: Sloppy start
The first period of this game was just very odd. The Blues just looked out of sorts.
The thing I discussed, and others agreed with, was they were not playing poorly overall. It wasn’t your typical case of the Blues not showing up in the first period.
For whatever reason, things just were not clicking.
That Faulk play that came close to going into his own net was a prime example. The passes were off, the skating seemed off and just the overall decision making was not on point.
Fortunately, the Blues were not completely off their game or they may have been behind before they got their senses about them. It’s just one of those odd things where there wasn’t any one thing to whine about, but things clearly were not running like an oiled machine.
This was not a game that Binnington had to steal for the Blues, but it was a good game for continuing to build him back up to his potential. Coming off a win in Philadelphia, Binnington has not strung together two wins and two very good performances.
What was good to see was the return of the goaltender that makes all the saves you want him to and the occasional one that you don’t expect. Binnington was not called on to make the 10-bell save, but he still faced 30 shots.
Statistically, there is always going to be something dangerous if a team gets 30 shots on goal. Binnington kept his focus, even if there were lulls in the action and then he stayed in position and kept his angles strong and his confidence high by challenging shooters.
If nothing else, just getting a shootout has to be good for him just for motivation. It doesn’t matter if you face one shot or 40, a goalie is happy any time they keep that goose egg.
This was a game the Blues could afford to lose, technically, but they needed to win. They needed to win to keep building their momentum.
Naysayers will say too many of these wins came against bottom feeders. Who cares?
We rip into the Blues when they lose to those teams, so why not give praise when they win and win in good fashion. Maybe they should have had more goals and maybe allowing 30 shots doesn’t look right on the stat sheet.
The bottom line is they scored four, none of which were an empty net goal, and they did not allow a goal. It doesn’t matter if the quality of chances Chicago got were less. You won 4-0.
Imagine not being able to see the game and all you see is the score. If you see 4-0, you’re going to figure the Blues took care of business.
They did. You can’t have pretty, dangle goals during every win. Sometimes you need a junk goal or a gift goal.
Looking back, the Montreal loss was good for fans, even if not for the team. It showed us that you don’t win all those games, even if the standings say you should.
It also puts into perspective how solid the Blues have been, winning six of their last seven.
We can worry about not converting on the breakaways later, if it becomes a continual thing. For now, just soak in the misery of the Blackhawks.