The St. Louis Blues had two main reasons to come out strong and have a good performance against the New Jersey Devils. They needed to put a stop to a two-game losing streak and also avenge a 7-4 loss to the Devils not long ago.
While there was a little more attention to detail, there was nothing more to show for it. In the first five minutes, the Blues got outshot seven to one and also took a foolish roughing penalty.
Shot totals are not everything, but it told the story of this first period. New Jersey had 12 compared to the three for the Blues halfway through the opening frame and the Devils finally scored on that 12th. It was a rush with lots of weaving and the Blues just kind of glided back into their zone. With no intensity on their backcheck, New Jersey got a clean look from the right side of the slot and buried it.
St. Louis started chipping away as the period went along. They evened up the shot totals, but still never really felt that threatening.
The Blues finally got a very good shift at the very end of the first period. They actually put the puck in the net, but a few tenths of a second after the clock hit zero, so it remained 1-0 after 20 minutes.
As the second period unfolded, it was just a bunch of nothing. The odd thing was the team seemed to have a little more push, but literally nothing came of it.
The team’s best chance of the entire period was not even a shot. Ivan Barbashev drove around the net and almost stuffed it on the wraparound. He hit the post though, so it was not an official shot.
Everything else the Blues tried either got blocked or went wide. There was literally no statistical offense.
St. Louis went a full 18 minutes without a shot on goal. This is not some peewee team going up against an opponent a year ahead of them. This is an NHL team that did not get a shot on goal for 18 minutes in one period of hockey.
The one shot they did record was a decent one, but still not anything that forced a 10-bell save. The lack of resistance against a team in the bottom portion of the league was startling.
As seems to be the Blues way of operating now, they left it all to the third period. Fortunately, they finally got something going.
On their first shot of the third period, the Blues cut the lead in half. A rush up the right wing left some space in the middle for Torey Krug to slide into. They found him with a pass and a quick shot to the right side beat the goalie to make it 2-1.
Continuing this oddity, St. Louis got another one on their third shot of the period. It was another rush play, this time connecting with Jordan Kyrou on the right circle and he snapped one off the opposite post and in to make it 2-2.
The Blues were still too loose against a high-flying team. With close to 13 minutes played, the Devils had two grade-A chances within 10 feet of the goal, but Husso came up big on each one.
The Blues weathered the storm and earned their first power play of the game with just under five minutes to go. They weren’t bad on that power play, but they couldn’t get a lot going. There was just too much trying to find the next play.
Things seemed dire when the refs gifted the Devils their fifth power play with two minutes left in the third. St. Louis actually got a good short handed look, but also had to get some saves to get this game to overtime.
St. Louis never got a good look on goal in the awful three-on-three (yes, I hate it). Their best chance was Kyrou beating everyone on the right wing and then slinging one through the crease, having it hit the boards and leave the zone.
On the game-winning goal for the Devils, it showcased the drawbacks of 3v3. Robert Thomas lost track of his defensive assignment, who was found with a pass and allowed to stickhandle within a yard of the goal and roof one.
Maybe the Blues deserved a point and maybe they didn’t. They got one and at least had a chance to win. Ultimately, it ended 3-2.
There wasn’t anything that Ville Husso could do in this game on any of the three goals against him. If you wanted to be ultra picky, you might say he should have had his glove higher on the game winner, but when the shooter is that close, you’re trying to keep your body tight, take up as much space as possible with as few holes as you can.
Overall, the only reason the Blues were even in this game was Husso. He ended the afternoon with 30 saves and there were plenty of quality ones in there.
The Blues kept leaving the back door play open. That’s how the Devils got their two regulation goals, not covering their backside or drop pass.
Husso was called upon even when the Blues tied it. St. Louis limited the chances in the third, but they were still getting good looks off the rush and that’s when the goalie is the least set in his positioning.
Cons: Penalty disparity
Say what you want about the penalties called. They were all penalties.
A couple were definitely weak calls, but they were not the phantom calls we’ve seen in other games. They were plays that gave the refs decisions to make and they made them.
What was disappointing was the disparity in the amount of calls. St. Louis got one power play all game and the Devils had five.
There were no egregious missed calls, but if you’re going to have a couple weak ones on the Blues, you could call something ticky tac on New Jersey. That said, that’s not what bothered me.
What bothered me was the fact the Blues did not force the refs to call more penalties. If you’re hustling and playing hard and getting engaged in the hard areas of the ice, you’re going to draw penalties. Cleary, St. Louis did not do that.
For example, the Devils kept moving all game long and that draws penalties like the Buchnevich tripping call or the early penalties on Mikkola. The Blues allowed the Devils to be in front of them the entire game and if you’re not getting in behind, you’re not forcing your opponent into mistakes.
Pros: Penalty kill
This one is kind of a reach because the penalty kill was not spectacular. It got the job done though.
If you take five penalties and kill them all off, your PK has done it’s job. Husso was one of the best killers, but maybe four-on-four allowed them to focus on a single goal instead of many different things.
The worrying thing is the penalty kill got hemmed in too much. On one penalty in the second period, the Blues had their four players out for the entire two minutes.
Ultimately, you have to admire the fact they kept the Devils at bay even when fatigued.
Cons: No focus
There are plenty of fans out there that throw around the phrase “no heart” and we have seen that from the Blues, but I don’t think it applied here. I think they wanted to play but were just lost as to how.
To my eyes, the Blues had more effort each game going from the Rangers, Islanders to the Devils. At least you could say St. Louis played for more than three minutes.
Much of it boils down to execution and focus. The Blues had pushes up the ice, but missed on passes, missed on shots or just made boneheaded plays.
Even in the postgame, Craig Berube said they didn’t have the puck enough and and when they did, kept giving the puck up, denying them even a look on goal. It’s pretty simple.
If this was one game, you shrug and go about your day. This is three games in a row that it was a carbon copy of the other.
You change a few things here or there, but it was just a bad 60 minute three times in a row. Fatigue factors in, as all the Blues analysts are more than happy to point out, but it’s about a lack of focus. We’ve seen the Blues will themselves past physical fatigue, but they aren’t pushing through mental fatigue at all.
A point is a point and if St. Louis earns a top three spot or a playoff spot by just a point, we won’t remember how it came about. What we might remember is that the Blues had two terrible games against the New Jersey Devils.
Even as a broadcaster who knows that an announcer will always try to paint things in a brighter light, I don’t want to hear about the talent the Devils have. They’re a bad team.
The Blues play against other high-octane offenses like Colorado and Edmonton and do fine most games. You allow 10 goals against New Jersey in two games, relying on your goaltender in this one to keep it to only three against.
It’s just not good enough.
The Blues don’t have options, but the pairing of Parayko and Mikkola is a mess right now. Both are good players and Mikkola is still coming into his own, but right now they look lost as a duo.
The fourth line was on the ice for both regulation goals. They’ve never had the speed to keep up, but the effort was always there to challenge from that line no matter who was on it. That has not been the case lately.
The bottom line now is you cannot have any more of this. I don’t want to hear Bernie Federko going on about how guys are still tired the first home game after a road trip.
They need to come out and dominate the Ottawa Senators. There is no catching Colorado, but the Blues would be well served to do everything they can to stay in the second spot in the Central.