The St. Louis Blues were hoping to keep their ascension portion going of the see-saw adventure they’ve been on lately. After losing four in a row, the Blues had won three straight heading into their final 2021-22 matchup against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
For whatever reason, the Blues just have not measured up too well against Eastern Conference teams. That continued in the first period against the Pens.
The Blues just were not that good in the opening period. Despite the fact the Blues ended the first 20 minutes with just one fewer shot than Pittsburgh, it didn’t feel that close.
St. Louis was not winning board battles and, at least visually, not appearing to hustle to loose pucks. Eventually, the Penguins took advantage.
Chad Ruhwedel scored from distance on a shot that was not screened. They carried that 1-0 lead into the intermission.
Things went from bad to worse in the second period. Until around the last four minutes, the Blues only had two shots on goal in the middle frame.
How the Blues have gone from one of the best second period teams in the league to one of the worst is beyond me. It felt like the game was slipping away as another saveable shot slipped past Ville Husso to make it 2-0.
St. Louis started chipping away and getting into the offensive end. It would be the David Perron to bulldoze his way past the defender and lift it over the prone Tristan Jarry to make it 2-1.
The Blues wasted little time in the third period. This time it was Ivan Barbashev to hit the back of the net, tying the game just 1:49 into the period.
Both teams traded chances throughout the rest of the third period. It should be said that Husso faced the higher quality and managed to shut them down, even when there were defensive lapses and scrambles.
Despite tying the game and getting it into overtime, the Blues never got established offensively. They never hit double-digit shots in any period.
The Blues finally came alive in overtime. They came up empty and the game went to a shootout, but it was not without plenty of looks.
Torey Krug hit the post on a two-on-one. Pavel Buchnevich sliced through two defenders but was stopped by Jarry on his shuffleboard shot.
As much as I dislike three-on-three, at least this was entertaining. I also admire the backchecking hustle by Buchnevich as that post shot rang off the bar and out of the zone and almost led to one of those dumb breakout attempts for the opponent on a natural hockey play that would not happen any other time.
Sadly, the game had to be decided in a shootout. I don’t like those any more than 3v3. We don’t end baseball games with homerun derbies. I digress.
The goaltenders came up big, each denying the first three shooters and Husso stopping two just barely off the glove. The last one was one too many as Rust got it just over the pad and under the glove to give Pittsburgh a 3-2 win.
People who read these articles enough know I’m ever the defender of the goaltender. However, I’m not so blind as to not call something out when it needs to be.
With that in mind, neither of the goals Husso gave up were good goals.
The first one, I just don’t know. It’s well placed and just tucks inside the post, so it’s hard for a goalie to stretch out that far.
Nevertheless, despite what the Penguins announcers said, there really wasn’t a screen. There was traffic in the area, but Husso saw that.
The second one needs to be stopped. Yes, Robert Bortuzzo should have done more, but that shot is cutting back across the grain to the glove side. It’s a save, even if you argue it was up high and difficult, it should still be stopped.
With that in mind, it made for an odd game in a season the Blues have had plenty of odd nights in goal. More have been with Jordan Binnington, but Husso has had his share too.
The bottom line is the Blues only get a point because of Husso. He lets in two iffy goals, but he denied several quality chances and also a couple sure-fire goals for Pittsburgh.
That’s what makes goalie such an odd position. You can make highlight reel, 10-bell saves and then have one or two squeak by and the people remember the two that went in, not the 43 you kept out.
Regardless of goals allowed, this is the third game in a row where the Blues goalie has faced over 30 shots and been the main reason the team stayed in. Husso shut down two of the best scorers in recent history several times in this game.
This was about a David Perron game as you’re going to see. The guy was magical offensively and then pulled some boneheaded plays out of his rear too.
You can argue he’s hustling and getting in on the forecheck, but there may not be a player with more offensive zone penalties in team history than Perron. There’s likely no way to track that, but it feels that way.
Call the penalties soft or call them correct – it doesn’t matter. Perron just keeps taking them and most times, they are unforced. There’s no reason to chop a guy’s stick or get your stick anywhere near their hands when you’re in the offensive zone and you know refs are calling that stuff tighter.
His only saving grace was Pittsburgh did not convert any of those power plays.
The flip side is that Perron kept his hot streak going offensively. The way he bullrushed the defender, lowered the shoulder and then just popped it over the goalie was fantastic.
We saw a confident Perron come right back on his next shift and generate another scoring opportunity too. He put six shots on goal and was unlucky to only have the one goal. If only he’d stay out of the box.
Springboarding off some of the calls made against Perron, some of the penalties on both teams were pretty weak. That said, you have to take advantage of that.
If the refs giftwrap something for you, you don’t apologize to Pittsburgh and say “here you go, buddy. We’re sorry the ref is a tool.” You make them pay for even putting themselves in a position to let the ref think about making a call.
The Blues had five power plays. They had a two-man advantage for well over one minute.
Even if you missed the game, you can guess how many power play goals the Blues had. They had zero, just to be clear.
The first few power plays were just ridiculous. There was a power play in the second period where Pittsburgh had a two-on-one and then a three-on-two break and had the best looks out of either team during those two minutes.
As a fan, we have to tell ourselves that the best power plays in the league only score two or three times out of 10. Even with that in mind, it’s hard to think this has been a top five power play much of the season.
This game was a tale of two halves.
St. Louis pretty much stunk the first half. They were better, but not great, in the second half.
They did enough to tie the game and get a point, but not enough to win it. They could have, and should have, ended it in overtime, but that’s such a crapshoot that you can’t fault them. As mentioned, when you hit the post on a two-on-one and it springs a counter the other way, that’s not what hockey is supposed to be.
In the shootout, I’ll never understand the team’s faults. Guys that should just shoot it, make too many moves and guys that should deke, never do.
Husso got my hopes up, but even as someone who tries to be positive, I usually assume a loss is coming for the Blues in a shootout.
St. Louis got an important point. Philadelphia helped them out by beating Nashville. The Blues just need to be keeping things in their own hands though and they need to find ways to win these games instead of squeaking through.