The St. Louis Blues were desperate for a good start against the Carolina Hurricanes. They needed something to wash that awful taste from their mouth after a 5-2 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers.
Craig Berube apparently had meetings with individual players during the previous day’s practice. We already knew players were unhappy, but it was that same old nonsense of knowing what’s going wrong but not being able to break the habit.
Initially, it seemed as though the Blues would get off to a good start. They had swarming energy on the offensive end and drew an early penalty.
Ultimately, they did not score and it was even worse. The Blues allowed a shorthanded goal to put Carolina up 1-0.
The Blues got right back to it. A few minutes after that goal, St. Louis earned another power play.
Again, nothing came of it. Carolina took away everything the Blues wanted to do, only allowing two shots on that man advantage.
Despite the fact the score remained 1-0 and shots were even, it was deceiving. The Blues were not that close.
That was quickly proven in the second period when the wheels started coming off. The Hurricanes scored twice in just over two minutes, three minutes into the period, pushing the score to 3-0 before the Blues even knew what hit them.
St. Louis kept letting power plays go by without any kind of flow or even chances. Just when you thought it was lights out, the Blues finally got involved.
Alexei Toropchenko was a bright spot, getting involved physically. At 13:12, the Blues finally connected on a two-on-one, with Pavel Buchnevich tipping it in to make it 3-1.
That was short lived. St. Louis scored when it was four-on-four, but Carolina scored on their ensuing power play, going tic-tac-toe and hitting on a one-timer from the right circle for a 4-1 lead.
The Blues had more intensity in the second, but it was somewhat wasted. They couldn’t slow down the Hurricanes or get them off their game at all.
St. Louis got a few cracks at goal in the third. Buchnevich got stopped on another odd-man rush. Brayden Schenn also got stopped when he had a partial empty net, all before six minutes had been played.
St. Louis got yet another power play in the third, their fifth of the game. Though they had better zone presence and passing, it seemed like it was going to go by with nothing to show again. Fortunately, that did not happen as Buchnevich scored his 100th career goal from the slot to make it 4-2.
St. Louis played well for stretches following that, but you could just tell it was too little, too late. They just could not really break down the Carolina defense.
With the game winding down, Craig Berube decided to pull the goalie with 5:30 left. St. Louis couldn’t get anything toward net and an intercepted cross-ice pass led to an empty net goal for the Hurricanes.
The Blues were in desperation mode, pulling the goal again. Again, an ill-timed crossing pass got knocked away and another empty netter made it 6-2.
Buchnevich had another chance to get on the board, looking for a hat trick, but hit the post. On the next drive down the ice, former Blues defender Ian Cole blasted one that got tipped and made it 7-2.
Cons: Power play
While the Blues were not great at even strength either, the special teams battle really cost them in this game. It’s a different story if they manage to get something going.
Some will point to the fact that they did score on the power play. Buchnevich’s second goal of the game came on the power play and it was a great set up to the slot and a nice finish.
That’s the only good thing you can say about their attack. Everything else was nonexistent.
The Blues had five power plays. Statistically, 1/5 is fine I guess, but if you get two or three, then this game is a completely different outcome.
Instead, not only do the Blues barely get anything on their power play, but they also allow a shorthanded goal. That pretty much wipes out the one power play goal they did have, making them 0/4 in essence.
Carolina went 1/1 on their power play. It wasn’t even a full power play, but they managed to get the Blues penalty kill so discombobulated in a short span that you knew they’d score.
Offensively, this guy was about the only bright spot. He almost single handedly kept the Blues in this one.
He scored the two goals. Buchnevich showed determination, getting to the net for the odd-man rush goal, and sniper ability with the power play goal.
He also got denied a couple times. He had at least two other prime chances and one got saved, while the other hit the post.
Buchnevich could have easily had four goals if the puck bounced the right way.
Cons: Falling behind
In one sense, the Blues were better in this first period than the past few. They had early shots on goal and had a certain agressiveness.
That said, they still just don’t have an answer in the first period. They fell behind, again, and just can’t get things going.
I don’t care if they did, or still, lead the league in come from behind victories. That’s not a winning style of hockey.
You cannot expect yourself to continually turn it on. Just like in football when you have to give up on your run game when you’re always behind, you have to play a different style of hockey when you’re behind. The Blues are constantly behind and they don’t really know how to hand it right now.
By no means was this game on Ville Husso’s shoulders. When your team only scores two goals, you’re not likely to win in today’s NHL.
That said, Husso didn’t look himself either. I think the performance of the team is affecting both goaltenders and they’re trying to do too much, which often puts you out of position and makes mistakes.
The defense didn’t do much to help, but Husso needed to stop a couple of those. The second goal, early in the second period, just snuck inside the post and that can’t happen there.
You can’t really blame him for the first goal since it deflected in off Justin Faulk. Even so, I’d like him to have been more proactive and gotten a blocker out instead of having it go past him.
Really, this whole thing was a mess. It doesn’t matter that they scored two empty net goals. The Hurricanes earned a 7-2 win.
Sure, you could use a glass half full approach. There were spurts of strong play and the Blues could have had at least four goals if Buchnevich had some better luck.
Even with that in mind, they just can’t string it together for long enough. Even if you go the positive route and say they played a good 20-25 minutes, that’s just not good enough. Bare minimum, you have to be the better team for at least 31 minutes, because that’s at more than half the game.
Defenders, both forwards and defensemen, are reaching far too much. They’re all backing off and trying to use their sticks instead of getting up in people’s grill.
There wasn’t enough countering what the Hurricanes did. Jamie Rivers pointed out that Carolina was isolating one player on each power play. That’s good strategy, but it should make one fewer defender than before but the Blues could not find that open guy.
St. Louis is going to be a playoff team and they should be. People saying they should miss for a draft pick are clueless because it would still be a mid-round pick anyway.
The Blues would be better off with the financial gain of even two playoff games at home. They just need to figure out how to play their game again.