The St. Louis Blues came into their 65th game of the season in an unenviable position. Just weeks after seeming like a playoff shoe-in, one more loss would have put them uncomfortably close to being on the outside of the playoff picture.
St. Louis needed a good performance that would prove, even if for a brief time, they were better than the teams below them in the standings. Their start against the Vancouver Canucks was just that, even if not completely convincing.
Mainly, the Blues just had solid energy and looked like a team willing to skate. That doesn’t always lead to a positive result, but it’s better than the alternative.
Additionally, sometimes you need a little luck on your side. The Blues got that with their first goal.
On initial viewing, I thought this puck actually got across and Marco Scandella just got a piece of it to score. Instead, Vladimir Tarasenko put it off the shoulder, it popped up into the air, off Jaroslav Halak’s stick, over his head, off Scandella and then in for a 1-0 Blues lead.
St. Louis needed that kind of break. If nothing else, they simply needed to be playing with a lead for once.
That uptick in play continued for much of the rest of the first period. They finally capitalized on an odd-man rush when David Perron finished off a rush to make it 2-0 with just under six minutes left.
The second period did not go quite as well. St. Louis retained the lead through 40 minutes of play, but they did not look near as commanding.
In fact, the Canucks got a hard push against St. Louis. Though Vancouver only had eight first period shots, they finished the second with a total of 26, testing the Blues early and often.
The Blues would eventually get their feet back under them, but the offense was much more sporadic. For the second period in a row, the Blues had nine shots on goal during that 20 minutes, but they also failed to get any shots on their two power plays.
Ville Husso had to make some quality saves while the Blues struggled to get going out of the locker room. They didn’t have their own first shot until almost eight minutes had elapsed in the second.
Nevertheless, the score remained 2-0 after two periods. Still, it was clear the Blues would have to have a much better third period to hold on.
St. Louis came out with purpose. They needed good performances from their big guys and got that right from the start.
Vladimir Tarasenko made it 3-0. The Blues got a pass across the slot that was initially saved by Halak on Tarasenko’s first chance. The puck popped in the air and Tarasenko banged it in on the second opportunity.
The Canucks broke the goose egg less than 90 seconds later. They got a three-on-one and former Blues member Brad Hunt just snapped one to make it 3-1.
Instead of crying in their cheerios, the Blues got back to work. They had several quality shifts, hitting some posts and also forcing some good/lucky saves from Halak.
The Canucks created some looks too, but not nearly as many in the second period. The Blues did a good job of clamping down and keeping the Canucks more in their defensive end.
St. Louis did what good teams do at the end of games. They put one into the empty net and won by a final of 4-1.
Everyone has their own opinion on this guy and, if it’s already formed, nobody else is likely to change it. That said, if you’re on the fence, don’t let the haters influence you.
After the last game, I heard some on sports talk radio bring up the fact that Tarasenko was a minus-3. That is an indisputable fact, but if you think he was solely responsible for any of the goals allowed, I have a lovely bridge you can go live under.
The entire team was awful against Philadelphia. Tarasenko was not on point, but I’d venture to say he was more engaged than some of his teammates.
Regardless of all that, he came to play in this game. He came out as a goal scorer, instead of a playmaker, and that’s what the Blues need from him.
He was involved all night long. He picked up two goals and an assist, giving him a three-point night.
Tarasenko also scored his 500th point with the Blues. All this from a guy that many fans were willing to let go for nothing.
On top of all that, the so-called pilon that shies away from contact, got physical. He threw two hits and even got in Tyler Myers face after Myers failed to knock Tarasenko down when Vladi had a clean hit on Myers’ teammate.
Cons: Second period
We have seen much worse periods by the Blues, just in the last week, let alone over the course of the season. Even so, St. Louis felt like they were hanging on by their fingernails.
They allowed 17 shots in the period. While they were not all grade-A chances, the Canucks were threatening.
The Blues calmed themselves down once they got their own offense rolling again, but early on it looked like the 2-0 lead was going to evaporate rather quickly.
We saw the return of the calm, collected Ville Husso. Like Jordan Binnington before him, Husso is at his best when he’s just in good position and making saves look easy.
That’s the goaltender the Blues got in this game. He made decent shots look like easy saves and also came up with some difficult ones too, all while not needing to flop around like Dominik Hasek.
Ultimately, Husso proved to be a big reason the Blues won this game. The Canucks came at him and he stood tall, stopping 35 of 36 shots.
It would have been nice for him to get a shutout, but that’s more on the team allowing an odd-man rush. Husso stopped all the ones he should have and several you might not have expected.
If the Blues ever needed a win, they needed this one. That seems odd to say, given they still have 17 games remaining after this one, but it’s true.
They had fallen into a wild card spot due to their losing streak. Not long ago, they were solidly in second place in the division.
If the Blues had lost this game, and potentially lost against Vancouver on Wednesday, then the Canucks are in the thick of the playoff race and the Blues would be in danger of falling out. Instead, the Blues all but snuff out Vancouver’s chances and they put themselves back into a guaranteed divisional spot.
They cannot take their eye off the ball. They need a similar, if not better, performance when they travel to Canada.
This cannot be a one and done game. The Blues need a repeat performance.