The St. Louis Blues were feeling pretty good after two solid wins over the Vancouver Canucks. Typically, their worst games are against non-playoff teams, so facing one that was just above their level seemed like an opponent that would keep them on their toes.
Instead, the Blues came out about as flat as you could possibly imagine against the Edmonton Oilers. Basically, anything they needed to not do against the Oilers was exactly what they did do.
Coming into the game, broadcaster Jamie Rivers said that the Blues needed to play their style of hockey and also not turn the puck over. The Blues had eight defensive zone turnovers in the first period alone.
The Blues also needed to get the puck in deep, hem Edmonton into their own zone and hound the puck due to the Oilers not being good at zone exits. St. Louis accomplished that for their first handful of shifts of the game and not much after.
Despite having an early shot lead, the Blues were just bad defensively. It wasn’t even just positioning, but they were weak on the puck, making poor decisions and getting caught flat footed too deep in their zone.
Though the Blues had some early looks on goal, it was the Oilers to strike first and less than two minutes into the game.
Pavel Buchnevich would tie the game before the five minute mark. Instead of the game settling down, it was off to the races.
The Oilers rattled off three more goals in the first period. Two of them likely should have been saved and one of those was a shorthanded goal.
Nevertheless, the team gave their goaltender absolutely no support. Guys were just allowed to skate wherever they pleased.
The Blues battled back in the second period. Whatever was said or whatever adjustments were made in the locker room worked.
St. Louis was the better team throughout the second. They proved it by scoring two goals and also just missing on several chances.
Robert Thomas finished off a tough, cross-ice pass just after a power play had elapsed to make it 4-2. Then Brayden Schenn fired one just high enough to slip through the five-hole and make it 4-2.
Unfortunately, even after a goaltending change, rebound control was elusive for the Blues. Husso thought he had the puck in the glove, but did not and the Oilers pounced on the loose puck before he could recover. The game was suddenly 5-3, late in the period, when it should have been a one-goal game going into the intermission.
Dropping a little salt in the wound, the Blues added another goal very early in the third period. After a misplay, it worked out for the Blues because the puck got left in Pavel Buchnevich’s skates and then he buried it in an empty net.
This time around, the Blues managed to build upon that. They started getting the better of the pressure, just like they did earlier in the second period.
It took awhile, but the Blues would tie the game. Coming off a hot pass from the outside of the right circle, Ivan Barbashev got a fantastic deflection and made it 5-5.
The Blues just couldn’t find a way to end it in regulation. That basically sealed their fate since they’re one of the worst overtime teams we’ve seen in years.
The Blues came close to scoring on their first real good look. As always happens in this ridiculous format, a save led to a counter attack and the Oilers got it to Connor McDavid for the tip and a 6-5 win.
Cons: First period
Look, we can sit here and point the finger at this name or that name. The bottom line is that nobody dressed in the white, blue and yellow came out the right way in the first period.
Many fans blame Jordan Binnington. He was not on his game, but he never got a chance to even settle in.
The Oilers had two grade-A chances on their first shift of the game. They scored a goal less than two minutes in.
Binnington probably needed to save two of those goals, particularly the one that McDavid put in. Binner made the stop and should have had it covered, but the puck rattled around before he could find it.
Regardless, even if he stops those, the Blues are down 2 or 3-1 anyway. They set up the Oilers with so many chances that it was ridiculous. We forget that Binnington actually stopped McDavid on a breakaway and also made several other big saves, just to keep the game respectable.
I don’t know what the answer is. Social media is slowly turning on Craig Berube and I don’t agree. A coach can yell and scream and turn over tables or scheme up the perfect game plan all you want. If players don’t go out there and do it, it doesn’t matter.
Pros/Cons: Second line
This was an extremely hot and cold game for the second line. This line consisted of Robert Thomas, Vladimir Tarasenko and Pavel Buchnevich.
On the positive side, they were involved in over half the offense. Buchnevich had two goals, Thomas had a goal and an assist.
When they were on, they were really hurting Edmonton. They found ways to keep the puck in their possession, weave it around the zone and connect on good passes.
When they were not on, they were all a defensive liability. Despite the components of that line combining for four points and three goals, Tarasenko was a minus-1 and the other two were even.
Thomas was almost directly responsible for one of the goals. He nonchalantly skated behind his net, barely a care in the world. He got the puck stripped away as though he was a five year old and the Oilers scored moments after.
Tarasenko reverted to his poor passing. He’s at his best when he drives up the ice, but he’s trying too many east-west passes.
Pros: The comeback
The mere fact the Blues managed to score five goals in this game and get a point is impressive. Most, including myself, left them for dead when it was 4-1.
It was not just that it was 4-1. The Blues could have been down 6-1 the way that first period went.
Instead, they calmed themselves and played the right way for 40 minutes of regulation. Instead of just opening the game up and making it easier for Edmonton to score more, the Blues just chipped away.
Cons: Having to come back
While the fact they did come back is impressive, you just can’t expect to win when you have to score five goals just to tie a game.
If any one thing changes, maybe the Blues win this in regulation. If Binnington makes the cover on the Oilers’ fourth goal, maybe they win it.
If St. Louis finishes off one of their close chances in the third period, perhaps they get the win in 60 minutes. Instead, they had to settle for one point.
Given the tightness of the playoff race, getting at least a point was very important. However, this game continues to show cracks in the foundation of this team.
Blame Binnington if you want, but the fact the team cannot get motivated in front of him is a really bad sign. This is a teammate that went through the wars with them and the team won playoff series because of him. Now, they play as though they don’t want him in there.
Regardless of goaltending, the defensive decision making is just horrendous at times. Guys back off when they should challenge and they get caught standing still when you’re facing some of the fastest teams in the league. Even if you’re not the best defenders, you should still be mentally engaged enough to be in position.
Offensively, the Blues showed they are capable of hanging with anyone in this league. They don’t have the high-end skill of McDavid or Draisaitl, but as a four-line unit, they will come at you in waves.
That’s why losing this game is disappointing. The Blues are a better defensive team than Edmonton, even with their own faults, and their goalie tandem is much better. If you just shut down either their top line or let the top line produce and shut down everyone else, the Blues win. Instead, they didn’t come to play and that first period cost them.
It doesn’t get any easier. The Flames are up next and they’re just as capable of embarrassing the Blues. Hopefully that does not happen.