The St. Louis Blues came off an emotional, overtime win over the Minnesota Wild the previous night. Combining back-to-back games with playing a non-playoff Eastern Conference team seemed like it would be a bad mix for the Blues.
The Blues have not done too well against their opponents from outside of the West. This is the time of year to start beating up on non-playoff teams, however.
The first period was a tale of two halves. Fortunately, the Blues got the better of it.
The New York Islanders came out with a point to prove. While the overall shots were kept somewhat low, the Islanders were creating some top notch chances.
It seemed as though the Islanders were going to get on the board when they connected on a back-door play. The maligned Jordan Binnington returned to form and stretched across for one of the biggest saves he’s made in a long time.
After getting outshot 7-3, the Blues came back strong in the second part of the opening period. Nick Leddy finished it off for the first goal of the game.
It was another great set up by Robert Thomas. The Blues “top” line was on fire and Leddy got it through traffic for the 1-0 lead with 6:39 left.
A little less than three minutes later, the Blues got another one. It was another great set up from Thomas, however this time Vladimir Tarasenko pounced on a rebound for his 26th and a 2-0 lead.
St. Louis didn’t let their foot off the gas in the second period. Justin Faulk was the recipient early on.
Similar to Leddy’s goal, Faulk came in from the blue line and snapped one home from just outside the slot to make it 3-0. He then batted home a mid-air puck to make it 4-0 less than two minutes after his first goal.
The Blues were just having fun and getting things done on the ice. After a partial Jordan Kyrou breakaway, Ivan Barbashev just barely jabbed in the rebound to make it 5-0.
Binnington lost the shutout due to his own miscue shortly after that. A poor pass from behind the net gave it to New York and they scored on a deflected puck from the point afterward.
Thomas restored the five-goal lead just prior to the end of the second period. Similar to his overtime winner, Thomas scored from the left wing, netting another goal for himself and staying red hot.
St. Louis still allowed a grade-A look here or there. However, Binnington was up to the task and the Blues saw the game out to win 6-1
Pros: Top line again
I was almost going to single out the guys in different sections, but they’re playing so well as a unit, we might as well put them together.
The trio of Thomas, Tarasenko and Pavel Buchnevich combined to have some impact on three of the team’s six goals. All told, they had seven points on the night.
Tarasenko continues to show why so many were wrong to want him gone. Not only is he scoring goals, but he’s become a more complete player.
Tarasenko is never going to be up for the Selke award for the best defensive forward, but he’s engaged in all facets. We rarely saw him get into the dirty areas the last couple seasons due to his shoulder, but now he’s even setting screens like when he knocked in the rebound.
Thomas is just a man possessed right now. We always knew he had the passing ability, showcased with another two assists. His shooting has improved 10-fold though. Even when he did shoot in the past, he would miss the net, but now he’s knocking on the door of being a sniper.
Cons: Too many chances allowed
For the second game in a row, the Blues relied on their goaltending a little too much. What is odd is the stats don’t really show that.
31 shots against is not a terrible number. You’d like to have it a little lower, but that’s about average.
However, it was the quality of the chances. New York would go minutes without a charge into the zone and then suddenly Binnington had to bail the team out. He denied Brock Nelson at least twice on sure goals.
The Blues are winning and that’s all that matters. Nevertheless, you’d like them to be a little steadier on defense.
The Blues wanted this win, but Binnington absolutely needed it. He had not won a game since the last time he beat the Chicago Blackhawks. That was over a month ago.
What was good about this performance was it was not just the Blues dominating and Binnington getting a charity W. He was an integral part of the victory.
Frankly, he should have had a shutout. If not for that bad pass from him to give it away, he would have had a shutout.
Still, 30 saves on 31 shots is pretty good. The quality of the saves was even better.
If not for that save, in particular, the game may have turned the other way. At that point in the game, it is scoreless and the Islanders would have taken a 1-0 lead.
Maybe the Blues still come back. Maybe the Islanders go on to win 6-1. We won’t know because Binnington kept it scoreless so the Blues could actually score first.
St. Louis will need him in the playoffs, regardless of who is the starter. Hopefully this was a springboard game for him.
As important as the Minnesota win was, the Blues really needed this one too. I don’t think a loss would have done in anything, but it would have been a blow to the psyche.
The Blues have not been good against the East. They have not been good against teams below the playoff line. They’ve rarely been good for both games of a back-to-back.
To overcome all of that was important.
You’re not going to play many back-to-back games in the playoffs, unless the television schedule gets really weird. You won’t have much rest either, so getting two, strong performances with good energy was a good sign as we look to the last 10 games.
The top line is humming. You need at least one, go to line like that where all three forwards are feeling it.
Ryan O’Reilly and David Perron have gone a little quieter than you’d like as far as scoring, but they’re still contributing. Seeing Perron step up and go after Zdeno Chara after a questionable hit is exactly what you want.
The Blues get a couple days off now and then Boston is on tap. The Blues will need to keep this focus to get a win in Beantown.