Here we go ladies and gentlemen. The St. Louis Blues have entered their last 10 games of the 2021-22 season, facing another Stanley Cup contender in the Boston Bruins.
Things got started with a bang. In the first minute of the game, the Blues got a two-on-one and David Perron scooped a backhander in for a 1-0 lead.
Just as Blues fans were done celebrating, the good vibes died. Less than a minute later, Marco Scandella screened his own goaltender and the Bruins scored from the high slot to tie it 1-1.
The game went back and forth from there. Each team would get a good swing of offense, taking the lead in the shot battle.
However, the Blues were probably the better team for the first period, even if only marginally. It looked like that would be proven on the scoreboard too.
They took a 2-1 lead after Torey Krug’s shot deflected off Pavel Buchnevich’s skate. Unfortunately, that did not hold as the Bruins challenged it and Robert Thomas was offside on the zone entry.
The Bruins ended up going into the locker room with the lead themselves. A weak shot from the left circle knicked off Brayden Schenn’s skate, just putting it through the five-hole and giving Boston a 2-1 lead.
Compounding matters was the fact the Blues were 0/2 on the power play in that period. They hit two posts as well.
It seemed as though the Bruins would take control as the second period went by. They started grabbing the bulk of the offensive possession and also the shots, overall.
Boston really put the pressure on during the middle stages of the period. At one point, with about 13 minutes left, Boston had the Blues pinned into their own zone for well over two minutes of ice time.
The Bruins forced the Blues into a penalty. Boston couldn’t get much going on that power play, only getting one shot on goal and actually almost surrendering a shorthanded goal in the dying seconds of that power play.
That special teams stand seemed to ignite the Blues. They started getting back to their game, getting under Boston’s skin while being smart themselves.
Vladimir Tarasenko was in a verbal battle with St. Louisan Trent Frederic and then forced him into a penalty. Frederick had the gall to initiate contact on Tarasenko, get knocked on his rear and then whine that Tarasenko hit him as he was escorted to the penalty box.
The icing on the cake was that the Blues tied the game on the ensuing power play. Making that icing the buttercream kind, Torey Krug, the former Bruin, snapped it home to the high, blocker side.
St. Louis did not let up from there. They were not dominant, but they had reestablished themselves.
A fantastic bit of passing started with Buchnevich on the left to Robert Thomas in the middle. Thomas had defenders converging, so simply deflected the puck to the streaking Tarasenko who did a spin-o-rama and gave the Blues a 3-2 lead going into the second intermission.
The Blues kept that momentum in the third period. While almost half the period went by without either side doing a ton, St. Louis got the next one, which proved to be pivotal.
Another break down the ice by that top line was highlighted by the Russian duo. Tarasenko fed Buchnevich, who passed back across to Vladi and the quick flick finished off the play for a 4-2 lead.
The Blues pretty much clamped down from there. Their defense was not stifling, but they didn’t allow much after that.
The Bruins managed a decent amount of shots. However, it was all one and done and they never truly threatened with any pressure or rebound attempts.
Boston had decent zone time with their goaltender pulled. Buchnevich butchered an empty net look, but other than that, the Blues just kept it calm and got the puck out and held on for a two-goal win.
Listen, I’m sorry to rub it in, except I’m not. I hope all you fans that wanted Tarasenko traded for a bag of pucks or those that declared his career was over and he would be lucky to get 10 goals are enjoying that tasty crow.
This guy has reinvented himself, while still keeping that sniper’s touch. As mentioned a few days ago, he’s never going to be a Selke candidate, but he’s getting involved in all aspects of the game.
When was the last time you remember Vladi chirping people? His nonchalant attitude and bullish strength earned the Blues a power play that got them back into the game. The more churlish Tarasenko of the last couple years would have been called for a penalty when they were jousting, but he kept his cool and let the hot head come at him.
We’ve all complained about Tarasenko passing too much. This season, he’s doing a great job of picking his spots. He’s showing playmaking ability with a sense for when the right time to take the shot is.
There was one time where he could have, and maybe should have, passed to Brandon Saad. I’ll take Tarasenko taking the shot any day as long as it’s not forced.
The first goal was just fantastic. The shot was not a 10, but the entire play just highlighted the chemistry this current line has and showcased Tarasenko’s finishing ability when he’s on and engaged.
The second goal was just as good, but a better finish. It showed more of the chemistry and unselfishness of both Russians, with Buchnevich dishing back to Tarasenko for the one-timer.
Tarasenko now has eight game-winning goals too.
Cons: Power play
The odd thing about this game was the Blues power play actually wasn’t that bad. They created chances and hit some posts.
They simply had some bad luck. Ideally, either Ryan O’Reilly or Jordan Kyrou scores on that first attempt.
Instead, O’Reilly hits the post. Kyrou then just doesn’t have the angle to get it in instead of through the crease.
St. Louis did get one with the man advantage. That was pretty sweet given the petulant nature of the penalty taken.
Still, statistically 1/4 isn’t bad. You’d just like them to make a team like Boston pay for going into the box a bit more – just a bit.
I admit to being picky about this one. Nevertheless, there’s just something unsettling about how the Blues defend.
They won the game. They did not give up an unholy amount of shots.
All that is true and yet, the unit as a whole did not do their job. Ville Husso still faced too many grade-A chances.
In the first and second periods, the Blues left the slot open far too much. It’s bad enough to lose track of opponents, but the middle of the ice – especially the slot – is the last place in the world you want to leave guys unchecked.
Some of it boils down to timing, but you can’t get stuck in your zone for close to three minutes either. At some point, someone has to step up, steal a puck and get it out. It’s easy to say from the couch, but it’s not untrue either.
The lack of cohesive pairings is worrisome too. Some of that is due to special teams play, but not all.
Robert Bortuzzo played three minutes less than the next lowest defender. Colton Parayko and Justin Faulk played the most minutes and never play together.
It’s not unheard of, but it seems strange that the guys they are paired with more often than not did not have similar minutes. It showcases how much juggling is going on at the blue line though.
The fourth line, Ivan Barbashev and, oddly, Jordan Kyrou were the only forwards to not register a point in this game. Everyone else got on the score sheet in some way.
The Thomas, Tarasenko, Buchnevich line continues to dazzle. O’Reilly and Perron have regained their form.
Brandon Saad it just doing a little bit of everything. Schenn is leading by example and taking the body again.
Guys made mistakes, for sure. As an entire unit, they have really stepped it up and did so again in this game.
The Blues just keep racking up important wins. This was not a must win or even a need to win.
However, it was an important win because it keeps the Blues in the mindset of getting ready for the playoffs. Boston is a good team and St. Louis has to be ready for any and all good teams.
Even if temporarily, St. Louis has found ways to beat the non-playoff teams lately. To keep up the same pace as teams on their level or above only bodes well for the playoffs.
The Blues have to clean a few things up. You cannot leave the middle of the ice unguarded as much as they did early against Boston.
While they were better, the Blues are still turning the puck over too much. They still rely on their goaltender too much.
Eventually, Husso or Jordan Binnington need just an easy night.
However, the team we saw tonight is the team fans can be excited about. This is the team that can make a run.
The scary thing is that you never know what you’ll get. This team is capable of winning it all and also capable of losing 4-1 in the opening series.
Clean up a few defensive lapses and continue the physicality and the Blues can make some noise though.