The St. Louis Blues were fresh off a lackluster overtime loss against the Boston Bruins as they headed out west. The Shark Tank has not always been an easy place to play, but with the San Jose Sharks out of playoff contention, the Blues needed to take care of business.
St. Louis got off to a decent start, having some early pressure. Nothing came of it, however, as the Blues were trying to hit the corners a little too much.
The Blues basically handed the Sharks a goal from there. A dump-in by the Blues got cut off and the Sharks came out with speed through the neutral zone and then in on the offensive end, unaccosted. Jordan Binnington did not have his stick correctly placed and the shot slipped through his legs.
Fortunately, St. Louis didn’t take much time to tie it up. It was the fourth line to do the honors this time.
The Blues fourth line had been buzzing the last few games and continued it in San Jose, having a couple good shifts before they scored. It was the little Aussie, Nathan Walker, to gain the zone, find Logan Brown and the play was finished off by Dakota Joshua for a 1-1 game.
St. Louis had two power plays in the first period and could not get another goal. The one positive was their second power play spilled over into the second.
St. Louis did not let that go to waste. Just 31 seconds into the period, the Blues took the one-goal lead.
It was the team’s red-hot top line out on the power play. All three forwards extended their point streak as Pavel Buchnevich found Vladimir Tarasenko who put it right on the tape of Robert Thomas to make it 2-1.
Unfortunately, the rest of the period went by with no real commotion on either side. One of our longtime readers compared it to a September game for both teams.
The Blues had nine shots on goal. San Jose had a paltry five shots in the second period. They barely threatened at all in that middle frame.
It was not until the third period that the Sharks showed much life. Even then, they only managed seven shots on goal.
This game was not much of a test at all for the Blues. I suppose you could say it tested their ability to keep their wits about them in a snoozefest.
The sad part is the Blues should have had this game in hand long before they did. They missed three clear cut empty net opportunities before they actually scored.
The goal really only came because of poor puck management. Buchnevich tucked it away after missing a longer shot just moments earlier.
St. Louis ended it with a 3-1 win.
Pros: Ultimate trio
Seriously, when was the last time the Blues had a line with the chemistry and talent that Thomas, Tarasenko and Buchnevich have? I’m sure there has been one, but I can’t remember it.
The Blues have had great duos, especially the last few years. However, it always felt like one winger, or occasionally the center, were along for the ride while the duo did the heavy lifting.
That has not been the case for this trio. Yes, the goal scored came on the power play, but it was still the chemistry of that line that made it happen.
We cannot ignore the emergence of Thomas as a shooter either. His willingness to shoot is one thing, but that goal was an elite snipe.
There was no real traffic in front and the shot was far enough out that the goalie should have had reaction time. He did not because it was an absolute laser.
Cons: Sharks goal
Binnington had a decent game, considering he only faced 21 shots. At least he got his stats up to respectable numbers for the night.
However, the goal he gave up was indicative of the problems he has had in 2021-22. That is simply not a shot that should beat him.
It’s not the worst goal in the world. You’d also like to see a little more pep in the step of the defenders getting back.
With all of that in mind, Binnington should have had an easy save. Instead, like many modern goalies, the stick is barely on the ice and actually flicks at the puck, opening the five hole when the legs aren’t covering the space entirely.
Pros: Getting the win
At this point, I don’t care if you have to spear the referees and make them award you a victory. The Blues need wins because the blasted Minnesota Wild refuse to lose.
The Blues are just trying to keep pace at this point. They now know Minnesota is 100% their opponent, so all these final games are only about home ice advantage.
The Blues need that. It’s not the be all, end all, but both teams are better at home this year. St. Louis dominated most of the regular season games against Minnesota, but you still need that home ice to turn the tide in the second season.
The Blues did not make it pretty in this one. They got the “dub” and that’s all that matters.
Not every game in an 82-game season is going to be a gem. Yet, it was odd to see so little out of a matchup that usually produces some good energy.
There’s still enough guys left on both teams from 2019 that this is a borderline rivalry. You did not get that sense on this night.
The Blues took care of business, but not comfortably or convincingly. As mentioned, that doesn’t matter as long as they got the win.
There were bright spots. The physicality was there from certain players, even though St. Louis got outhit.
The Blues power play was somewhat of an issue. They got the game winning goal on the power play, but they were quite impotent outside of that.
It was hard to tell if San Jose couldn’t get anything done because the Blues were playing well or if the Blues defense will get credit when the Sharks weren’t doing much to pressure. Either way, at least they only allowed one and that one shouldn’t have gone in anyway.
Again, it’s important to keep pace with Minnesota. If nothing else, it keeps that playoff frame of mind in place, knowing the team you’re going to face is mowing down the wins.
The next two games for St. Louis are very important. They’ve both winnable and teams the Blues should beat. Whether they do is up to them.