St. Louis needed a good performance at home to turn around their early season. Playing a young, hungry Montreal Canadiens team would not be an easy task.
Things started well for the Blues. They came out with jump, got physical and looked hungry.
Even Vladimir Tarasenko was getting physical in the first half of this contest. He had two crunching hits that looked to set the tone for the Blues.
St. Louis got on the board first too. Jordan Kyrou tried to jump over a Brayden Schenn blast, but it actually tinked off his skate blade. Regardless, it went in and the Blues led 1-0.
The Blues got sloppy though. Nick Leddy tried to force a long pass up the middle on a zone exit and it got picked off. The Canadiens cycled around quickly and a shot from the point got redirected in for a 1-1 tie with under five minutes to go in the period.
The Blues buckled down early in the second period and it seemed like they had taken control. Noel Acciari got his first with the Blues on a nice rebound goal.
Less than five minutes later, the Blues took a two-goal lead. Kyrou got his second of the game with a laser from the left circle to make it 3-1.
Unfortunately, instead of stepping on the Canadiens’ throats, the Blues slacked off. They disengaged from the game, mentally and physically and they were made to pay.
Everyone got caught puck watching on the Canadiens next goal. The initial shot went wide and off the end wall and nobody picked up Cole Caufield who came in to cash in.
After that, the vaunted Blues penalty kill looked pedestrian. They allowed two power play goals in under three minutes of game time. Montreal got three goals in under five minutes of game time.
Despite the middle-period collapse, the game was still right there for the Blues. Come out hard in the third and take it, right?
Not at all. Montreal scored two more goals in less than 90 seconds.
A terrible turnover gave Montreal an odd-man rush, which they banked in off Nick Leddy to make it 5-3. Then a long shot from the point got double deflected and the game is seemingly out of reach.
Tarasenko made Montreal pay for an in-zone turnover, scoring on a breakaway to make it 6-4 with plenty of time left. St. Louis just failed to capitalize.
They had more than enough chances to get back into the game. They shot themselves in the foot too many times, however, and an empty net goal late sealed a 7-4 Canadiens victory.
St. Louis was not clean with the puck in 2021-22, but got away with it because of their scoring and dogged determination. That is not happening in 2022-23.
The turnovers are still there, but the battle back is not. Now those turnovers are costing them dear points in the early part of the season.
What was worse today was that it came from two guys you don’t expect it from. You expect the giveaway from Kyrou or Tarasenko and often forgive those because they can score and score often.
You two steadiest defenders are not the ones you expect to cost you games. That’s what Leddy and Faulk did.
I’m not one to blame specific plays for costing you points or wins, because so many other things could have gone differently too. However, when their turnovers led directly to goals against and you pretty much lost by two if you exclude the empty netter, it’s hard not to blame them.
The weird thing is they’re both usually so sure of all their zone exits. Leddy had no business forcing one up the gut the way he did. Faulk connects on that pass to Ryan O’Reilly 99 times out of 100, but this time around he did not put it where it needed to be.
As a whole, the Blues just give up too many chances because they’re making silly plays, forcing plays or being weak on the puck.
Pros: Getting Kyrou going
Scoring in a losing effort doesn’t do much to assuage fan fears about the contract, but there’s not much else Kyrou can do. He needed to hit the back of the net.
Doubters will look at that first goal and say he didn’t even intend for it to hit him. It doesn’t matter.
You need luck in a long season. Just like a hitter legging out a check swing that fooled all the infielders to break out of a slump, sometimes a scorer just needs a lucky one to go in.
Kyrou showed that was true with his next one. Just a game ago, Kyrou got the looks but was not picking the corners well enough and that led to saves. On the power play goal, he just zipped it to a spot that Jake Allen had no prayer of getting to.
Three goals in seven games isn’t too bad. He should have more, but maybe this breaks his funk.
Cons: Not stopping the bleeding
One of the biggest faults of the Blues in their first seven games is that they can’t stop the bleeding. By that, I mean they let bad things snowball too quickly.
It’s one thing to make a foolish play and have it lead directly to a goal. That’s when you clamp down and seize the game by the throat again.
The Blues just let one bad play turn into another and another. Sometimes it is bad luck and you don’t have full control over that, but they have to find a way to nip this stuff in the bud.
Time and time again in this four-game losing streak, they’ve allowed a glut of goals in a short time span. It happened again here.
Three goals in under five minutes in the second period. Two more goals in 81 seconds in the third period.
You can’t have that continually happen. Maybe you don’t score immediately to answer, but for goodness sake, shut them down. Switch all your focus to defense for a handful of minutes when you still have the 3-2 lead or even when it’s 3-3.
Good teams find ways to do that, to keep everything manageable. Teams that are not on top of their game, like the Blues right now, let it snowball and then a two-goal lead becomes a three-goal deficit in the blink of an eye. Then you’ve got a present day example of the Vince Lombardi clip where he screams “What the hell is going on around here?”
Cons: Missing open chances
Whether it was missing literal open nets or just grade-A scoring chances, there’s no way the Blues should not have had more than four goals.
We can talk about their need to clean up the turnovers and box out better because that’s all true. However, if you take the game as it was and even leave the Blues miscues alone, they simply needed to execute on the plays that Montreal left open.
There were at least three, if not four, open nets that the Blues just completely screwed up. They had two back-door plays that didn’t end up on target, Nathan Walker somehow missed when it should have been harder to miss and the Blues also sent a prime chance through the body of Allen and across the goal line instead of into the back of the net.
The third period was filled with that stuff. The entire game, except the five to six minutes where Montreal took control in the second, had chances for the Blues that they just failed on.
Some of that is just the way sports goes. Some of it is guys trying too hard.
It doesn’t matter. You have to get those goals.
You need those things to go in, especially when it’s 3-1. 4-1 and 5-1 crushes the spirit of your opponent. Maybe Leddy makes the same awful pass, but it’s 4-2 instead of 3-2 and the Blues still go on to get another goal or two and win.
We’ll never know because the Blues missed all their chances when the comeback was there for the taking.
The Blues are in a serious slump right now. We can point the finger at individuals for doing this or not doing that, but the entire team is not getting it done.
Goaltending has been the only consistent thing for this team and the Blues proved that doesn’t matter. Unless your goalie is pitching a shutout or allowing one goal, the team is just going to make too many mistakes for it to matter.
Offensively, it’s not clicking for whatever reason. Kyrou got going, but one was pure luck and the other on the power play where the defense didn’t even both closing down.
The Acciari goal was a perfect example of what the entire team needs to be doing, but they’re not. Things that this team was supposed to be great at, they’re not.
If you’re going to be a transition team, your puck moving defenders can’t give the thing away at your own blue line with awful passes. If you’re going to be aggressive, you can’t pinch or get too aggressive while leaving your own zone unprotected.
St. Louis just needs to simplify everything. Strip it all down to basics and outwork someone.
They cannot care about an opponent’s record because, frankly, the Blues truly are an under .500 team right now. I don’t care where they may end up or talent levels or if they’re playing a rebuilding team. You’re not good enough to think that way right now. Go out and crush some teams and prove something.
They got too full of themselves when 3-1 is barely a commanding lead in today’s league. Now they have to figure things out against an LA Kings team that believes they’re ready to supplant teams like St. Louis.