In an ideal situation, the St. Louis Blues would have had some time to celebrate their fourth-straight victory with the player’s moms as they made their way back to St. Louis. Instead, however long the flight from Chicago was was the only time they had.
The Blues had to get as rested as they could because the Washington Capitals were waiting for them in St. Louis. The Blues have often been iffy when playing the second in a back to back, but their good play continued in the early going.
Despite a lackluster start to the game for both teams, the Blues got off to a hot start once they got rolling. Brayden Schenn got it started.
He came in with Jordan Kyrou and took the shot instead of passing. His snap shot beat the goalie to the blocker side and it was 1-0 almost five minutes in.
A little over two minutes after, Pavel Buchnevich scored on a wraparound. Vladimir Tarasenko sent a perfect puck into the zone off the wall and Buchnevich faked the slapshot and then wrapped it in for a 2-0 lead.
Then, on the power play, Torey Krug scored on a deflected puck. The Blues kept working it around the umbrella and Krug scored from the straightaway point.
Things went off the rails from an even strength staindpoint. The Caps and Blues kept trading penalties back and forth, playing at four-on-four quite often as each team had abbreviated power plays.
While the Blues were not bad in the second period, they certainly did not get anything done on the offensive end in the early portion. The Capitals completely took over the offensive side of the game.
Washington had 13 shots on goal just 11 minutes into the second period. Thomas Greiss was the main factor the Blues kept the lead.
Unfortunately, Greiss couldn’t keep the Capitals off the board forever. Around 15 minutes in, somehow the best goalscorer of this age was left open right in front of the net and quickly scored off the pass to make it 3-1.
St. Louis didn’t buckle down following that. They did get a power play, but for whatever reason, the Blues are extremely vulnerable on their power play rushes. Washington turned them over after a shot and sprang a two-on-one, which they scored on shorthanded and made the game 3-2.
The captain had enough of all that nonsense. Ryan O’Reilly scooped in a backhander from the goal line to make it 4-2 just moments after the Capitals goal.
Things didn’t start too well in the third. Less than a minute in, the Blues didn’t get the puck out and Greiss had to make a fantastic pad save on a backdoor play.
St. Louis was clearly unable to regain any energy following their win in Chicago. They were doing more than just going through the motions, but they often looked like they were skating in wet cement.
The Blues tried their best to put some pressure on, but the fatigue cost them. Ryan O’Reilly took an offensive zone penalty because he was reaching and the Caps scored on the ensuing power play, despite several good saves from Greiss prior to the goal.
It only took one shift for the Capitals to tie it. Despite a good initial play to deny Ovechkin on the boards, the Blues could not recover as Washington cut through three players to set up the backdoor play to make it 4-4.
Washington was inches away from making it 5-4. They did score, but it was determined to have been knocked in with a high stick.
St. Louis saw the game out in the end and held on through overtime to get a point, at least. It looked bleak in the shootout.
Washington scored on their first and the Blues didn’t even come that close on their first two shooters. However, Greiss kept the Blues in it with some good stops and eventually O’Reilly scored and Buchnevich finished it off for a 5-4 win.
Taking a page out of his teammate’s book, Thomas Greiss put on a goaltending clinic against the Capitals. He was the main reason the Blues didn’t allow a goal before they got their feet under them in the early portion of the first period.
Despite the fact he only faced nine first-period shots, he made some quality saves there. He was even busier in the second period.
He had several scramble plays and just managed to do whatever it took to keep the puck out. Greiss even made a big save on Alex Ovechkin.
However, just like Jordan Binnington the night before, Greiss pulled a rabbit out of his hat. On a cross-ice pass, Greiss put his glove in the perfect spot to rob the Caps of a sure goal.
Greiss may have given up two in the second, but he was still the reason the Blues were up. He kept that going with two quick pad saves in the third period, both on slightly open odd-man rushes.
Greiss might have been the second star in the arena, but he was tops for me. He wasn’t spectacular, but he made some good saves in the shootout and, if not for him, this was a cake walk for Washington.
I don’t often buy into Bernie Federko’s claims about how tired guys are. Basically, any time the Blues play poorly, he figures a way to chalk it up to fatigue.
That said, it was definitely the case in this game. The Blues were fortunate to get so many goals in the first period because that was the only time they had consistent energy.
The Blues have not been very clean in the second periods this season and when you’re tired it’s even worse. They allowed 18 shots on goal in that period alone.
When you hope they’d have a final push in the third, the legs were no worse than the second, but the mental fatigue set in. Taking a penalty in the offensive zone really hurt the Blues as the Caps scored.
The passing was incredibly lackluster too.
I fully understand you cannot summon more energy than the body is willing to put out. However, the Blues were more fatigued than you would imagine and it affected a lot.
Pros and Cons: O’Reilly
Ryan O’Reilly did it all for the Blues in this game. Sadly, that covered the good and the bad.
O’Reilly was a force offensively. He was one of the few consistents for the Blues in terms of effort and decision making with the puck.
His goal from the goal line was just fantastic. It was his fourth goal in six games, keeping a nice hot streak alive.
However, he was also part of the problem too. Like his former teammate David Perron, O’Reilly took a really foolish offensive zone penalty in the third period that led directly to a goal.
O’Reilly is normally Mr. Clean, almost always in the running for the Lady Byng trophy. However, he took two penalties in this game. Not only did the Caps get a goal on one, but O’Reilly is normally one of the team’s best penalty killers and he’s not on the ice.
O’Reilly turned it around in the end. He scored in the shootout to keep the Blues alive when it seemed like the second point was slipping away.
Even though the Blues got outplayed, if the game had ended after two periods, I’d have said it was a very good win for St. Louis. They would have earned it.
After 60 minutes and an overtime, I feel the Blues were more fortunate than anything. Their goaltender bailed them out.
A win is a win, but you can’t let your goalie get shelled with 51 shots. Greiss made 47 saves and almost lost the game because the Blues couldn’t move their feet enough to contain anyone.
All they needed to do was see the game out and play smart. Instead, they kept pushing their luck and it came back to bite them.
Greiss stopping some backdoor plays was the only thing that kept this from being a 7-4 loss.
On the plus side, you keep O’Reilly hot and Buchnevich came up big too with a goal in regulation and the shootout winner. On the negative side, the offense disappeared.
St. Louis had more shots on goal in overtime than they did in the entirety of the third period. That’s just unacceptable. I don’t care how tired you are, you should luck out into a couple rushes down the ice and hit the net to get an offensive zone faceoff. They didn’t even accomplish that.
As a fan, I will take the fifth straight win and put it in my pocket because the team needed it. As an analyst, it was not a good band of hockey and St. Louis was quite fortunate that Washington was that bad in the first period.