The St. Louis Blues were in desperate need of something positive as they attempted to stop yet another losing streak. Playing the Pittsburgh Penguins, with six wins and points in eight games of their last 10, was not going to be easy, especially on the road.
Fortunately, for those that have lost faith in this team, they were not forced to stick around very long. The Blues gave them every indication of how this game would go pretty early.
Pittsburgh got on the board first, scoring their opening goal at 6:58 of the first period. The Penguins scored just after a power play had ended, with the backdoor play going off their skate, off Jordan Binnington and in. It was an excellent indicator of how this game, and the season has gone.
The Blues seemed to settle down a little bit. They weren’t quite their frantic selves, ready to allow another goal within 30 seconds.
The Penguins still scored another. Five minutes later, the Penguins walked it out of the corner after a Binnington turnover and Calle Rosen’s skate took the goalie’s stick out of the play, forcing Binnington out of his normal crouch and Pittsburgh beat him to the glove side for a 2-0 lead.
The Blues gave fans hope by cutting the lead in half less than a minute later. Pavel Buchnevich snuck one through, scoring his eighth of the season to make it 2-1.
St. Louis just can’t have nice things though, as they took a penalty shortly after. The Penguins scored as the penalty was just about over, connecting on another back-door play after an unbelievable pass from Evgeni Malkin and it was 3-1.
Even then, it seemed doable. The Blues have come back from larger deficits than three.
That went by the wayside almost immediately. The Penguins made it 4-1 at 1:51 of the second period.
To their credit, the Blues didn’t fall completely to pieces. In fact, they gave a glimmer of hope again to those that continue to believe.
After a good defensive stand, they sprang Vladimir Tarasenko on a breakaway. Tarasenko just slipped it through the legs and made it 4-2 with his sixth of the season.
The Blues took another dumb penalty on the next shift. Pittsburgh, again, scored late in the power play with Kasperi Kapanen knocking it in for his hat trick and a 5-2 lead.
The Penguins just shut things down in the third period. The Blues might have had 13 shots, but the comeback attempt was not even anything threatening.
Despite being down by three, the Blues pulled the goaltender anyway. Sidney Crosby scored not long after to make 6-2 the final.
Cons: Penalty kill
In 2021-22, the Blues had top five power play and penalty kill units in the entire NHL. Now, they’re one of the worst.
The power play is embarrassing, but still sort of middle of the pack. The penalty kill is legitimately horrible. They’re 30th in the league.
Statistically, the Penguins went 2/4 on the power play. In reality, that number might as well say 3/4 because the opening goal of the game came a second or two after the penalty elapsed.
Whether it counts as a statistical power play or not, the truth is that the penalty kill unit allowed that goal. They allowed three goals.
Basically, all three came on the same kind of play. The Malkin pass was unbelievable, but the Blues still have no answer to the back door play.
I don’t know what the answer is either. If you spread out the defenders to guard that back post, you leave the middle exposed. St. Louis is already giving up a ton of slot chances, so more of those isn’t good either.
I have to wonder who was in charge of the PK unit last season and if they’re still around or not. It makes no sense to be great last year and just assume they’re going to allow goals this year.
Pros: Russian duo
There really wasn’t much good to speak of in this game. However, we’ll throw a token positive reference to the two goal scorers.
When things are going badly, you want your top guys to step up. At least from the offensive side, Buchnevich and Tarasenko did that for the Blues.
Buchnevich now has four goals in his last six games. His line also got the only bit of credit from Craig Berube too.
For his part, Tarasenko has been quiet offensively. It hasn’t been for lack of trying, but he had been in one of his slumps.
Scoring his sixth goal was a big deal. He gave the Blues life, finished off a breakaway and hopefully started one of his patented hot streaks.
It was only his second goal since November 3. But, he has two goals in his last four.
I have long been someone who said you take the bad with the good for Binnington. While I didn’t like his past antics, it seemed to play well with the crowd and usually hit the right cord with his teammates.
His antics are becoming detrimental. It’s a distraction more now.
Binninton played quite well early in the game. Even when he allowed the three first period goals, he was the reason the Blues were still close. He made good saves and there was nothing he could do about the back door stuff.
However, he looked out of sorts. He was fidgety and slightly out of control in his movements.
The Penguins didn’t make it easy on him either. They were constantly in his kitchen and bumping him and he just kind of had it.
He pie-faced Jason Zucker in the first period. That play did showcase that NHL refs just make up calls since they called it a high stick. St. Louis lucked out that you can’t hand out a different penalty when reviewing the one call being a double minor.
Nevertheless, while it didn’t end up a penalty, it was the precursor. Binnington got pulled after the fourth goal and after he was assessed a 10-minute misconduct.
I totally get Binnington’s frustration, but the Blues need the ice-in-the-veins goalie, not the hot head right now.
The Blues are not as bad as they’re showing right now. And, yet they are.
They are because there isn’t any one thing that they can correct to fix this. It’s not as though you can point and say if this was changed, all would be well.
Everything is currently wrong. Every player is contributing to the lack of success.
It used to be you could say that the goalies were not part of the problem. Even that isn’t true any longer.
Thomas Greiss was a calming presence once he came in. He made some good saves too, giving the Blues the opportunity to at least ponder making a comeback.
His only goal allowed was another power play score. This team just lacks the will.
There’s no fight. There’s no energy.
They’re out there playing, but there’s no giddy up. It’s all straight-legged gliding and reaching for stuff. Nobody is willing to take those extra three strides to put someone through the wall and take the puck.
Everything is done out of fear right now. That’s a recipe for continuing to lose.
Maybe a shakeup is necessary. The problem is that nothing is available and no one deal will fix this team because all 18-plus players are part of the problem