The St. Louis Blues just can’t seem to catch a break in 2022-23. They always say to be the best, you have to beat the best, but with the team in their second major losing streak, they need something to go good for them.
It was not going to be easy against the New York Islanders. The Blues get a large portion of whatever offense they do have from their defensemen. The Islanders came in as one of the best in the league at not allowing shots through from the point.
Whatever the reason, the Blues offense continued to struggle. Over halfway through the first period, they only had two shots on goal despite having two power plays in that time.
In the final five minutes, the Blues had only acquired four shots on goal. It wasn’t as though the Blues had no possession, but everything was blocked or shot wide, making it useless.
Despite the lack of statistical production, the Blues kept plugging away. It eventually paid off as they took a 1-0 lead late in the period. Josh Leivo got his first of the season, snapping one across the grain from the right circle.
Alas, the lead didn’t even last 40 seconds. The Islanders scored on their next shift when the Blues could not get it out of the zone.
The second period was a bit of back and forth. The Blues were not allowing much, but they did have a few gaps and Thomas Greiss made a couple big saves to calm things.
That allowed the Blues to counter. A transition play for the fourth line started with Will Bitten on the left feeing Ivan Barbashev for a one timer on the right and a 2-1 lead.
It looked as though things would turn south again as the Blues took a penalty a couple shifts after their goal. With the worst penalty kill in the league, you expect bad things, but they managed to kill it off.
We saw a flash and glimpse of the Blues as we used to know them. Though they only had 10 shots roughly halfway through the game, they started hitting passes and cycling the puck like we used to see.
That paid off as the Blues finally got some cushion. Ryan O’Reilly shrugged off a defender on the end line, got a shot off and then dove around the goalie to jam home his own rebound for a 3-1 score.
The Islanders got some looks in the last couple minutes. Greiss and the defense managed to take care of business. Like the night before, it came down to the third period with the Blues in the lead.
For once, the Blues didn’t sit back and let the Islanders come to them. They got on the front foot and attacked and were finally rewarded.
Noel Acciari made it 4-1 at 3:37 of the period. A shot from the point found Acciari in front who just redirected it with the shaft of his stick.
13 seconds later, Colton Parayko scored. His shot appeared to knuckle or almost move like an offspeed pitch, but it scored and the Blues were up 5-1.
This season, nothing can be comfortable though. Another questionable penalty call cost the Blues a goal when the Islanders scored on the ensuing power play.
You’d think a 5-2 score might be alright. Not so much.
The Blues got pinned in their own zone with under six minutes to go. A harmless shot from the far well got tipped and over the blocker shoulder to make it 5-3.
The Islanders pulled the goalie, but scored before he even fully got on the bench. A wrap around pass went off Robert Thomas’ skate and in to make it 5-4.
Nobody would accuse anyone of overreacting if they thought the collapse was on. St. Louis was scrambling to hold a one-goal lead just minutes after being ahead by four.
Somehow, the Blues found a bit of grit and battled it out. They would score two empty net goals, one by Thomas and the other by Acciari, and skate home with a 7-4 win.
Part of the reason the Blues have been so lackluster throughout their losing streaks is an odd penchant for getting outworked. There were still times where that happened in this game, but not for the most part.
The reason they were successful is they outworked the Islanders. It wasn’t just the grinders, but everyone.
Guys like Vladimir Tarasenko and Jordan Kyrou were winning puck battles, or at least recovering quickly if they lost it. The defenders were doing a relatively good job of fronting their targets and eliminating them before they could get to loose pucks.
The guys that have worked hardest, even playing poorly, got their just rewards. Acciari got two goals, O’Reilly scored on a fantastic second effort and Leivo, one of the team’s biggest workhorses, finally put one in the back of the net.
Barbashev scored and he’s been needing one. It was a good, workman-like game and effort.
Cons: Another 3-goal period
It’s almost hard to count the Islanders’ fourth goal. That was such a fluke to just go off Thomas’ skate like that.
However, that’s been the luck of the Blues. If they didn’t have bad luck, they’d have no luck at all.
Regardless of how it happened, this was yet another three-goal period against the Blues. It’s the 17th time that’s happened.
It’s hard to say how they’re supposed to combat it. Other games they’ve been at fault and here it could have in a way, but not in other ways.
The penalty kill continues to be a hinderance, allowing another power play goal. Yet, the penalty should never have been called.
There’s not much Faulk could do because he positioned himself outside to allow Greiss a chance to see. There’s not much Greiss could do since it was tipped. However, the Blues have to clear that zone before that shot even comes around.
Nothing Thomas could do when the puck hits his skate before he can even react. St. Louis needs to be closer to the puck carrier though, in a general sense.
It was mostly bad luck, but you just can’t keep having this happen.
Look at the stats and four goals doesn’t look good. However, Greiss faced 40 shots, which means he still had a .900 save percentage.
Beyond the numbers, he made the saves he needed to and several that the team really needed him to. You don’t expect a lot of flash from Greiss, but he came up big.
He was in control of his rebounds, which has been the lone detraction for him other than his stick handling. He was also less conventional, which made him slightly harder to beat.
Everyone is a butterfly goalie now, but Greiss didn’t automatically go down every single time. This allowed him to rise up and body away some of the higher shots instead of trying to fight them off with an outstretched arm.
Nobody is going to start saying Greiss needs to be the fulltime starter. This was the exact kind of game the Blues need from their backup though.
Well, a win is a win. The four-game losing streak, which could have been seven if not for that win in Florida, is done.
Maybe this was the kind of win that will shake the Blues a little. They didn’t play perfectly and things did go against them, but they found a way to get it done.
They overcame a couple bad penalties and some bad bounces. Instead of just looking to the heavens when it was 5-4, they buckled down and got it done.
The goals allowed is surely not sustainable. We’re barely a quarter of the way in and the team has already allowed almost 100 goals.
For 60 minutes, we couldn’t worry about that. The offense did its job and everything else fell into place enough for the W.
The Blues can worry about how to stop the goals on the plane home.