The St. Louis Blues had a decent overall game against the Colorado Avalanche, but they still lost. There was no time for many adjustments because the Nashville Predators were in town just a day later.
The Blues had a full 24 hours to recover since the Avalanche game was a matinee game. That doesn’t always mean there will be energy, but the Blues came out pretty well.
It was another tight game, which is typical of a divisional matchup. Still, St. Louis was much cleaner on the small areas of the game.
They gave the Predators two power plays in the first period. St. Louis killed them both and actually generated shorthanded chances each time. That’s important because the Blues have struggled to even clear the puck earlier this season, let alone carry it down the ice with possession.
Offensively, the Blues did a decent job. They actually outshot Nashville 9-7, showcasing some shots on goal and defensive stoutness. Even so, it just felt like there were not enough second chances. It was one and done.
The second period was more danger. Nashville started getting a much better feel for the game and creating better chances.
Jordan Binnington had to stop a few partial or full breakouts. The Blues had to kill off more penalties as well.
St. Louis’ offense cooled off, not really getting many looks. They only had four shots the entire period. You like the fact they’re playing a much tighter game, but you do still need to score.
That same mentality continued into the third period for both teams. Nashville had several quality looks in the first five minute, even if only three were on goal. Meanwhile, it took the Blues those same five minutes just to get two pucks on net.
They only ended the period with seven total shots in the third. They didn’t allow a ton, giving up eight shots, but it was just kind of a sloppy period.
St. Louis managed to hold on and get the game into overtime. The worry was dropping the points again, but at least it wasn’t a crestfallen point gained like the previous night.
In overtime, it was still kind of iffy. The Blues had a couple looks, but had some stuff not go their way.
They gave up a seeing-eye shot through some traffic that forced a great glove save. Brayden Schenn also broke his stick, but luckily nobody knew it for Nashville, so he just stood there with the puck at his feet for several seconds.
Finally, the Blues came down and connected on a rush play. Jordan Kyrou broke in on the wing and took the shot instead of passing. The save was made, but the net was empty for the rebound and Schenn buried if from the angle for a 1-0 win.
Cons: 2nd period penalties
For this one, I’m not really even blaming the referees. The calls made on Niko Mikkola and Colton Parayko were penalties by the letter of the law.
However, it’s those kinds of calls that make it very hard on the defensemen.
The Mikkola call, in particular, was very harsh. The Blues have needed guys to be stronger and clear opponents from the front of the net.
Mikkola did just that, getting especially physical when the Predator had bumped his goaltender. It was technically interference since Mikkola made no attempt at the puck, but you also can’t have guys in your crease.
On a similar play later on, Parayko blasted a guy into the boards. It was a clear cross check, so you get the penalty. However, the Blues absolutely need him to get more of an aggressive streak. It’s a shame he had to get penalized for it because, subconsciously, it makes it a negative even though he did what the coaching staff asked.
This was not an offensive firepower game. It did not require a ton of spectacular saves from either goaltender.
Nevertheless, for the second game in a row, Binnington made the saves he had to. He made a couple that were not supposed to be stopped too.
The glove save in overtime was very important. It’s a save he makes more often than not when he’s at his best, but we’ve seen those go in in recent times.
This was the Binnington the Blues need and have to have to turn things around. Not only did he make the stops, but he was just playing smart. In that incident where Schenn broke his stick, Binnington was aware and came out to play the puck until a teammate dropped back to take it from him.
There were no shenanigans or mind games. He was that calm, steadying presence back there.
It was worrisome when his glove hand got turned over by an uncalled interference late in the game. He stayed in there, gutted it out and made some important saves after that too.
Pro/Con: Special teams
We’ll start off with the positive. The penalty kill looked fantastic.
For the second night in a row, they looked like an actual effective penalty kill unit. They weren’t hemmed in their own zone for two full minutes as they have been recently.
Don’t give me the excuses of Nashville being one of the worst power plays or all the players that were not there for Colorado. It’s not about that. It’s about how utterly awful the PK has been and how a few practices have turned things around.
Not only are they actually clearing the puck when they can, but they’re generating chances. For two games in a row, the Blues have created several looks while shorthanded.
As good as the penalty kill was, the power play was equally ineffective. Their first two chances on the ice, they didn’t even get a shot on goal.
They’re still not moving the puck well enough. Everything is predictable and it just takes so long to get things in rhythm that the defense always has a chance to set up.
On one of the first two power plays, Justin Faulk got a shot off from the near side and John Kelly said the goaltender made a great move to get into position. It took forever for the shot to actually come, so there was no way the goaltender shouldn’t have been in position.
The third power play was a little more effective, but not enough to counter act the inefficiencies overall.
Pro: Overtime winner
The only goal of the game proved to be the game winner for the Blues. In and of itself, that’s enough to be a positive.
However, the goal itself was a primary example of how the Blues need to be treating their offense from now on. It was a goal off a rebound.
St. Louis does need to get to the dirty areas anyway, but that’s just a general mentality. They really need to start shooting to look for rebounds though.
I’m not saying Jordan Kyrou was not trying to score with his shot. However, by placing the shot to the far post from Kyrou’s perspective, you’re either going to score, bounce it off the pad or off the blocker.
Knowing Schenn was on the back side, you know that any loose puck has the opportunity to be gathered by a teammate. That’s exactly what happened.
Too often, the Blues look to make that pass and it gets picked off. If that happens in overtime, it’s game over because the numbers are going the other way with a two or three-on-one.
Look for the shotpass and good things can and should happen. They did here and Schenn cashed it in.
For different reasons, the Predators have struggles similarly to the Blues. However, the Avalanche had been struggling too, due to injuries, and the Blues could not take advantage well enough.
It was not pretty and it was not exciting, but they got the job done in this game and that is what is important. You cannot continue to keep dropping games and expect a miracle comeback in the second half.
The Blues need to start getting wins and this was an important one. It’s the old proverbial “four point” swing since it’s against a division opponent that’s ahead of you in the standings.
Things continue to be 50/50 for St. Louis. While it’s good they’re clamping down and keeping teams from lighting the lamp like a pinball game, it’s also disappointing that the offense has disappeared in the process.
However, we need wins. We don’t need pretty hockey.
At this juncture, as bad as things have been, I’d take 1995 New Jersey Devils-boring type of hockey if it meant the Blues were winning. Maybe that’s what they have to do for awhile, just try to slow the game up and grind it to a halt until they find their own game.
Whatever it takes. As long as Binnington is making the saves and you end up with at least one more goal than the opponent, it’s a good night.