The St. Louis Blues were coming into Edmonton fresh. They had just won a hard fought victory over the Nashville Predators and then had a couple days off.
They needed that time off to try and hang with one of the fastest and best offenses in the league. You have to be on your game to do that.
Unfortunately, the players were put behind the eight ball because the coaching staff was not on their game. Almost immediately the Blues were shorthanded because of a little known rule that makes putting a starting lineup out there that differs from what you wrote on the official line card a penalty.
Of course, with the Blues penalty kill still trying to not be the worst in the league, the Oilers scored. The goal came less than 30 seconds after the penalty at 1:03 of the period. That’s a tough way to start.
St. Louis started battling back, though the offense was still not getting many looks. They finished the first period with just five shots on target.
Fortunately, they did make one of those shots count. Actually pulling off a line change at the right time, Jordan Kyrou came off the bench with the Blues in control of the puck below the goal line. They found him in stride and he fired a missile off the post, backbar and out to tie the game 1-1.
St. Louis got away with a too many men penalty in the first period. They would not get away with it in the second period as Connor McDavid snapped a laser over the blocker of Jordan Binnington to retake the lead at 2-1.
Like in the first period, the Blues started getting back in the game. They had more rushes and more shots, but the power play continued to be a disappointment and it was still a one-goal deficit heading into the third.
St. Louis had the remnants of a power play to start the third period and got a wide open look for Torey Krug. Kyrou actually blocked his own teammate’s shot, taking it off the shin, proving that the Blues just have no good luck at all right now.
The Blues kept giving the Oilers chances to get away. Pavel Buchnevich took a high stick when he slipped, but the Blues killed it even with several times Binnington was forced to scramble.
St. Louis looked poised to tie the game. They had fought off good looks for McDavid with strong defending and were playing on their toes.
Their luck refuses to change though. A harmless shot from the point got deflected from the middle to the post and through the defender’s legs to make it 3-1.
The Blues actually got back into it quickly. 49 seconds later, Robert Thomas actually snapped one in from the right circle to make it 3-2 with still more than eight minutes left.
A little over a minute after that, it seemed as though the Oilers would double the lead again. They had three cracks at it and, somehow, Binnington kept them all out to give his team a chance.
All hell broke loose at the end of this contest. First off, the Blues pulled the goaltender, which almost never works.
It appeared to not work in this game since St. Louis couldn’t even get the puck close to the net and then got called for a penalty. The Blues proved their better five-on-five, even if they don’t have a goalie, than with a man advantage.
Tarasenko had a great keep in and the Blues worked the puck around. They found Tarasenko in the slot in the dying seconds and he fired in the tying goal.
St. Louis killed off the remnants of the power play in overtime, but it looked like Leon Draisaitl had the game winner when the Blues never took possession after a poke check by Ryan O’Reilly led to a two-on-one.
A review proved McDavid was offside, so the Blues had life. Then O’Reilly missed an empty net after deking the goaltender, but he could not get it back on his forehand.
For once, the Blues finally took advantage of the rare good fortune. After the Oilers missed their first shootout chance, Kyrou hit his. Binnington made that stand up with two saves and the Blues grabbed a 4-3 win.
Cons: Coaching blunders
When you’re in the middle of a bad season, you need things to go your way. You have to get some good luck to help you out at times.
When things are really bad, things go against you even when the players are playing fine. That’s what happened here.
St. Louis actually had a decent game. When you look at how things transpired, St. Louis could have been ahead 1-0, in theory.
I’m curious how Craig Berube wrote down Brayden Schenn when Brandon Saad has been on that line every time when he’s healthy. It’s a penalty you never see and slightly incomprehensible when you know it’s the coach writing down the lineup card that gets handed in.
The too many men penalties were borderline, so maybe you don’t blame the coaches. They were just going for a normal line change and had bad luck with the puck getting fired over. Still, you need to be yelling at guys to get their skates off the ice because that’s what cost the Blues. Both times, if the player had some urgency to get off the ice and onto the bench, the refs may have let things go.
This was a very hard game for Binnington. You have to be aware of two of the best scorers in the game, deal with big forwards that will create traffic and stay focuses.
On top of those worries, Binnington actually didn’t have much to do in terms of actually handling the puck. Despite a flurry of activity, the Oilers only got 26 shots in regulation.
However, sometimes that’s not as good. When you’re constantly aware of a team’s offensive ability, but not actually making the saves and still forced to scramble, it’s a mental battle. You’re grateful that some of the chances never materialized, but still mentally strained by not stopping shots.
Binnington was cool and collected. He never showed that fiery side, which is when he’s at his best.
That string of three saves in the third period proved to be game saving. If it’s 4-2 then, the game is over. Instead, he gave the Blues a chance and they actually capitalized.
Cons: Power play
The Blues seemed to make some adjustments later in the game. They appeared to have two players, whether two defenders or a forward and defender, on the blue line in their fourth power play.
That’s when they had their most sustained pressure. Perhaps they need to keep two at the point from now on.
The one man at the point is not working. Nobody respects anyone’s shot down low, so all the PK’s just pressure relentlessly and the Blues turn the puck over constantly.
With only one man at the point, it’s easy to defend. PK defenders know that everything is taken away, so they give just enough to force that pass to the point and all it takes is a well placed stick to knock it away or spring a breakaway.
When the Blues had two at the point, the defense was scrambling a bit more. I’m no hockey genius and the coaches know more about the game than I could hope, but they cannot keep rolling the same crap out there and expect different results.
0-4 is terrible. Even Bernie Federko, who is Mr. Sunshine, said the game doesn’t get to overtime if they score one or two power play goals. Instead, the Blues were fortunate to grind it out in spite of their awful special teams.
Pros: Top guys
While they didn’t play together as a trio, the once top line for the Blues consisting of Thomas, Tarasenko and Kyrou all played a huge role in this game. Of course, as they are want to do, they all still had maddening plays that make you want to rip some leg hair out.
However, their overall game has still improved vastly. Thomas still passes far too much, but his goal totals show that he’s being rewarded when he actually shoots the puck.
In fact, Thomas and Tarasenko led the team with five shots apiece. Thomas had a goal and was a plus-2.
Tarasenko had the game-tying goal. That goal doesn’t even happen if Tarasenko doesn’t put his stick out and keep the puck in the zone for the Blues to cycle it back around.
Then Tarasenko played a small role in the first goal too. He picked the right time to go off for a change and didn’t doddle either.
The timing played a big part as Kyrou could join the play without anyone knowing he was there. He then sizzled one in.
St. Louis has to have these guys humming to really get on a roll. They’re not going to get any of them to go on a McDavid-like point streak, but if they can get goals or points every other game, St. Louis is going to have every chance to win.
This was the kind of game the Blues really needed to win to hopefully get something rolling. They had a stout defensive performance against Nashville, but they needed the kind of game where things don’t fall your way, but you still keep going until the bitter end and that effort forces some good fortune.
The Blues couldn’t catch a break in some ways. They hit plenty of posts and both too many men penalties could have been let go if they had more sense than to jump over before the guy they’re replacing hit the bench.
They did get some breaks too. The Oilers hit some bars as well and I could have easily seen the officials claiming McDavid was still in control when he crossed the line on that offside goal in overtime.
It wasn’t all that pretty or flashy and not everyone had a great game. However, this was a Blues win and not just in the literal sense.
They overcame their mistakes. More often than not, guys were getting back and breaking up plays after they made turnovers.
Other than the power plays, the Blues offense was pretty decent, the first period not withstanding. They got bodies to the front of the net, even if it was guys like Thomas and Kyrou who don’t really know what to do once they’re there.
This was a big win. I’m not going to say it can turn the season around, but just put a little asterisk next to it on the calendar.
It was a game that easily could have, and maybe should have, slipped away. It didn’t and the Blues claimed two big points.