The St. Louis Blues had an uplifting win against the Edmonton Oilers just a night before. There was no time to celebrate as they had to get ready for another Alberta game, this time against the Calgary Flames.
Despite having finished less than 24 hours before, the Blues got off to a good start. Just a little over four minutes in, the Blues got an odd-man rush. Ivan Barbashev and Robert Thomas kept going back and forth and despite little room, Thomas found Barby on the late pass and the Russian winger put it into an empty net for the 1-0 lead.
St. Louis had the better of play for most of the first period. They led the shot battle up until the end of the period, but even with Calgary getting more shots, the Blues had better opportunities. They had some blocked and missed on some.
Even with improved play, the Blues luck continued to be a mixed bag. Though they had played solid defense, the Flames still got on the board. A seemingly harmless shot ended up deflecting off the body of a Flames forward, even though it was initially going wide. The period ended 1-1.
St. Louis wasted little time retaking the lead in the second period. A little over a minute into a tripping call, the Blues scored a power play goal with Jordan Kyrou making it 2-1. The Blues actually had a shorthanded odd-man rush going against them, but they broke it up and scored from the right circle before the defense could fully reestablish themselves.
After that, the Blues cooled off a bit. They were not trying to play defensively, but they had to kill off three straight power plays in the second period alone.
Each one was a legitimate call, but one or two could have been non-calls if the referee chose. They did not and the Blues were fortunate to kill off all of them, including 20-plus seconds of a five-on-three.
The Flames used those, despite not scoring, to get themselves rolling on the offensive end. The lead only remained due to Thomas Greiss making some very good saves.
The offensive push continued in the third period for Calgary. The Blues were on their heels the first four minutes.
However, a quick counter attack increased the lead. For whatever reason, Pavel Buchnevich had ages of time to look at the net from the right circle and he fired one under the blocker and off the far post to make it 3-1.
That ignited the Blues a bit more. They almost got a fourth goal minutes after, but Brayden Schenn was denied on a rebound chance on the doorstep by a sprawling save.
The Flames turned the tables though. Just like the Blues struck after the Flames had control, the Flames did the same when it seemed like St. Louis would run away.
Calgary gained the zone and hit the trail man and nobody for St. Louis could pressure him from the blue line to the high slot. A well placed shot from Connor Mackey beat Greiss on the glove side to make it 3-2.
St. Louis didn’t hang their head though, getting right back to work. Some offensive zone pressure turned the puck over and Brandon Saad tucked it five hole for a 4-2 lead. Interestingly, the defender that scored for Calgary was the same one that turned it over, cancelling one of his two goals.
The Blues struck again quickly. Another turnover, this time in their own zone, sprang a rush for Robert Thomas and Kyrou. Kyrou went back to Thomas with the late pass, but it went off the defender’s skate, giving Kyrou his second of the night.
The Blues saw out the rest of the contest pretty safely. Calgary kept throwing pucks at the net, but the Blues were doing a good job of limiting chances by blocking shots and keeping most shots from the perimeter.
The Flames didn’t bother pulling the goaltender. St. Louis skated off with a 5-2 win.
Pros: Kyrou and Thomas
Jordan Kyrou is the single player example of what seems to be going on with a lot of the team. The players that had the most pressure on them are finally settling in and performing up to expectations.
Kyrou has been on fire lately and continued it in this game. He had five points in his last five games prior to Calgary and increased that by adding the two goals, giving him three goals and seven points in six games.
On top of that, it’s the eye test that Kyrou is passing as well. In the previous night, he knocked the puck away from Connor McDavid and set up the game-tying goal. In this game, he was equally as feisty on the puck.
Kyrou is working harder away from the puck. He’s never going to be the defensive forward of the year, but he’s working and not just standing around like he was last season and earlier this year.
He’s stronger on the puck as well. There’s still a time here or there where the puck is poked loose a little to easy, but not nearly as often and Kyrou is becoming more aware of his surroundings and avoiding those situations before they even happen. He’s got better strength and when it does get knocked loose, he’s getting it back almost immediately more often than not.
The same goes for Robert Thomas. He’s completely turned things around, shooting more and actually connecting on passes instead of hitting the opponent more often than not.
Thomas picked up a couple assists, including one on the first and last goal. That gives him six points in his last six games and at least a point in 15 of his last 19 games.
Cons: Too many shots against
Credit goes to the defense for blocking 15 shots. More credit goes to Greiss for having an excellent game and making several quality saves.
However, with that in mind, the Blues just gave up way too many looks. Calgary ended the game with 43 shots on target.
They probably attempted nearly double that. That might be a little hyperbole, but it’s not as far off as you might think.
Calgary actually took 76 attempts on goal, shown on the postgame stats for Bally Sports Midwest.
As Jamie Rivers pointed out, despite the huge number, the Blues didn’t allow many grade-A looks. Overall, the Flames only had 18 quality chances which is an insanely low number for that many attempts.
Still, you’d like to not even give Calgary the attempt if you can.
Pros: Penalty kill
We can argue the quality of the penalties called, as with any game. However, as bad as it has been in recent times, the penalty kill was a big reason the Blues won this game.
The second period, in particular, was huge for this game. The referees gave Calgary three power plays in that period alone in a period of less than five minutes.
That’s a lot of time spent killing penalties in a short amount of game. That’s taxing on your penalty killers because teams don’t usually alter the set of guys they use in penalty kill situations very often.
Greiss was a reason the PK did a quality job. He stopped all six shots he faced while Calgary was on the power play and he didn’t allow any big rebounds to give Calgary any chance to scramble around.
As streaky as the Blues have been this season, we cannot get too excited about a three-game win streak. Even with that in mind, it’s hard not to feel much better about this team.
They’re starting to win and also playing Blues hockey. They’re never going to be perfect, but there’s a jump about the team.
Guys are playing on their toes and look like they have legs again. The lines are finding consistency and are clicking much better instead of just looking like a bunch of randoms that have never even practiced together.
The defenders are not getting separated from the forwards and vice versa. Most importantly, guys aren’t just throwing pucks around, hoping it ends up somewhere good.
You’ll always have turnovers and bungled plays, but there’s a difference between that and just handing the puck over because you had no clue where anyone was and still just threw the puck into space. You keep possession much more when you actually know what you’re attempting and to whom.
Unfortunately, the problem the Blues have is that they can’t rest on their laurels. You don’t want to anyway, but they’ve fallen behind enough that they have to keep winning just to get back into playoff contention.
The benefit they have going forward is they’re playing many Pacific Division teams on this road trip. St. Louis is 8-2 against the Pacific this season.
Considering they only have 15 wins, this road trip might be perfectly timed since over half those wins have come against this division. They just need to keep it going against Vancouver now.