St. Louis Blues Pros/Cons From 2022-23 Game 35 Vs Toronto

St. Louis BluesMandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
St. Louis BluesMandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports /
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The St. Louis Blues had a welcome break with their three days off for the Christmas holiday. They were coming off a long road trip where they took seven of 10 points out west.

The Blues looked like a much fresher team given their time off. Despite a good start, they found themselves down early.

Toronto took a shot that rang off the crossbar and the Maple Leafs got the bounce. It came out clean to the right circle where Toronto had an open player to smack it back into a mainly open net for the 1-0 lead.

The Blues weathered a storm where the Leafs had them hemmed in. Toronto couldn’t take advantage of some St. Louis mistakes though, so it stayed 1-0 for the first eight minutes.

St. Louis finally got some momentum back and a little offensive zone time. It would be an unconventional player to tie the game as Calle Rosen scored with a slap shot from the left side to make it 1-1. The goal was scored because the goaltender slipped and was down on his belly, but those are the things you need to take advantage of.

The Blues were unable to take advantage of their next scenario. Though they did get two shots, their first power play was mostly ineffective. They did have decent zone time, but they just weren’t able to get much away from the perimeter.

The Blues were actually doing a good job of defending, keeping most shots off the board and holding Toronto to only five shots on goal in the period. Unfortunately, all it takes is one for the Maple Leafs.

The Leafs were able to go quickly from the left corner to the right circle, getting the defense a little off. The movement also kept Jordan Binnington deep in his net for the Jonathan Tavares shot that snuck under his glove for a 2-1 lead in the final minute of the period.

The second period was some back and forth to start, but the Blues seemed relatively engaged. They were allowing some shots, but limiting the second opportunities for the most part.

The Blues got a power play after a dangerous contact put Robert Thomas into the boards. Instead of tying the game, the Blues let up one of the more embarrassing shorthanded goals you will see.

Toronto somehow got a three-on-one attack while the Blues were on the power play. Despite not getting a shot on that, the Blues never recovered properly and a quick cycle ended up with an empty net tap in off a toe save. The fact that Jordan Kyrou was the man closest to the middle of the ice that close to the net was ridiculous.

St. Louis came close to getting the next goal. After a great bounce off the end wall, Noel Acciari was absolutely robbed by a glove save to keep the score 3-1 Leafs.

The score didn’t stay that way for long after the chance. Ryan O’Reilly stickhandled into the zone, waited the defenders off and then snapped one into the upper 90 on the glove side.

Not long after the goal, St. Louis earned another power play. Initially, it seemed like they would have good possession with nothing to show.

After some failed zone entries, the Blues finally got reestablished and scored. A quick cycle around landed with Justin Faulk, whose slapshot beat the goalie under the blocker to tie it 3-3.

The game kept twisting and turning though. A few minutes later Toronto regained the lead when Binnington went into the butterfly on a tight angle from the right side of the rink. Calle Jarnkrok was on the far post and managed to just sneak it over the goal line before Binnington could recover.

The Blues were buzzing to open the third period. They did waste another power play, but they had tons of possession, which led to the next few minutes.

St. Louis kept pressing and pressing. A fantastic screen from Robert Thomas helped a roof shot from Jordan Kyrou to make it 4-4.

The Blues managed to get it to overtime, but just barely as Toronto was coming. It seemed like the Blues would take it in overtime as they didn’t even allow the Leafs any possession for a good two minutes.

St. Louis couldn’t really get many good looks though since three-on-three is a ridiculous concept and you can’t even cycle the puck properly. Then, the tables turned.

Toronto got a partial break and Jordan Kyrou hauled the guy down. Instead of a penalty, it was given a penalty shot, which Binnington stopped.

It was the Blues that couldn’t get the puck back from then on. Toronto was hammering to get the game winner, but Binner made three great saves in a row.

St. Louis finally gained the offensive zone and were trying to work the puck around. Unfortunately, Vladimir Tarasenko got poke checked and William Nylander scored on the ensuing breakaway to take the 5-4 overtime win.

Pros: Comeback kids

Of course, a worry for the Blues is the amount of goals they allow and the game ended with five against. However, it was a different kind of game.

St. Louis never let the Maple Leafs run away with it. The Blues never let them score a bunch of goals in just a couple minutes.

The Blues made a mistake here or there and it cost them, but they settled down and rebounded quickly. They didn’t have that typical stretch where things just snowballed and got out of control.

St. Louis did fall down by two goals once, but they kept coming back. They tied the game three times in a game where Toronto was actually playing pretty good defensively.

The downer is they never held the lead at any point in this game. Still, to keep right in there with one of the better teams in the league this season and not let them run away with things is a step in the right direction.

Cons: Continuing to pass up shots

The Blues have gotten better at getting pucks to the net compared to earlier in the season. They’re getting pass-first guys like Ryan O’Reilly and Robert Thomas to shoot and it’s paying off.

There’s nothing wrong with 34 shots on goal either. That’s a good amount and a decent percentage of those were nice chances.

The problem is the Blues still pass up way too many. The first two power plays went by the wayside without any truly good looks. Yes, there were shots, but the Blues just keep passing and passing and don’t create any space for themselves.

Then there’s clear opportunities they do pass up. The worst might have been Brayden Schenn at the end of the game.

He had a clean lane to the net and peeled away with a pass toward O’Reilly, who was open on the back side. The angle was too difficult though and a shot was the much better option, but the Blues got nothing out of it instead.

There were other times when they passed up shooting opportunities as well. These things happen to every team, but it just seems like it happens more to St. Louis.

Cons: Back check effort

I love Tarasenko. I really like Kyrou and most the players on this team.

However, you can attribute a failure to skate back properly by important players as the reason the Blues lost this game. There’s a bunch of different mistakes that played different parts along the way, but if you eliminate the shorthanded goal, this game doesn’t go to overtime. If Tarasenko keeps moving his skates, the overtime goal doesn’t happen.

As mentioned above, the shorthanded goal was simply embarrassing. The initial failure to get back to allow a three-on-one was bad enough.

Then, you actually get all your guys in the zone and still have an unguarded Leafs player in front of the net? That’s unacceptable.

For Tarasenko, maybe he gets a partial pass since he had been on the ice longer than a normal shift. He had an opportunity to change and didn’t, so that’s on him. If you stay out there, you have to have the energy to recover in those situations.

Ideally, I’d like him to not even turn the puck over. Craig Berube suggested that simply skating out of the zone with purpose would have retained possession.

Tarasenko just compounded a miscue with a mistake. He stopped skating and didn’t have the ability to recharge his stride.

He turned his back to the offensive zone and either didn’t realize or have the urgency to do anything about the pressure. Holding the zone is secondary to holding the puck. He gave up both.

Once he turned the puck over, there was little chance to catch up given he was out there at the end of the shift. Even so, you’d like to see a little more stride and maybe an attempt to dive after the puck. Take a penalty if you have to.

The downside is that those guys had decent games overall. All it takes is one play though.

Pros: Binner and Parayko

Two guys that have been under the microscope, for good reason, had good games in this one.

The haters are going to hate. Parayko was getting blasted on Facebook for not clearing the front of the net like Chris Pronger. You simply cannot do that any longer in today’s game, no matter how much we want them to.

Similarly, haters will ask how Binnington had a good game when he allowed five goals. 32 saves, including 13 of 14 in the third period and overtime say he did have a good game.

I saw fools blaming him for the 2-1 score when Toronto was ahead. Apparently, it was even discussed during intermission of the Edmonton-Calgary game. I don’t understand how people that should be rational or have watched the game long enough can make it that big a talking point. The first goal was a crossbar shot that went directly to a Toronto player. The second goal, Binnington may have been too deep in the net, but you can’t just magically push your way out of the crease in real time. We judge goalie movement on slow motion replays far too often and it’s not realistic.

Binnington kept the Blues in the game a lot, especially at the end of the game. Parayko was as mobile, agile and alert as I’ve seen him in ages.

Hate them if you want, but I’ll take the exact same effort from both guys any night of the week.

Overview

This was an earned point. The one against Vegas felt like a point given away.

The problem becomes that, in the larger scheme, the Blues need to start getting two points more often than not. If every game went to overtime, including the ones they lost, then we could say all the points are great.

The Blues need to win these games though. They certainly played well enough to win.

For whatever reason, this season seems to have every mistake end up in the back of the net. St. Louis only made a handful of mistakes, but just about every one seemed to cost them.

The one thing still saving the Blues right now is that the Western Conference stinks overall. Other than Dallas and maybe Winnipeg, nobody is really that far out of reach for the Blues.

As stated, they have to start getting two points. Moral victories don’t count in the standings, so we can only say that this guy or that line or even the whole team is clearly taking steps in the right direction so much without it showing in the result when 60 minutes is over.