The St. Louis Blues have looked better in their last few games, but came up on the short end. Despite forcing overtime against two division leaders in Vegas and Toronto, it was two combined points dropped in their last two games.
St. Louis really needed a win. Looking at the standings, a win should be easy against the Chicago Blackhawks.
No matter which team is terrible, it’s often not an easy win. That’s how it would turn out in this game.
Regardless of what you want to blame it on, the Blues just weren’t good enough in the first period. Some might say the Blues played down to Chicago’s level or they thought things might be easier than they were.
It doesn’t matter. St. Louis was somewhat fortunate to get out of the first 20 minutes with the score tied.
Despite a sloppy opening period overall, the Blues got on the board first just over three minutes in. It was a great effort goal.
Josh Leivo cashed in twice, in a way. His check on the nearside wall forced a slightly bad pass, which the Blues turned over. St. Louis then went tic-tac-toe for a tap in by Leivo and a 1-0 score.
The Blues kept that score line almost half the period, but then they got too loose. Some poor puck management led to a two-on-one break and Chicago also got a breakaway as well, which the Blues were fortunate to keep out.
Their luck could only hold so long. Chicago eventually got one in on the power play after a failed clearing attempt allowed the Blackhawks to find Patrick Kane for a screened wrister from the left circle.
St. Louis calmed things down and put the clamps on in the second period. After being outshot in the first, the Blues hit the net 15 times in the second period compared to just five for Chicago.
The Blues only cashed in on one of those shots, but that’s all they would end up needing. A little over eight minutes in, Chicago blindly put a puck from their endwall out through the middle. Calle Rosen said thank you very much and smashed a wrister past the goaltender’s blocker for a 2-1 lead.
St. Louis made it ugly in the third period, but effective enough. There were only 11 total shots between the two teams in the final frame, six of which came from Chicago.
Still, the Blues did well under pressure and stood up for their goaltender. Even when under pressure and the Blackhawks net empty, St. Louis didn’t allow a shot on goal in the final minute of play.
Former Blackhawk Brandon Saad put the icing on the cake with a long-range empty net goal. St. Louis won it 3-1.
Cons: Sloppy first period
One thing I have come to realize about this incarnation of the Blues is that they are what they are. They have the talent to be better, but the reality is they are a middle of the road team.
With that in mind, we can’t sit here and say they’re light years above the Blackhawks. The Blues are capable of competing with the very best in the league, but they’re also not that much better than the worst.
So, they need to always come out hard and expect a hard game. Too often, that is not the case and it felt like the case here.
I don’t want to say they overlooked Chicago, but I do wonder if they were subconsciously hoping for an easier game. When Chicago came to play in the first period, the Blues were just on their heels.
The passing was not very good. The shots were not of great quality it was just not a great period.
We’ve seen far worse, for sure. You would just like to think that getting a goal in the first five minutes would charge this team up and they’d get things rolling.
Instead, it felt like they were fortunate to be tied after the opening frame.
Before the social media crew gets overboard, let’s pump the brakes and realize that there is a reason that Calle Rosen has not established himself as an every day player in the NHL. He’s 28 years old and never played more than 18 games in a season.
However, for the last two games, and maybe for the short-term future, he’s what the Blues have needed. He’s a straight forward player.
You know what you’re getting from Rosen. He’s pretty steady on the defensive side of things, rarely getting too far out of position because he’s trying to do too much.
Offensively, he’s also what the Blues need. He’s already set a career high for goals, so every goal he gets from here on out is the most he’s ever scored.
With that in mind, we should not count on him to score goals. Yet, the reason he is scoring is because he’s shooting the puck.
I’m not even approaching this from the whole perspective of a fan that randomly yells shoot every time a player touches the puck because they’re too dimwitted to realize a shooting lane might not actually be there. But, the Blues are far too selective when they have no right to be, so it’s nice to have a guy that will just rip it because he sees the lane.
He’s been rewarded for that mentality. Two goals in two games and now a game winner.
Con: Empty nets
This is a gripe more than a con of this game. I’m glad the Blues finally put one into an empty net instead of allowing the game to get tied with 0.8 seconds like always.
My gripe is why does it always have to be so hard? Even when the Blues do score an empty netter, it’s almost always from distance.
When St. Louis allows empty net goals, the other team picks off a pass and skates the thing in. The Blues never seem to get that kind of defensive pressure that forces that mistake.
They block shots, but don’t get to the loose puck or they’re so winded they have to just sail it down the rink. Again, it’s great they got that insurance here, but it also showcases how rare the ENG is and how hard St. Louis makes it on itself anyway.
Sports is insane. Being a goaltender is a thankless job.
I’ve played the position so I know. Even then, it shocks me that people jump to blame and hate even when someone has a good game.
Binnington was the first star of the game. He didn’t have to stop a ton, but he bailed his team out early in a game they could not afford to lose.
Despite all that, there were still people whining as soon as Chicago scored that power play goal. There was traffic in front and Kane is still an elite sniper, but let’s blame the goaltender simply because of your own bias. Get real.
The past two seasons, Binnington has been the reason the Blues hang in games far longer than they have reason to and people just point at his stats and say that’s terrible. Thank heavens fans don’t make decisions about goalies.
Montreal wouldn’t have won the 1993 Stanley Cup if fans had their wish because they wanted Hall of Famer Patrick Roy out of town before then. Binner isn’t even on that level, but he’s still good enough to win a Cup and there’s people wanting him gone. If you’re one of those people, you’ll never be satisfied with any goalie, so stop letting it ruin your evening every time.
Like Bernie Federko said after the game, this wasn’t pretty but you need wins, not pretty games. From the fan perspective, it would be nice to light the lamp four or five times against your rival and have an easy night.
Sadly, the way the Blues won this game might be better for them. Whether by design or accident, they had to focus more on defending to keep one of the league’s worst offenses off the board.
Perhaps that realization will switch something in their mind. They’re not that great.
You cannot afford to go into games against teams like Chicago or Arizona and think you’re some great team that can win by showing up. St. Louis has to work their butts off every night from here on out.
Maybe that means they’re too exhausted to do anything if they make the playoffs. That’s the price you pay for whatever was wrong with them in late October and November.
The Blues needed two points out of this game, whether it was 7-0 or 2-1 (which it was essentially). They got those two points and that’s what matters.
They will need to play better against Minnesota, but the Blues play up and down to the competition. I’m not worried about that game yet, as long as they got the W on this night.