The St. Louis Blues knew they would not face an easy task against their division rival, the Minnesota Wild. Minnesota was coming off a loss to the Dallas Stars where the Wild were up by several goals.
On the flip side, the Blues had goals for this game. They could have taken four or five points out of a possible six on this home stand and won their final game of 2022.
Things opened up well for the Blues. Calle Rosen stayed red hot, scoring his fifth of the season and giving St. Louis a 1-0 lead just over five minutes into the game.
As seems to always happen this season, things went south from there. Vladimir Tarasenko blocked a shot with the padded portion of his glove, but he would not return to the game after the first intermission.
The Wild also tied the game with just over six minutes left in the opening period. Matt Dumba came into the high slot unguarded and ripped one past the glove hand.
The Blues didn’t look that bad in the first and won the shot battle. It seemed as though that goal turned the tide.
If the tide had not turned, it definitely did with the next one. Less than two minutes into the second period, the Wild took the lead.
Binnington failed to cleanly knock the puck down off the wall. He was then poke checked and never fully got back into position on the ensuing push from the Wild.
Binner did make a right pad save on the shot from the wall. However, he was slightly off kilter in his positioning and Ryan Hartman beat him over the blocker for the 2-1 score.
The Blues got the crowd back into it when they tied it up at 5:01. Robert Bortuzzo, of all people, scored his first of the year to bang it past Marc-Andre Fleury for a 2-2 game.
That literally only lasted 12 seconds. On another rim around, Binnington stopped it behind the net and flung it directly to Hartman on the near side, giving the Wild forward an empty net to make it 3-2.
St. Louis never recovered from that. They had a paltry five shots on goal in the second period.
The Blues were credited with 14 shots in the third period, but it never really felt like they were threatening. They had a flurry here or a chance there, but they got in their own way more than Minnesota really stopped them.
St. Louis fell down by two 49 seconds into the third. A shot from the point was knocked down, but fell right to Jared Spurgeon in the slot who whistled it home to make it 4-2.
The Blues did their usual vain attempt at a comeback by pulling the goaltender during a four-on-four attack. That never works and of course Minnesota scored on the empty net for the 5-2 win.
Cons: Power play
Just when you think things are turning around for the Blues special teams, they turn right back around and hack up this performance. St. Louis was an awful 0-4 on the power play during this game.
There are games when you don’t score on that many power plays, and it’s never a good thing. The Blues could not even threaten though.
They did not get a shot on goal until their third attempt. I understand that teams focus solely on defense and positioning while on the PK, but how can you go four-plus minutes without a shot when you have the numerical advantage?
Regardless of what the naysayers think, losing Tarasenko hurt the power play. It just shuffles things around even more and the team is already looking for chemistry after losing Torey Krug.
You have to shoot the puck eventually though. You don’t want shots blocked and you want clean opportunities, but the Blues passed way too much, even when they had looks from the slot.
Perhaps I need to be in the habit of writing slightly negative pieces about players more often. The day I released an article downplaying the ability of Rosen to deserve more minutes, he scores another goal.
The reality is that my article was not a dig at Rosen, but more those willing to elevate a player that is simply on a hot streak. Regardless of whether this is sustainable or not, Rosen is definitely on a heater as they say.
He scored right when the Blues needed a jump too. St. Louis was already starting to buzz a little on the offensive end.
It almost looked like Rosen would come up empty. He slammed one off the post on the same shift.
Smartly, instead of backing out completely, Rosen jumped back into the offense when the Blues had an odd-man break after a turnover. Robert Thomas mostly whiffed on the pass, leading to a less than stellar attempt for Rosen, but they all count.
There’s no precedent for how many he can get. Every goal from here on is a career high for Rosen. Let’s just appreciate the effort and the willingness to get it on net.
I don’t even know how to classify this from a goaltending perspective. You can’t blame Binnington from a pure shot stopping standpoint, yet he is completely to blame for this loss.
Binnington had little to no chance on either of the two legitimate goals scored. You’d love him to stop those, but both were clear looks from the middle of the ice.
However, the problem was he was directly responsible for two goals. Binnington is normally one of the better puck-handling goaltenders in the league, but it was not his night for that in this game.
The first game, maybe you let him slide. It was a hard around that just didn’t settle for him and then he wasn’t ready for the forecheck from Minnesota to get to him so quickly.
He made the save initially, but was out of a normal position. The second goal given up in that fashion, the third overall, was a real back breaker.
I really don’t know how he didn’t see Hartman standing there on the halfwall. Initially, I was also perplexed by Binnington hitting the brakes and going back around the far side of the net. However, upon watching the replay, it would not have been any quicker to circle around to the near side. Regardless, it was a really bad mistake.
If you take those two goals out of the equation, it ends up being a 2-2 game. Instead, it drained all the momentum from the team and all the energy from a raucous building.
St. Louis didn’t have that bad a game on this night, but they’re slowly reverting to their more lazy ways. They’re just not doing the little things that are necessary to get wins consistently.
They might have had 31 shots, but there isn’t enough consistent quality to make those shots matter. St. Louis missed the net 14 or more times.
Even Craig Berube was clearly frustrated by the missed nets in his postgame comments. There were at least two or three empty net looks and St. Louis did not cash in on those. They didn’t even force saves, which is why those are so frustrating.
The Blues won an amazing amount of faceoffs. They won 35 faceoffs and 71% of all the draws, yet it led to nothing.
When you’re winning that many faceoffs, you should be able to generate some legitimate pressure and wear down your opponent. The Blues keep letting Minnesota off the hook.
Speaking of letting off the hook, while Fleury made some decent saves in the third period, the Blues needed to take advantage of him. His positioning was not great and he was very jerky and shaky, never looking comfortable. The Blues just didn’t do anything about it.
The team is getting too disjointed again as well. Forwards are getting caught too low defensively, which led to the two legitimate Wild goals.
It was a disappointing way to end 2022, but perhaps fitting in a way. While there were clear things that, had they not happened, the game would have turned out differently, this was also not a game that really felt like the Blues were going to win.
We can say if this happened or that happened all we want. When you’re basing your talent level on ifs and buts, then your record is what you actually are.
Right now, the Blues are a .500 team. They have the potential to be more than that, but until they actually show us they can be, we should not assume they are any better than a .500 team.
Hopefully 2023 will be better. Sadly, even as one of the more faithful and optimistic fans out there, I just don’t know that a 2019 turnaround is on the horizon.