St. Louis Blues Pros/Cons From 2022-23 Game 38 At Toronto

St. Louis BluesMandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
St. Louis BluesMandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports /

Despite taking seven points out of 10 on the big December road trip, the Blues dropped two of three games on their final home stand of 2022. A 5-2 loss to Minnesota was an especially sour note to end the calendar year.

The Blues had a couple days off for the holiday and to travel to Toronto to face the Maple Leafs. Getting a win to open the year would be important. It would be equally difficult since the Leafs came into the game 13-2-3 on home ice.

Making matters worse, the Blues would be without two of their top stars and three players that have been starters in recent weeks. Sometimes that can force a team to simplify things and, initially, it seemed to be the way.

The Blues missed the net a couple times early, getting those negative juices flowing for some fans. St. Louis struck first though.

In a bit of good fortune, the Maple Leafs turned it over on their power play. Brandon Saad was the one to score it, reversing back across the backchecking Mitch Marner and then sliding it through the five-hole.

Also in a rare turn of events, the Blues got another special teams goal. Not long after killing off another Toronto power play, the Blues went on the man advantage. A quick pass to Justin Faulk led to a shot that ricocheted off a stick and then Brayden Schenn’s skate for a 2-0 lead.

The good feelings wouldn’t last forever. Toronto would halve the lead before it was done.

Ivan Barbashev tried an ill-conceived cross-ice pass that was picked off. A shot from near the right wall was deflected past Jordan Binnington, who was sliding over to make the initial save, but the tip put it back to the near post and in.

St. Louis didn’t waste much time restoring the two-goal lead. Forcing a scramble in front on their second power play, the Blues didn’t let the goaltender cover it. Jordan Kyrou pounced on the loose puck after it squirted out front and he lifted it over the crowd for a 3-1 score.

Things opened up. The lead only lasted 90 seconds.

Toronto had an initial shot blocked, but fed it back up top from near the net. William Nylander smashed one through a screen and made it 3-2, giving Aushton Matthews his 500th point with the assist.

St. Louis kept grinding it out and the third line was the beneficiary of some physicality. Jake Neighbours came in and dislodged the puck with a hit on the end wall. Josh Leivo went low to high and scored to make it 4-2.

Toronto got it back 17 seconds later. The Leafs got a lucky bounce as it went off a player to the right of the net, putting Binnington out of position and an easy tap in for a 4-3 score.

This began to look more like Olympic badminton than hockey with all the back and forth. One minute after Toronto, Brayden Schenn outworked everyone on the wing, found Saad and he buried one to make it 5-3.

St. Louis lasted a bit longer, but not long enough. The Leafs continued the pendulum game getting the next one on a crazy Matthews wrister that seemed nearly impossible to get air under, but he roofed it.

Despite not having too many shots to open the third period, the Maple Leafs were coming. They were getting good looks and the Blues were lucking out with the placement of the shots.

St. Louis had done a good job on the penalty kill to that point, but their luck ran out. The referee bit on an acting job by Michael Bunting and then Bunting scored on the ensuing power play that didn’t even need to happen. It was 5-5 with over 12 to go.

The Blues almost let one in on the next shot too. Kyrou gave the puck away near the benches and Binnington had to make a good glove save on the ensuing break in.

St. Louis held on to gain the point as the game went to OT. The Blues dodged a couple early bullets, including a one-timer for Matthews that he put off the side net.

St. Louis came back and had some great chances. Unfortunately, Schenn can’t buy a goal and missed wide once and then got stoned on the next one, making it a shootout game both literally and figuratively.

Neither team scored on the first attempt. Both teams scored on their next two shooters.

Binnington made an unbelievable recovery save with his right toe on Rasmus Sandin. Schenn then sealed the victory with a forehand shot to the blocker side and a 6-5 final.

Pros: Special teams

Toronto did go 1-3 on the power play, so they got that one blemish against the Blues. However, that call should never have been made since the Leafs player embellished.

On the first two power plays, the Blues penalty kill was near perfect. They surrendered a look here or there, but not much. Toronto didn’t even get a shot on goal the first attack and very little the second go around.

Pouring salt in those wounds for the Leafs, the Blues got a shorthanded goal on that first PP. It wasn’t a lucky goal either as it took serious effort by Saad to get open and beat the goalie.

Add to that a seemingly rare occurrence with a power play goal and it was a spectacular night for the special teams. It came at the perfect time when the coaches and front office basically said that the team needed the special teams to be better to win without their two big-name forwards.

Cons: What can you do?

The weird thing about this game, and the Blues performance, is they were not on point in every moment of the game. That’s not a good thing, but the oddity of it is how much more could we truly ask of them?

Social media had lots of comments on the team not defending properly. I’m not trying to defend the defenders, who do lose coverage at times, but there wasn’t a ton more to do.

Through 40 minutes, they’d only given up 16 shots to one of the most potent offenses. Two of the four goals came off extremely lucky bounces that don’t happen every game.

The first goal was more the result of a turnover on a poor cross-ice pass than actual bad defending. When the puck is turned over, everyone is out of position and forced to recover. That’s not poor positioning on their part because they expected to be transitioning to the offensive end or going off for a change.

That doesn’t mean the team defense was spectacular. They absorbed a lot of pressure, even when the shots were not hitting the net and they were in full scramble mode at the start of the third.

In terms of goal prevention though, we can’t just say play better defense and not give the Leafs any credit at all.

Pros: Shootout moves

I’m never going to like the shootout. You can’t make me.

That said, it was nice to see guys actually put on some moves. One of the things I hate about the Blues is they like to just drift down and then try to beat the goalie with a shot.

That’s not terrible if you’ve seen a goalie drop the blocker or glove too early. It’s still like trying to beat one of those plastic goal covers with the holes in them. You have to shoot right on point.

Instead, the Blues showed some confidence and tried to fake out the goalie. More often than not, they did.

At first, it looked like Thomas barely squeaked his through, but it was actually a nice move and good goal to slip it through the legs. Pavel Buchnevich absolutely faked the goalie out and tucked it home.

Schenn did more of a shot than anything, but it was still done with a little feint.

Shootouts are a coin flip, but at least St. Louis put their best foot forward.


This was quite an odd game. For as many goals that were scored, it wasn’t really a track meet.

There was physicality. The Blues were credited with 52 hits, which seems high, but they were definitely taking the body.

The teams were sacrificing themselves too. There were a total of 33 blocked shots with the Blues getting 17.

Both teams made the most of their chances. That’s exactly what the Blues need to do down the stretch, even if and when they get guys healthy.

Shootouts are just weird. They don’t feel like earned wins and you feel cheated when you lose.

Coming out on the winning end, the Blues will definitely take it. It’s not easy to win in Toronto anyway, so to score five regulation goals and find a way to claim both points is huge.

dark. Next. Blues can't fall into backup QB syndrome

Now they need to keep that same mentality and concentration against New Jersey.