The St. Louis Blues continue to confuse and confound. As they hit the midway point of the 2022-23 season, they played a pretty complete game just one day after laying a rotten egg.
Nothing about the Blues makes sense right now. They got outclassed by one of the worst teams in the Eastern Conference and then, 24 hours later, beat a team ahead of them in the standings.
The Blues were without Robert Bortuzzo in this contest, forcing the team to rely on names we’re not yet accustomed to like Calle Rosen, Steven Santini and Tyler Tucker. All three played steady and helped the Blues to the win.
Both teams were on the back end of a back-to-back situation. Both were coming off losses as well.
Despite this, the Blues came out pretty well. Though the game was a bit of a slog now and then, St. Louis had some good chances in the first period.
They had 14 shots on goal and got the opening score of the game. On the power play, Brandon Saad finished off a back door play from Jake Neighbours to take a 1-0 lead before half the period had elapsed.
The Blues managed to make that lead hold up throughout the period. Of course, the worry is how terrible the Blues have been in the second period lately.
One day after only getting four shots on goal, the Blues actually played one of their better periods of late. Although St. Louis only had six shots on goal, the defense was excellent, only allowing three shots.
Unfortunately, the Blues saved their normal second-period performance for the third period. St. Louis only managed four shots on goal and gave up 23.
That’s correct. The Blues allowed more shots in the third period than the first and second combined. In fact, the Minnesota Wild had one less shot in the third period than the Blues had in the entire game.
St. Louis did do an excellent job in the blocked shot department, with the defenders turning away 25 attempts. Nevertheless, the Blues relied far too much on Thomas Greiss, who finished the night with 35 saves.
St. Louis got a cushion when they scored the second goal of the game at the 14 minute mark of the third period. Brayden Schenn finished off a fantastic pass from Saad on a two-on-one. The goal came on just the second shot of the period for the Blues.
Schenn finished off the game with an empty net goal with six seconds left. It was a rare feat for the Blues and an excellent win that swung the divisional wild card race slightly back in their direction.
Few expected a win over Minnesota, much less a shutout win on the road. You can never count this team out, but their inconsistency is definitely testing us.
Many people are assuming Greiss is gone after this season. Maybe he will be and maybe he won’t. All Joel Hofer’s contract guarantees him is that he will be paid the same salary whether he’s in the NHL or the AHL.
Regardless of that, Greiss is earning himself a pretty good payday for next season if he decides to keep playing. He will be 37 by the end of the season, which isn’t old in the grand scheme of things, but isn’t very young for a pro athlete.
You wouldn’t know he was a 14-year veteran the way he’s been playing. He has been showing an athleticism that few gave him credit for prior to this year.
While his record isn’t stellar at 5-5, he has been great in almost every game he has played. There’s only been one really bad start.
Greiss saved the Blues in this game. Not only did he post a shutout on a night when the offense just wasn’t getting much done, but he made several big saves down the stretch.
Some games you only see 23 shots and he had to make 23 saves in the third period alone. There were plenty of nervy moments, but he kept making the stops and never getting too far out of position even if he didn’t control the puck.
Cons: Power play
1-4 isn’t too terrible for power play numbers, but this boils down to the eye test. It’s just not very good.
What is frustrating about this team’s power play is the predictability. Other teams know they don’t have a pure scorer to worry about, so they just constantly pressure.
St. Louis doesn’t know what to do other than go through their normal motions. This often means passes picked off simply because the Blues had to try and thread the needle since there were no other options.
While it didn’t end the way we’ve seen lately, the Blues gave up another two-on-one while the Wild were shorthanded. It amazes me how many quality chances the Blues give up while they’re supposed to have the advantage.
Top-end passers like Robert Thomas look like fools because they hand the puck right to the other players. Guys get frustrated and just shoot way too high or wide. It’s a vicious cycle that doesn’t seem to have much of an end until they prove they can consistently be a danger.
Pros: Saad and Schenn
I was originally just going to focus on Saad, but would be remiss if Schenn didn’t earn some praise as well. Though the team has still had ups and downs, this duo has definitely stepped up their game once the Blues had their major injuries.
Saad now has six goals in his last six games and eight points in the same span. His goal in this game proved to be the game winner.
Schenn hasn’t been the same scorer, but he’s been setting everyone up. Including the two goals against the Wild, Schenn has seven points in his last four games.
The Blues needed timely scoring since they had so few shots as the game went on. The finish from Schenn on the insurance goal was wonderful, but the pass was on another level.
Watching in real time, it looked like a normal pass. However, the defender is actually there and had his stick down. Saad somehow slid it under the stick in the space that only existed because the fingers on the glove create a small gap.
This team continues to be maddening. If you told me they split the back-to-back, I’d have assumed they beat Montreal and blew it against Minnesota.
Instead, the defense couldn’t help out Jordan Binnington at all in Montreal en route to a loss. Then, they actually play their butts off for Greiss against a seemingly tougher opponent.
The Blues have simplified everything because they know they cannot ask too much of rookies and guys who are essentially ninth and 10th defensemen. While their power play is still anemic overall, the penalty kill has righted the ship.
Keeping Minnesota off the board on the man advantage was key, especially after Colton Parayko made everyone irritated with another delay of game penalty. If he doesn’t lead the team in that category, I’d be surprised.
Overall, we can’t be picky about how these wins come. The Blues got the win by buckling down and playing reasonably good defense.
They needed their goaltender to bail them out several times, but that’s how it works sometimes.
People need to not think this team is better without the injured players. The guys stepping in are simply playing well because they want new deals next year, here or elsewhere.
As long as they get the job done, we should applaud their efforts.