The St. Louis Blues began the second half of the season against the Calgary Flames. With the Flames in the house, it meant Nazem Kadri was in the house for the first time since his infamy in the 2022 conference semi-finals.
The fans got an early chance to throw the boos down upon him. Very early in the period, and just five seconds after the Blues took a penalty, Kadri was called for interference.
While the play was four-on-four, St. Louis drew a tripping call. That’s when the Blues struck.
Just seconds after an extremely brief five-on-three ended, St. Louis took the lead. Pavel Buchnevich passed it to Robert Thomas, but instead of it reaching its intended target, the puck went off the defenseman and in. The Blues were likely to score one way or the other, but Buchnevich got the 1-0 goal.
For the next seven minutes, it was mainly Calgary on offense. They didn’t get a ton of shots, but they had double the amount of shots until halfway through the period.
St. Louis came close to doubling the lead a couple times. They came close on a backdoor play and also with Thomas wiggling his way around the goaltender, but not having an angle to bank it in since he was below the end line.
Unfortunately, the lead wouldn’t last the period. With just over six minutes left in the period, the Blues failed to get back quickly enough. Kadri broke in on the left wing, flung one to the far post and Milan Lucic tipped it in before Jordan Binnington could get his pad across.
Then Calgary took the lead around two minutes later. The Blues kept failing to get the puck out of the zone and a shot from the point was deflected in by Mikael Backlund.
St. Louis fell behind by two just 62 seconds into the second period. It was bad enough to fall behind 3-1, but the Blues literally had five guys within two yards of the goal and three guys on the left edge of the crease and yet there was nobody even close to the man who scored in the slot.
The Blues didn’t do nothing, but they didn’t accomplish much in the period. They had nine shots for the second frame in a row, but really didn’t test the goaltender that much. The most positive thing you could say was that the deficit was only two going into the third.
St. Louis came out a little better in the third. It still wasn’t fantastic, but they did climb within one in the first three minutes.
The Blues drove into the zone and got a harmless shot from the right. Markstrom gave up a rebound and Nikita Alexandrov pounced on the rebound.
The very next shift, St. Louis tied it. Jordan Kyrou did a toe drag around the defender and then unleashed one from the high slot to make it 3-3.
St. Louis thought they had the lead not long after. Pavel Buchnevich connected with Robert Thomas on the back door, but a challenge showed Kyrou was offside on the zone entry.
The game was strangely open and loose as the third period went along. However, despite the back and forth nature of the contest, the Blues only allowed six shots and had eight themselves.
Still, the Blues were a bit lucky that the Flames didn’t hit the net on a few of their looks. The game finished regulation 3-3 and went to overtime.
Calgary entered the zone on their first push and gained the numbers toward the net, however a good pokecheck from Justin Faulk pushed the puck back toward the blue line. St. Louis got their own two-on-one and Kyrou went right to left to Thomas who roofed it for the game winner, 4-3.
Pros: Top line
St. Louis got decent performances from top to bottom, but they needed their biggest guys to step up again. They did so.
Thomas, Buchnevich and Kyrou all had a goal. When your top line scored three out of your four goals, they had a pretty good night.
In theory, they had four since they were the ones that connected on the goal we all thought made it 4-3 in regulation. Still, it was a very good night for them.
The trio combined for seven points. They were a prime reason the Blues won.
Cons: Second period
I don’t understand this team and the second period. I’ve bought into the whole idea that second periods are more difficult due to the long change, but that should affect both teams.
Instead, St. Louis just always seems to play like rear. They had a good second period in Minnesota and, statistically, they were not bad in this one.
As mentioned earlier, St. Louis had more offense than in recent second periods. Nine shots is much better than five or four.
However, ask yourself how much they honestly tested the goaltender. It’s one thing to be in the offensive zone and hit the goaltender in the stomach, but it’s quite different to actually force good saves and have quality scoring chances.
It simply felt like the Blues were fortunate to only be down by two. Add to that the absolutely horrid defending on the goal and it was deflating as a fan.
Pros: Alexandrov’s goal
Sometimes we are wowed by highlight reel goals. Sometimes we forget how something simple was so impactful.
The latter will likely be the case. However, we should not forget Alexandrov’s goal.
It may get forgotten because it was only the team’s second, making the score 3-2. However, the timing and the way the game changed cannot be overlooked.
To score early in the third period when down by two is huge. To cash in on another team’s blunder is even bigger.
Alexandrov is too early in his career to tell what we have. Maybe he’s another Ivan Barbashev. Maybe he’s just an energy guy that can chip in once in awhile, ala a Jamal Mayers. Perhaps there’s more skill in there than we realize.
Whatever the case may be, you need guys that will drive to the net and hunt loose pucks. That’s what Alexandrov did and with the goalie still in the middle of the net (overall), to find the right touch and angle on the shot was a gigantic boost.
That goal got the crowd energized. It set the stage for the comeback and St. Louis utilized all that energy.
This team continues to be somewhat befuddling. They have gigantic highs and insane lows.
You allow two goals in less than two minutes to lose the lead in the first. You leave a man wide open in the slot despite having five players near the goal in the second.
Despite those things and some mental miscues, they got good performances overall. For 75% of the first period and the third period, they were definitely the better team to the point where you wonder why they cannot sustain that kind of effort and flow for an entire game.
The top line is really grooving. Even the special teams continued to be hot. If you can believe it, the Blues have the best power play in the NHL since January 1. Granted, that’s only 10 days and five games, but considering how awful the PP has been at times, it’s amazing to see any kind of turnaround of that nature.
Other than the one goal, the Blues kept the Flames top line pretty quiet. Kadri is a streaky player, so it was nice to not allow him many opportunities to utilize the crowd reaction against them.
St. Louis needs to play better against the Flames on the 12th though. They’re not likely to have either the same goaltender or the same goaltending mistakes to take advantage of, so you need to focus even harder on your own game.
Every point is paramount right now though. It does stink to give the Flames a point since Calgary is ahead of the Blues in a potential wild card battle, but as long as you get the second point, you’ll take that trade.