Beating the same team two games in a row is never an easy feat. Nevertheless, that’s what the St. Louis Blues attempted to do against the Calgary Flames.
After taking the first game of the second half of the season in overtime, the second one started out just as evenly. Calgary got off to a hot start offensively, outshooting the Blues 6-2 in the first few mintues of the period.
Despite an early power play, St. Louis just didn’t have a ton going offensively. Most of their chances came on rush plays.
The Blues players were probably wishing they could have been playing against Jacob Markstrom, since he had been struggling. Instead, Daniel Vladar stopped first period breakaways from both Brandon Saad and Brayden Schenn.
The Schenn one did lead to another power play. Though St. Louis got another three shots on target, they went into the locker room 0-0.
The second period opened up much more back and forth than we are used to seeing. St. Louis was not nearly as stout defensively as we saw in the middle frame in Minnesota, but they were not being overrun either.
That back and forth style ended up costing the Blues eventually. With a little more than four minutes left, the Blues came in on an odd-man rush, but didn’t get a shot off. On the counter attack, Nazem Kadri found Walker Duehr who snapped it under the blocker from the hashmarks to make it 1-0 Calgary.
The Blues had a third power play overall, first in the period, not long after that goal. They had some OK zone time, but just not enough to really break down the Flames.
Making matters worse, after the PP ended, Milan Lucic was left all alone on the top of the crease for three uncontested whacks at the puck. Fortunately, Thomas Greiss was well positioned, but that just can’t happen.
St. Louis wasted little time tying the game in the third period, only taking 20 seconds. After a blocked shot from the right trickled to Jake Neighbours, the rookie lifted a knuckler over the glovehand shoulder.
The Blues were playing fairly well in the grand scheme, though the offense was still struggling in the third period. Then Calgary took the lead.
For some unknown reason, Robert Thomas tried to fling a puck through the middle of the ice from behind his own goal line.
The pass was deflected and settled right into the slot for the Flames. The defenders converged on the man closest to the goal, who let the puck run by, and Dillon Dube roofed it to make it 2-1.
In the final four minutes, the Blues did it again. After some pressure behind the net, the Blues tried to fire it up the middle and got it picked off again, which led to a spin-o-rama backhand goal through the legs and it was 3-1.
St. Louis pulled the goaltender immediately, which meant the game was over. This team is terrible at six on five, so it became 4-1 with more than three minutes left.
Cons: Third period
This team is ridiculously frustrating. There is talent and there is will, but never for sixty minutes.
There is always a period in every game where the offense absolutely disappears. In this contest it was the third period.
I am not trying to take anything away from the Flames who are a pretty good team. But, it never matters who the opponent is.
There is always a period where the Blues have five or fewer shots. That is shameful. Not every game has an offensive explosion, but how in the name of all that is holy can a professional team only get five shots on target?
It’s not just five shots on target. If the Blues were getting looks and just getting things blocked by an intense defensive effort, it would be one thing. Though there were more, it felt like five shots was all they took, not just how many were on net.
Compounding the lack of offense, the numbskullery was infuriating as well. Credit to the Flames for forcing errors with their 2019 Blues-style forecheck, but you just don’t toss it directly in front of your net and expect anything good to happen.
Pros: Third line
In the grand scheme of things, the entire team didn’t have a bad game. They just didn’t have a good game either.
The lack of shots in the third period showed a lack of pushback from your top six forwards. However, it was the team’s third line that gave the most to be happy about.
You’ve got the goal from Neighbours. I don’t see him turning into a star scorer, but those are the kinds of goals we need and want from him going forward.
He capitalized on a loose puck after a block and roofed it.
Of course, you expect the tenacity from Noel Acciari and we continued to see that. I’d still like to see more from Ivan Barbashev, but he was decent. Of course, you’d like the goals we saw last year, but as long as he’s physical and providing a change of pace, you’re getting something out of him.
Nobody played a perfect game. However, this was the only trio that stayed pretty consistent and got some looks regularly.
Cons: Power play
The Blues power play has been much improved of late. They had goals in five straight games and that had been a big reason the team was doing quite well.
Tonight, they provided nothing. Not only did they go 0-3, but there was no momentum gained at all.
Sometimes, you fail to score, but generate momentum based on solid play. Though St. Louis had shots on every power play, they just didn’t get anything accomplished.
Some will say, you lose 4-1, so what does it matter. It matters because the game was 1-1 until the Blues put their heads up their rears.
Score on just one of those man advantages and the Blues have the lead in the third period. It’s a completely different race to the finish, if not a different outcome.
The Blues had 9 statistical givewaways. While this is very unscientific, I usually double that number to give you a rough idea of how many times a team actually turned the puck over – I’m still not sure what constitutes a giveaway for the box score.
Overall, St. Louis was pretty lucky until the third period. Greiss had bailed them out quite a few times, but you can only leave your goaltender out to dry so many times.
Those turnovers in the third period cost them the game. That’s not hyperbole, they literally gave the game away.
The Thomas pass was just a jaw dropper. Even if he gets it past that initial stick, it’s a terrible idea to toss it up the middle in front of your own goal.
The play that made it 3-1 was not quite as egregious. Acciari needs to have more urgency before the pressure, but even though the puck popped out more than got passed, it was just a bad play. The Blues needed to just keep it simple and chuck it up the wall and live to fight another day.
This game was kind of a gut punch. Luckily, this was still early in the winter and not in the final month of the season.
The Blues got the win back on the 10th, but by letting it go to overtime, they gave Calgary three points in two games. That’s a big swing in the wrong direction.
Focusing solely on this game, the Blues just didn’t have it. I remember thinking when the game was just 1-0 that St. Louis isn’t going to win this game.
Those that know me know I almost never openly think or say that. There is always a belief the boys can get it done.
I just didn’t see it. That goal from Neighbours ignited some hope, but those turnovers sucked the life out of the Blues.
The disheartening thing is the Flames weren’t all that great. They looked good overall with St. Louis underperforming. Calgary could have been had, but the Blues were not up to that task.
Now, they have the unenviable task of taking on Tampa Bay and still needing wins. Add to that a pregame ceremony, which always leads to a slow start, and you’ve got a team playing from behind before the puck is even dropped.