St. Louis Blues against the Chicago Blackhawks used to be something to look forward to. It used to be a hard fought, physical battle that would sometimes devolve into a blood bath.
However, the current version of both teams leaves a lot to be desired. The Blackhawks are trying to get the top draft pick in the upcoming draft pick and the Blues are on the outside, looking in, for the playoff picture.
You could tell it too. St. Louis dominated the possession for the entire first 10 minutes of the first period, but accomplished nothing, which was even more frustrating since they were facing a goalie in his first ever NHL game.
Chicago did not have a shot on goal until 10:27 of the first period. Of course, that first shot scored since Colton Parayko got knocked down at center ice with know call and Chicago scored on the ensuing two-on-one.
St. Louis’ first power play was very good, but they missed as many shots as they hit the net. The Blues second power play was not only ineffective, but allowed a shorthanded breakaway that scored on Chicago’s second shot of the game, making it 2-0.
The Blackhawks had three first-period shots and scored on two of them. The Blues were just as listless to start the second period.
Some shifting by the defenders allowed some space on the back side. A perfect pass across the top of the crease led to another back-door goal and a 3-0 lead.
The Blues got back into it with a power play less than a minute later. Jordan Kyrou snapped a shot from the left circle over the glove hand and make it 3-1.
Chicago restored the three-goal lead just over a minute after that. The defenders backed in, provided the Blackhawks a screen of Jordan Binnnigton and hit a perfect shot into the upper corner and it was 4-1 all in the first four minutes of the period.
The fourth goal was Binnington’s last. He wasn’t to blame for any, really, but the game had just tilted too much against him and the Blues to let that continue.
St. Louis tried to climb back into it. A partial line change led to a weird combination, but Kyrou found Ivan Barbashev on the goal line and a move out front opened the five hole and Barby slid it through to make it 4-2 with under seven minutes to go in the second.
St. Louis got the shaft from the officials to start the second period. After a scuffle at center to end the second period, it looked like they would call penalties on both teams. In typical garbage officiating fashion, they gave an extra minor to Pavel Buchnevich and Chicago had a power play.
While the Blackhawks didn’t score, the Blues didn’t have a shot on goal in the third until about seven minutes in. Despite some very erratic and sloppy play, the Blues finally came alive.
Two big saves by Thomas Greiss and a block by Justin Faulk allowed a push back the other way. After a scramble, Nick Leddy unleashed one from the left circle that got through traffic and made it 4-3 with 10:45 to go.
Chicago crushed the Blues hopes with about four minutes to go. A bad step over to the wall by Niko Mikkola let Chicago in on an odd-man rush. They converted and it was 5-3.
That would end up being the final. St. Louis just never really challenged enough down the stretch. Their legs were again not in it.
There were not a ton of bright spots in this game for the Blues, but Ivan Barbashev was one of them. Though the Blues were denied the feat the last time around, they got the Gordie Howe hat trick this time around.
Barbashev started out with the goal. It was a, potentially, important goal to make it 4-2 and give St. Louis hope. He timed it out perfectly, waiting for the goaltender to move the stick and spread the legs and then slip it through.
Second came the fight. He caught a couple shots at first, but took over from there.
Last, but not least came the assist. Again, it was important at the time because his pass helped set up Leddy’s eventual goal and cut the lead to one.
Cons: Four on seven
Let’s get the main thing out of the way. If you blame Binnington for this game, you don’t know anything about hockey. I never take things to that level to challenge people’s credibility, but you just don’t.
St. Louis failed to pay attention to the details and got punished for making bone-headed plays. A pinch on a puck that was high off the glass led to a two-on-one for the first goal – no chance on the play.
The Blues power play was horrendous for most of the game except their first one. You allow a breakaway on that play and they have two goals on two shots.
Even the Blackhawks third shot was a difficult save for Binnington.
Even you want to claim that Binnington had any shot on the other goals, the defense just continually backed off. They stopped skating, giving Chicago too much time to eye up their shots.
St. Louis has always prided themselves on chipping away and coming back. They sort of did, but by then you’ve built up too much a hole.
Frankly, I’d rather you let some shots through if you’re going to not give your goalie anything to do and then give up grade-A chances on the handful of shots you do let Chicago have. At least that way, he’d not have gone cold.
Cons: Where are the legs?
This is an eye test thing and can’t be quantified through the stats. However, the Blues were again skating straight legged when they were moving and often just stopped cold or glided around.
St. Louis has never had blazing speed, but they’re just not nearly as slow as they’ve looked at times this year. It happened again in this game.
Chicago’s killer fifth goal was a perfect example. It’s an odd-man rush, so choices have to be made as to where to go.
However, Parayko was standing up straight, reaching for the puck. Ideally, he would have stepped forward and challenged that play before it even got to the slot. By backing off and then stopping, there was nothing he could do.
It wasn’t just Parayko. The Blues just don’t get their feet moving, offensively or defensively. It makes it too easy to pressure the hell out of them in all situations.
I am normally one of the most optimistic fans out there, within realistic scenarios. However, I’m starting to get on board with the idea that this team is missing the playoffs.
That does not mean they should sell at the deadline. That doesn’t mean they need to go in for a rebuild. Pieces are there to still win, but they need a shot of botox, not a full facelift.
As far as this game goes, it’s just disappointing because they can’t string wins together. Statistically, if you win two and lose one the rest of the year, you’ll stay in it, but the Blues are far enough behind that you have to get three and four wins in a row.
The Blues played poorly, but Chicago is not a good team. In fact, you can tell they are a bad team and yet St. Louis let their bottom-six players beat them.
It wasn’t even the likes of Jonathan Toews or Patrick Kane having one more hurrah in St. Louis. The Blues shut them down and then took a nap on every other shift.
It’s bad enough to lose, but to lose to your rival who is in last place, just one game after you actually played a full 60 minutes? It’s not good – just not good at all.