The St. Louis Blues clearly hoped the coming snowstorm would arrive prior to their game against the Buffalo Sabres. They seemed to have no incentive to actually play the start of the game.
Despite an ok first shift where they actually got a shot on goal, the first couple minutes unraveled in spectacular fashion. Buffalo scored on two of their first three shots, just like Chicago before them.
St. Louis has no clue how to guard the middle of the ice. They either get too deep in their zone, to where they’re standing around, or are puck watching and lose track of their man.
In either case, the Sabres took advantage several times. Buffalo was up 2-0 in the first 90 seconds and 3-0 in the first 10 minutes.
Buffalo’s top line was responsible for all three goals. Each shot was within three feet of the net, giving Jordan Binnington no chance.
He had no chance on the fourth either. Colton Parayko turned the puck over in the neutral zone, creating a rush the other way and, after a block, Tage Thompson buried it into an empty net after a scramble got everyone swimming around. This was barely a minute into the period.
St. Louis finally woke up a little bit after that. Torey Krug made himself useful in his first game back from injury, spinning a nice pass from the left to Ivan Barbashev in front and Barby did a spin-o-rama to slip it through the five hole.
The Blues had some solid shifts after that, getting a little feisty and mixing it up. As they drove into the zone with some nice, quick passes, Brayden Schenn used the defender as a screen and snapped it into the upper-90 to make it 4-2.
St. Louis continued their comeback attempt in the third period. Reversing the script, they got their goal in the first minute and Jordan Kyrou found some space on the edge of the right circle and hit it high, glove side for a 4-3 score.
The Blues had their chances down the stretch. Vladimir Tarasenko was determined to tie it, but couldn’t get it done. He shot wide once, got stopped once and hit the goalie’s stick shaft on a shot that was labeled for the back of the net.
Craig Berube continues to pull the goalie far too early. He pulled Binnington with 2:32 left and Buffalo almost scored immediately on the next faceoff.
St. Louis got a power play and he left the goalie pulled. The Sabres scored on the empty net and the game finished 5-3.
Cons: Goalie pull
When you’re losing in the last few minutes, every team, everywhere, is going to pull the goalie. It’s just what teams do.
However, as much as I like and trust Craig Berube and his hockey brain, he’s starting to approach Patrick Roy levels when it comes to pulling his goalie. For those unaware, the joke about Roy became that he would pull his goalie with five or six minutes left, even in situations where there was no hope of coming back.
Berube is not that bad, but he does it too early for how this team has played. If you pull the goalie, your team needs to cleanly possess the puck and calmly possess the puck. St. Louis does neither, even in the best of times.
Most times, they allow a goal almost immediately and they almost did in this game. When they don’t let one up immediately, they usually struggle to even get good shots. Tarasenko did have a pretty open look, but got it saved.
My gripe is to leave the goalie pulled on the power play. Some will disagree, but I say leave Binnington in the net.
He’s one of the best puck handling goalies in the league. If/when Buffalo clears, he can get the puck and hit a stretch pass to get it back into play.
Instead, you go for a six-on-four, cough up the puck anyway and Buffalo gets an easy goal to ice it. Kyrou needed to be stronger on that battle, but it’s not even an issue if your goalie is in there.
As of December 3, the Blues only had one goal with the sixth attacker. I’m not 100% certain, but I highly doubt they’ve added to that total since then.
Yes, every coach pulls the goalie. Eventually, you have to realize it’s not working for this particular team.
Pros: The comeback
The Blues we got in the last 17 minutes of the second period and the entire third period were much more of what we’re used to. They were scrappy and engaged and getting things done.
Last season, and recent years prior, you could never count this team out. That was the team we saw in those later stages.
It wasn’t just the goals. Guys were taking part in all phases.
Tarasenko was in on the forecheck. Noel Acciari and his line started disrupting plays early.
Defenders were doing a much better job of attacking the player early instead of backing off and then reaching. They eliminated most of the backdoor plays.
It was bad luck not to tie the game. That Tarasenko shot was on point to be the tying goal and the goalie was only bailed out because he froze, so it actually hit his stick.
Why we can’t see that effort before the game gets out of hand is beyond me.
Cons: Falling behind
Though you give kudos to the comeback effort, what in heaven’s name happened to get behind so far? It’s unthinkable that you can fall behind by three and four goals in two straight games.
Buffalo is better than Chicago, but even as good as they are, the Blues team defending should not be that bad. For whatever reason, it is.
Everyone has their own wording or definition of what’s going on. For me, it’s simply a lack of will to get to and defend those areas.
I don’t even say they’re soft. Soft players are unwilling at any moment. The Blues just lack the will to do it consistently.
They want to just kind of ease into the game and glide around and let things come to them. That’s not how this works once teams know your Achilles heel.
Jamie Rivers pointed out that Buffalo was just floating around until a guy got lost in the shuffle and then he would settle into those areas. What disturbs me is that nobody makes the adjustments.
OK, it happens once, maybe twice. You figure it out and make sure you’re being accountable for that area. the game
Instead, they get worse. They get frantic and you get two, sometimes three, guys chasing the puck and that leaves all sorts of ice open.
The Blues have three wins when the opponent scores first. They have two wins when trailing after one period. They have three wins when trailing after two periods.
What does that tell you? They do not play well from behind, especially if they fall behind early in game.
It’s bad enough that you’re letting teams score on their first and second shots. You cannot fall behind by four goals and expect to win.
I don’t care who you have on offense – and the Blues don’t have those guys – you just can’t depend on scoring that many unanswered.
The Blues gave a good run. Frankly, they should have tied it. If they could hit the net with regularity instead of ruining so many chances by hitting the glass, maybe they even win.
That’s not how it goes though. You have to be ready to battle from the opening puck drop and this team just isn’t.
Blame coaching if you want. Blame this player or that player. It doesn’t matter.
Trades aren’t curing this team for this season. They just don’t have it.
The Blues have whatever hockey’s version of the yips is. Ask any golfer and the yips just have to go away on their own. Driving ranges and coaching and advice sometimes make it worse.
The Blues know what they have to do. They know what they’re not doing.
We know what they’re capable of. Somehow, it’s all just not happening.
At this point, there’s no reason to even get upset any longer. This is who they are and what we should expect and that’s not changing until the summer.