The St. Louis Blues had a couple firsts in their 52nd game of the season. They were playing their first game after an extended All-Star break and their first game without Vladimir Tarasenko on the roster since 2012.
Unfortunately, what we hoped would be a fresh start began as the same old story. Nothing really changed.
St. Louis started their third line, consisting of Noel Acciari, Ivan Barbashev and Sammy Blais in his return. The Blues got the hitting started early, but nothing else.
The defense let Clayton Keller just walk down the left wing, cut into the middle and put home his own rebound to make it 1-0 just 51 seconds into the game. The Blues had a little more jump than we’re used to seeing, but it didn’t matter.
St. Louis was actually having another good penalty kill, which they’re actually the best PK in the league since January 8. Then Arizona banked it off Colton Parayko’s skate to make it 2-0, but even if it didn’t hit the skate, the Coyotes had the back-door play set up.
The Blues only had five shots on goal in the first period. They allowed seven shots from the slot in the first period. How you manage that is beyond me.
The second period didn’t open up much better. The offense was putting more pucks to the net, but not really challenging much.
The game should have been 3-0 as the Coyotes had JJ Moser wide open in the slot – I mean nobody within six feet of the guy. It was only an unbelievable glove save by Jordan Binnington that kept it out.
Just over midway through the period, the Blues actually got on the board. Brandon Saad got a breakaway and took the puck all the way below the end line and then banked it off the goalie to make it 2-1.
Then, with less than three minutes left in the second period, the Blues sprang Blais with a breakaway. He got the deke moves going in tight and then roofed a backhander to tie the game.
St. Louis actually came out hard in the third period, feeling some jump after Blais’ late goal. They got some good pressure in the offensive zone and then took the lead.
Robert Thomas scored the goal to make it 3-2 less than 90 seconds in. He had the puck in the high slot and rifled it over the glove and under the post.
The Blues doubled the lead about five minutes later. St. Louis drove toward top of the circle and Tyler Pitlick put it back through the slot. Calle Rosen was strong on his stick and slid the puck through the five hole to make it 4-2.
Just over two minutes later, it was 5-2. Brayden Schenn had an open pass from the end line to the edge of the faceoff circle and Rosen put it over the blocker for his second.
The Coyotes didn’t go away. Keller scored his second, banking it in off Binnington from a severe angle to make it 5-3.
The referees made up a holding penalty on Ryan O’Reilly, but the Blues killed that one. They were not so lucky the next time around.
Ivan Barbashev was called for a legit trip. The Coyotes found Nick Bjugstad on the back door for a goal immediately off the faceoff to make it 5-4.
The Blues finished off the failure to hold the lead. With the Coyotes’ goalie pulled, St. Louis couldn’t even come close to clearing the puck and Arizona tied the game with under a minute to go.
St. Louis rebounded in the overtime period. They never really let Arizona do much and, on a second partial breakaway attempt, O’Reilly tucked it between the skate and the near post for a sigh-inducing 6-5 win.
Cons: First period
Outside of a few more big hits than we have seen lately, this was the exact same team we saw before the All-Star break. You don’t figure the results would be night and day, but you would hope to see more effort.
Five shots on goal is pathetic. It’s actually becoming quite common for there to be low shot totals around the league, even with good teams, but I just don’t understand. How can an NHL team only get five shots on goal in a 20-minute span?
Defensively, they were still a shambles. I don’t care if you want to blame Leddy or Parayko or the forwards, it’s all still awful. Your offense has five shots total and you allow seven shots from the slot. The shots were not 7-5 overall, it was seven of 10 shots by the Coyotes in the first period came from the slot.
You allow a goal in the first minute of play. That cannot happen and has happened far too much.
Frankly, the game could have been more than 2-0 after the first, but the combination of Binnington and Arizona being one of the worst teams in the Western Conference.
Pros: Late second and early third
In theory, the Blues were pretty good for most of the second period. However, technically, you only got one good period’s worth of hockey from St. Louis in this contest.
Blais scored at 10:20 of the second period. Rosen’s second goal came at 8:44 of the third period.
That means the Blues were very good for half the second period and half the third period. Other than that, well, we saw what happened.
The Blues got their goals in bunches. They scored two in seven minutes of the second period. Then, they got three in a seven-minute span in the third period.
They were quite good for about a two-minute span around those goals, so maybe you give them just over 20 minutes worth of hockey. The disappointing thing was how good they were in those 20 minutes.
They were pressing and controlling the puck. Passes were actually hitting guys on the tape, setting up quality shot attempts – what a novel idea, right?
I apologize for being so sarcastic, but this team has just driven me crazy by showing how good they can be for a handful of minutes and then just yanking it away like you’re teasing a dog with a toy.
Cons: Tying goal
The goal to make it 5-5, in and of itself, was whatever. The guy was too open in the slot area again, which begs the question of why this team cannot guard the middle of the ice, but I digress.
It’s the story of the season all in one play. When the Blues pull their goalie, you know the opponent is going to score immediately. When the opponent, in this case Arizona, pulls their goalie, you know you have to sweat bullets until the clock hits all zeros.
St. Louis goes into panic mode when one net is empty. If it’s theirs, they get frantic and can’t even possess the blasted thing.
When it’s the opponent, they go into a shell and just want it all to be over. Not once did the Blues even have anything resembling an attempt to clear the puck, much less a chance to score on an empty net.
There’s talent on this team. It’s not an old team. So, why do they look like they have cement in their skates in these situations?
Other teams are up in the Blues face and forcing errors. The Blues just tip-toe around and bend over with their stick out, accomplishing nothing.
Considering the time he’d missed and the awful season he’s had, this was a feel-good performance by the Blues’ captain. I won’t say it was a great game, but it was good enough.
Clearly, scoring the game-winning goal is huge. It’s not just a big deal for the team to feel better, but also the player.
Oddly, scoring has not been an issue for O’Reilly as he picked up his 11th goal of the season, which is just one behind his total of 12 for 2019-20. He just has next to no assists, which was also the case in this game.
Nevertheless, he’s returned to his dominant ways on the dot. He won 69% of his draws and also had three shots on goal and a block.
For whatever reason, O’Reilly has clearly lost a step from last season to this. But, for at least one game, he looked more like his old self.
There was a bit of confidence to his game that has not been there of late. We shouldn’t pretend it’s some big comeback, but given the season the team and the captain have had, you have to look for the bright spots.
I don’t know why, but this game irritated me to no end. Admittedly, part of it was not completely game related. Several dumb takes on social media regarding recent events surrounding the Blues ticked me off, but perhaps we’ll go into those at a later date.
As far as the actual contest goes, what is irritating is why Arizona looks so good against the Blues. The Coyotes have not been good in who knows how long, but they always do well against St. Louis lately.
They’re not good this year and they shut the Blues out for four-straight periods. Until the Blues got that first goal, it looked like they’d get shut out again.
St. Louis showed us some flashes. The Thomas/Kyrou/Schenn line looked great for several shifts on offense, but continue to be iffy anywhere else.
The Blues had five power play attempts, with over six minutes of ice time for Thomas and Schenn and over seven minutes for Buchnevich. They accomplished nothing except letting time bleed off the clock. At best, they generated a couple chances, but not much.
As hesitant as I am to fuel any of the nonsense goaltending blame, as an old school type of goaltender, I don’t like the way today’s goalies give up these goals from the goal line. While I don’t completely blame Binnington for the third goal, that goal sparked the comeback in the first place.
I don’t understand this reverse V-H stuff as they call it. Stand up and face the puck when the guy is 10 feet out. I see going down in the butterfly early if he’s close to the net and can whip around, but you’re automatically surrendering that upper portion when you hit your knees that early. Yes, it was a lucky bank shot, but it still needed to not go in.
In the end, I’m happy for the win, but not happy how it came about. I’m happy the fools asking for the team to tank are upset, but how many times can you allow this many goals?
Defense may not have been the strong suit of the 2021-22 Blues, but I don’t understand how you go from a team that should have made the final if they had a healthy Binnington to giving up the fourth most goals in the conference. It simply should not be this bad.
I’m happy for Blais to get a goal. Don’t give me this nonsense about TaraseWHO though. That’s a straw man’s argument and a poor one at that.
We’ll see what happens against Florida. You allow five goals to the third worst offense in the West, it doesn’t give one much confidence for what they’ll do against the second best offense in the East.