The St. Louis Blues continued their home stand coming out of the All-Star break. They had the opportunity to make it an actual winning streak if they could grab their third-straight victory.
They were taking on the New Jersey Devils, who came in as the second place team in the Metropolitan Division. It seemed like a mismatch, but so did the game against Florida and that went in the Blues favor.
Both teams had a feeling out period to start the game. The offense wasn’t clicking that well for either one, though the game did have a decent back and forth flow to it.
It remained scoreless for almost 17 minutes, but the Blues struck first. Ryan O’Reilly’s shot was knocked down, but it fell right to Ivan Barbashev at the top of the right circle. He tapped the puck across to Pavel Buchnevich on the backdoor for a 1-0 lead.
Unfortunately, the lead didn’t last a full minute. A scramble in front of the net kept getting bounced around and, despite a great initial pad save, was chipped into the top of the net for a 1-1 tie after one period.
The Blues had a few excellent looks a little before three minutes into the second. Calle Rosen was set up on a cross-ice play, but shot into the pads. The Blues couldn’t capitalize on the next push at the net either.
Driving the net continued to be paramount in this game. After a turnover by the Devils in the corner, the Blues had a couple cracks at a rebound and Alexei Toropchenko finally knocked it in to make it 2-1 with four minutes gone.
St. Louis had to withstand another push by New Jersey. The Devils had a couple looks, one from the left circle and another from the slot, forcing saves from Binnington to hold the lead.
The Blues took a two goal lead just afterward. St. Louis won a faceoff in the offensive zone and Jordan Kyrou nabbed his 25th of the season for a 3-1 score.
Three minutes after the Blues scored, the Devils found an answer. A slow moving play from Robert Thomas gave the puck away along the goal line. New Jersey cycled the puck around and found the open man in front to make it 3-2 with more than half the game left.
The Blues almost reversed the script on their normal special teams problems. Usually, it’s the Blues allowing shorthanded breakaways, but this time they had their own, but Toropchenko was denied with a good save and a hook, which evened things up four on four.
In the third, the offense continued, though neither team had any grade-A chances in the first half. That changed just over midway through.
St. Louis found Kyrou in front and his little deke got the goalie to open the legs, but the puck stopped on the goal line. The defender cleared it before anyone in a blue uniform could get to it, keeping the lead at just one.
St. Louis would increase the lead. They restored the two-goal lead with a power play goal from Brayden Schenn.
The Blues could not score with New Jersey having their goalie pulled, but they held on for a 4-2 win.
Cons: Shots against
The Blues are playing with fire, but getting away with it right now. Two out of the last three games, they’ve given up over 30 shots.
Against the Devils, the Blues allowed 36 shots on goal. That’s forcing your goaltender to do a lot of work.
It should be said that Binnington didn’t have to make any 10-bell saves. Most of the shots against were ones he could see the entire way and from outside the slot.
However, he did have to work to make some of the stops. Once you’re starting to get up near 40, it’s asking a lot of your goalie anyway.
Pros: Getting to the net
The ESPN announcers mentioned it a little more than was necessary, but it’s still true. The Blues have struggled to get the goals below the dots.
In this game, that was not the case. In fact, three of their four goals came from in close.
There might not have been a ton of pressure on any of the goal scorers, but they still got themselves into those “dirty” areas.
St. Louis has struggled to find the will to get down in close to the net, much less capitalize on those types of chances. They were crashing the paint and rewarded for it in this game.
A couple back-door plays for Buchnevich and Schenn were good. The Toropchenko goal was even better since it tinked off the post and he had to lunge to knock it in.
It’s just a shame they weren’t doing this all year.
This was a very good, all-around team game. Like the Florida game, it felt like all four lines contributed and everyone was simplifying things and doing their job.
Guys were blocking shots. The Blues finished with 20 of those, which was important since 36 shots actually got through.
For a game that was not overly physical, the Blues still got up in guy’s space, not letting them have much room. They still finished with 17 hits too.
You’d like the power play to have done more, but they did get a goal and they created chances on their other two opportunities. The offense has woken up again and they’re playing team defense.
That’s what this team has needed. Nobody on the blue line, or even the forwards, is a good enough, pure defender to do the job on their own. It has to be five guys, working together in all phases and they’ve done that the last couple games and for a little bit against Arizona too.
What stinks is that this team will probably still make more moves. Even though they’re playing well, it’s just too late in the game to make a realistic push for the playoffs, even in a weak conference.
Regardless, at least they’re fun to watch again. Too many games were becoming a chore to get through.
This late push is good though, even if they miss the playoffs. If nothing else, if this is sustained, it proves they only need some offseason tweaks and not this overhaul so many are clamoring for.