The St. Louis Blues continued their perilous trek into uncharted waters as the final third of the 2022-23 season began. They hoped to push their three-game winning streak to four.
Unfortunately, that proposition became untenable. They were facing a resurgent Colorado Avalanche team and had just lost their captain due to the trade of Ryan O’Reilly.
Despite this, the Blues were not completely outmatched. The game had its ebbs and flows, but it started alright.
St. Louis was matching Colorado offensively in the first few minutes. Early on the shots were 4-3 Avalanche, but then it all shifted.
The Blues would only get two more shots the rest of the first period and, eventually, surrender the first goal. The Blues failed to switch properly after a weave play and Nathan MacKinnon found Miko Rantanen on the right circle for the goal.
The Blues were likely fortunate not to surrender more, but the game was definitely within reach. 1-0 after 20 was not a bad result.
The second period did not produce much more good news. In addition to the players traded away, the Blues lost Pavel Buchnevich for the remainder of the game. He only had three shifts in the first period, but the hope was he might return from intermission. That did not happen.
St. Louis had a better offensive showing in the middle frame, putting nine shots on goal. Alas, their goal came a bit too late.
The Blues allowed a second goal just over seven minutes in. After a Colton Parayko blast was blocked, the St. Louis forwards gave no effort on the back check. Bowen Byrum came in on the left wing and fired it past the glove hand to make it 2-0.
St. Louis would cut the lead in half before the break. At 15:28, Sammy Blais got his second since returning. The play went tic-tac-toe from Logan Brown in the high slot to Jordan Kyrou on the edge of the right circle to Blais on the left and a goal. The second period would finish 2-1, making the third all important.
Unfortunately, it became a special teams battle. The Blues did not win that war.
Colorado scored two power play goals in the third period. Valerei Nichushkin scored on the man advantage in what looked like a kicked in goal. It would have been an interesting call had it actually gone in cleanly off the skate, but after review, it hit the stick just enough to negate the puck bounce off the skate.
The game remained 3-1 for over six minutes, but the Avs were not done. Byrum got his second to make it 4-1, which would be the final. The initial shot from the slot was stopped by Jordan Binnington, but the rebound came to the point man who fed Byrum on the right circle and he scored on the one timer.
Cons: Penalty kill
The PK unit had been humming right along for the Blues in 2023. Win or lose, the change of the calendar had seemed to be beneficial for the shorthanded special teams of St. Louis.
It was not the case in this one. The penalty kill essentially killed the chances of St. Louis stealing a win.
The Avs only went 2-4 on their power play. The difference was the timing of the goals given up.
Both power play goals came in the third period. St. Louis was still in the game until their penalty kill failed to come up with key stops in the final frame.
The naysayers will say I’m crazy for thinking Binnington had a good game when four got behind him. However, it’s more about the ones that didn’t.
Binnington made several key saves early in the contest. He was the main reason the game was only 1-0 after the first period.
St. Louis failed to get anything going on the offensive end. This meant that not only was Binnington facing lots of shots, but he was having to work harder than normal. When teams have you hemmed in your defensive zone, that means your goalie is doing a lot of squatting, a lot of moving up and down and around trying to see and getting lactic acid buildup in the legs due to the shifting back and forth to make saves.
Binnington made 14 saves in the first period alone. He had faced 21 shot against by the end of the second period.
Maybe you would like Binnington to have stopped both Bynum goals. It was to the glove side.
Even so, the game would have been out of hand if not for him.
Cons: Not enough push
There’s no shame in losing to Colorado. They’re on a hot streak and are still defending champions.
The problem is you’d hope for more from the Blues, even in a depleted state. The offense was near nonexistent in the first period – yet another period with five shots on.
The Blues only finished the game with 20 shots on. When you’re losing in the third period, you expect a late push. Instead, the Blues only managed six shots on goal when they should have been pushing the hardest.
Credit to the Avs for shutting things down. Nevertheless, there just wasn’t a big push by the Blues at the end.
The loss, in and of itself, isn’t too upsetting. The Blues played hard, in stretches, and were in the game for 40 minutes.
In fact, if the team had managed not to take those penalties in the third, the end result might have been different. Instead, the Blues did not give themselves the opportunity to come back.
What is more, the Blues have become more aware of the off-ice situation than you’d like. Brayden Schenn admitted that it was difficult to play so soon after the news of losing O’Reilly.
There’s no way one can expect the team to be the same after losing four key players. But, as fans, we like to think these guys are above normal human emotion, can set that all aside and get to work.
That was not the case as things kept piling up. Beyond the trades, the Blues lost Buchnevich again and also had a partially diminished Jordan Kyrou after he got slashed across the hand and the Blues received no power play.
As far as the game alone was concerned, it was more of the same as far as what has been concerning for the Blues. They let their goaltender get peppered far too much, with not enough response the other way.
Plenty will simply blame the defenders, but as mentioned, there was no effort on the back check at all for the Avs second goal. Not that he was alone in blame, but Kyrou was literally just standing up straight as he glided across the defensive blue line. He probably had the speed to catch up to the eventual goal scorer and try to get a stick down on the shooter’s stick.
Like Craig Berube said in his postgame comments, it was just OK. The game was closer than the 4-1 score indicated, but that was the final and the Blues did not play well enough to make it any closer in actuality.
There are still too many gaps between forward and defenders. The attention to detail is still not there for 60 minutes.
We can talk all we want about who isn’t there, but the reality is this has been the M.O. of the Blues no matter who was in the lineup.
We didn’t honestly expect a win over the Avalanche, but it would have been nice. Now, it’s Ottawa on the road with less than 24 hours between the two puck drops.