The St. Louis Blues continued to struggle as the trade deadline looms. An early deficit in San Jose made the game hard to deal with.
The Blues didn’t waste much time falling behind in this contest. Though they seemed like they had some energy, they were already behind just 3:50 into the contest.
A strong move with the puck fooled Justin Faulk and Alexander Barabonov cut back into the slot. With Faulk out of sorts, nobody else could react and the shot came uncontested from the center of the zone and a 1-0 lead.
St. Louis answered a little bit in terms of zone time, but they just can’t get shots through. Everything was wide or blocked.
San Jose made the Blues pay. Less than three minutes later, it was 2-0.
The poor defensive play from the forwards continued. Brandon Saad failed to get back into the zone with any kind of zeal, leaving an unguarded Logan Couture to snap one up high from the circle.
While the Sharks owned the first period, the Blues controlled the second. They battled right back and showed some gumption, as Darren Pang likes to say.
Less than three minutes in, Colton Parayko (of all people) cracked the goose egg on the scoreboard. The big defender snuck down the right wing and onto the backdoor. A beautiful cross-ice pass found him and he tapped it in for a 2-1 score.
St. Louis tied it up shortly after. They got two things they desperately needed.
The Blues got a goal on the power play. Jordan Kyrou scored it, snapping a five-game scoreless streak. The Blues passed a bit too much, as always, but eventually found Kyrou streaking into the slot and he knocked it home for a 2-2 game.
Sammy Blais missed on a backhander after a brilliant pass from Brayden Schenn on a two-on-one with 11:51 to go in the period. You felt like that would come back to haunt them.
Instead, the Blues took the lead almost halfway through. The unexpected scorers continued as Logan Brown scored from the right circle to make it 3-2.
St. Louis continued to waste some chances. A two-on-none with Schenn and Kasperi Kapanen ended without a shot on goal because Schenn passed it off unnecessarily.
The Blues would get a two-goal lead before the period ended. Tic-tac-toe passing eventually found Schenn near the side of the net for a power play goal and a 4-2 lead.
Parayko came close to a second goal in the final seconds of the second period. He tried to go to the backhand and had to bail out over the top of the goaltender to avoid crashing into him, so it stayed a two goal margin after 40.
Of course, as battle scarred Blues fans, we expected things to turn for the worse in the third period. Initially, we got what we expected.
The Blues got another power play early in the frame. They allowed a shorthanded goal.
The play by Steven Lorentz was brilliant. He cut back to the middle of the zone, forcing two Blues players to run into one another, used that collision as a screen and scored to make it 4-3 and put all the fingernails in people’s teeth to chew.
It stayed a one-goal game until there was about five minutes left. Then, Tyler Pitlick snapped one from the left past the glove to restore the two-goal lead. Frankly, despite the pace on the shot, it was a shot that maybe should have been saved, but you need those now and then.
The Blues actually finished it off with a rare empty net goal. For once, they gained possession and found a man streaking out of the zone. Kapanen got his first goal as a Blue by sealing a 6-3 win.
Pros: Second period
There were bumps and mistakes, just like any game, even when the team was at its very best. Regardless, this was about as well as we have seen the Blues play in quite some time – maybe all of 2023.
They were doing all the little things right. The forecheck was there. The passes were on point.
The Blues were making the simple plays, which then opened up the better plays. You don’t connect on the passes that set up Parayko and Kyrou if you hadn’t established the ability to hit a simple short pass earlier in the period.
When the Sharks realized they actually had to defend, that opened things up. Even with a depleted lineup, we saw the results with four goals.
St. Louis was getting the puck to the net, too. The second period was the only one in which they got double-digit shots.
This team is far from perfect and has a lot of work to do. If they can find a way to consistently get the second period effort, they can still compete with plenty of teams.
They might not win, but we’ve all accepted their fate. Just play hard. They did in the second.
Cons: Injuries all around
The Blues were like flies in the summer heat in this game. They were dropping all around.
Most players were able to shake things off and return. Still, it was unnerving seeing that many white jerseys down on all fours several times.
Sammy Blais took a knee to the head, which could be devastating. In typical NHL fashion, he actually got called for tripping the guy.
Josh Leivo went down a couple times. He came within a whisker of taking a skate blade to the face once. He was hurt and trying to get off the ice on the Parayko goal, which might have left some space open with the defenders taking their eye off things.
Worst of all was Robert Thomas taking a puck to the face in the second period. He was bleeding almost immediately.
Pro/Con: Power play
From a statistical standpoint, most any fan will take 2-3 on the power play any day of the week and twice on Sunday. However, even though they connected twice, it was still messy.
We’ll get the elephant out of the room. You just can’t give up shorthanded goals.
I don’t care if it was a good, smart play to use the defense as a screen. The fact that so many opponents enter the Blues zone with possession while St. Louis is up a man is ridiculous.
The Blues don’t even force clearances for desperate line changes. They hand the puck right to the opponent and down the ice they go.
That said, they did score two goals and they were good goals. Kyrou’s was a rocket that the goaltender didn’t even move.
Schenn’s goal was both lucky and hard nosed. You feel like the defender should have kept him away, but it was a great pass and Schenn was simply stronger on his stick to knock it in.
There’s still far too much passing, and difficult passing at that. Let us not look a gift horse in the mouth though and take 2-3.
Pros: Getting guys going
While it may have been a shock to our system, this was the kind of game that can hopefully get guys the Blues need to get going to actually get going. All the right names scored.
Kyrou ended his scoreless streak. Schenn has been scoring more than others, but still not at the point the team needs from him if he’s going to be a top line player, or even second line.
Parayko is Parayko. Hopefully scoring that goal and coming close on the other play will ignite some confidence.
Logan Brown has been a big disappointment for me. If the Blues re-sign him in the offseason, maybe he can use this game as a motivator.
Kapanen has been solid since arriving. It’s hard to leave a team in the playoff hunt, even if you weren’t playing every day. Still, though he’s clearly going through the adjustments, it was nice to see his efforts rewarded with a score.
Obviously, we can’t get too excited about this win. San Jose is a bad team – they have fewer points than the Blues and are just as much in sell mode.
However, from a fan’s perspective, a win is a win when you’ve gone through another six-game losing streak. I don’t care if they beat a team of peewee hockey players. It’s simply nice to see a win and some positivity.
People on social media can complain about draft position all they want. I’m not willing to have the team suffer through that much for the potential to draft someone that might not play next year or might not be the second coming everyone projects.
Losing is as much mental as it is anything. As the psychologist said in The Natural, losing is a disease. It can spread quickly.
We’ve seen it this season. This should have been a playoff team and it went completely south.
For one game, it was nice to see something resembling the old Blues. They hit, they scored and there was effort.
Defensively…well, they still need work and not just on the blue line. Forwards have to get back.
I’ve seen countless Facebook posts about Vladimir Tarasenko’s lax defensive play since he left, but I bet money nobody points out Saad’s laziness on the second Sharks goal.
Overall, it was a fun game. It sucked it was so late in the evening, especially when many probably gave up after the first period. Nevertheless, it was good to see them play well.