The St. Louis Blues have made a habit of getting off to poor starts only to come back in recent games. That can work against the likes of Detroit or Anaheim, but the Los Angeles Kings are near the top of the conference and the best home team in the conference as well.
The Blues got off to their typical poor start. The Kings scored just 21 seconds in.
Viktor Arvidsson came across the middle to the near circle and snapped one past the blocker to make it 1-0. It was a shot that Joel Hofer needed to save, but he also saw it late.
The special teams let the Blues down throughout the first period. They allowed a power play goal to make it 2-0.
The Kings went tic-tac-toe from the slot to the near corner to the back door. There was no chance for Hofer and little chance for the defense to react either.
Less than five minutes later, it was 3-0 Kings. With the Blues on the power play, a poor pass to Jordan Kyrou at the point ended up slipping by him. The Kings took advantage of the miscue and got it past the glove of Hofer to score the shorthanded goal.
The Blues did score on that power play though. A quick snap shot from Brandon Saad initially appeared to hit the crossbar and come out, but Sammy Blais celebrated the goal. A review of it showed it rattled around the back bar that holds up the net, so we had a 3-1 game.
Unfortunately, the inability to defend on the power play cost the Blues. The Kings scored two consecutive power play goals at the end of the period to make it a 5-1 contest.
St. Louis wasn’t done though. They started their comeback in the second period, starting with a Justin Faulk slap shot goal just over three minutes into the middle frame.
After serving a 10-minute misconduct penalty that nobody seemed to know what it was for, Pavel Buchnevich scored. Sammy Blais drew two defenders to him and then found the sniper in the slot for the third goal and a 5-3 score.
Not long after, the Blues cut it to one. Robert Thomas fed it cross ice from the blue line to a streaking Kyrou on the left wing and he cut back to the middle to make it 5-4.
Unfortunately, the goal scoring was not done for either side. The Kings intercepted an oddly placed outlet feed from Colton Parayko and got it quickly to the slot for a roof-shot goal.
Kasperi Kapanen scored just about four minutes later. It was close to offside, but the puck never left the zone.
Then, Drew Doughty smashed a slap shot past Jordan Binnington on the power play. There was a little traffic, but Binnington probaly needs to have that shot and suddenly it was 7-5.
The Blues had a timely penalty kill in the last handful of minutes, even if it was their only one of the game. St. Louis pulled the goalie and Kyrou banked one off the rear of the defender to make it 7-6 in the final minute of play.
Pro/Con: Special teams
I’m lumping this one together since it’s late. But as good as parts of the Blues special teams were, it was just as bad the other way.
First off, the penalty kill was non-existent. The Kings went 4-4 on the man advantage until a late penalty kill made them 4-5 for the game.
Granted, it wasn’t just about the PK. You’d like Binnington to stop Doughty’s shot.
Arvidsson’s power play goal shouldn’t happen. The fact the pass went from the right-side point all the way to the near-side post is not right. Even with one fewer man, you can’t let a pass cross the entire zone untouched.
Hofer has to stop the shorthanded goal too. The Blues need to be better on the passes as well, not handcuffing their teammates with awkward feeds.
On the flip side, the Blues own power play was solid. 2-2 is a pretty good night.
What was nice about it was scoring in pretty close proximity to the goal. Saad and Kyrou were both in prime real estate to score.
I don’t include this section to downgrade a hot goaltender. It’s merely a point that cannot be idgnored.
Hofer did not have a very good night in this one. He wasn’t terrible, but he missed shots that he needed to save.
That one that went off his glove and in was a real killer, especially when you consider the Blues lost by one.
Nobody should think any less of Hofer, but this is the reality of the position. Sometimes you just don’t have it that night and Hofer simply didn’t look as calm and composed. He got frustrated and that’s hard to break out of in the moment.
Pros: Battle back
When the game got to 4 and 5-1, honestly, I wanted to turn it off and go to bed. Given the end result, perhaps I should have anyway.
Nevertheless, the Blues persevered. They made it an entertaining contest and hung in there against one of the best home-ice teams in the league.
It is a downer to score six goals and not get the win, but earlier in the season this game would not have been 7-6. Earlier in the season, this would have been 7-2 or worse.
Instead, the Blues just stuck with it. They didn’t hang their heads. They simply got back to their game and scored some goals.
They needed to be better defensively and more sound with the puck, but offensively, they did not give up or give in.
As I mentioned, this was a rough one to lose, but you don’t feel too terrible about it. The Blues charged back and put the fear of the almighty into the Kings.
Los Angeles had to scrap for every goal because St. Louis would not go away. When the game is 5-1 after one period, you could almost expect the Blues to just say it was a good trip, let’s just go home now.
Instead, they fought back and made it a contest. They pressed on the offensive side and capitalized on some great chances.
Defensively, they were fine as far as positioning. You’d like to see them be more aggressive as far as being in the passing lanes and not allowing such long passes or zip passes cutting through the zone.
I’m really not sure what to say about the PK. Some of those goals happened so quickly that you can’t even expect the defense to be set. That said, you cannot allow four power play goals.
You cannot allow five goals in the first period. Blame Hofer or blame the defense, but the bottom line is you can’t give up that many goals in a single period and expect to win.
St. Louis showed character and grit, but only for 40 minutes. Why they still struggle to get up for the opening faceoff is anyone’s guess.