This was a tough game for fans of the St. Louis Blues and Vancouver Canucks. Both sides likely have followers that want them to tank and get a higher draft pick.
The two teams came into the night separated by one point. With each one vying for draft position instead of playoff position, many thought losing was the better result.
Thankfully, the Blues did not get the memo. The players on the roster are doing everything they can to earn their jobs for 2023-24.
It didn’t start particularly well. Despite the fact both teams traded early chances, it was the Canucks that scored first with Quinn Hughes scoring to make it 1-0.
The Blues wasted little time tying it up. About 6 minutes later, Alexei Toropchenko got a partial break and snapped the wrister past from the left circle.
Justin Faulk would give the Blues a 2-1 lead with just over three minutes left on a one-timer from the left circle. It was a nice goal, but an important goal because the Blues took advantage of Vancouver not clearing the puck.
Unfortunately, the team’s penalty kill continued to struggle. They allowed a power play goal late in the period, making it 2-2 after one period.
The second period was quite entertaining from the Blues perspective. Jake Neighbours got into a fight midway through the second and got in several decent right hands.
Then, like in LA, the Blues offense came to life. Jakub Vrana stayed hot, scoring his eighth of the season. It was another one-time shot after a failed clearance by the Canucks.
Robert Thomas doubled up the lead just about two and a half minutes later. It was the scouting report on the goaltender apparently, because it was another shot from the circle to the blocker side and we had a 4-2 game.
Then, it was Pavel Buchnevich’s turn. Kasperi Kapanen came in on the right wing and threaded a beautiful back-door pass to Buchnevich for a tap in on the near post.
For the second period in a row, the Blues allowed a power play goal in the final two minutes. This time, it was a deflected shot in tight, giving Jordan Binnington no chance.
Speaking of no chance, the third period went quite awhile before another goal, but it was Vancouver with the next. A scramble out high in the zone resulted in some criss-crossing.
The Canucks threaded a beautiful pass from the left circle to the slot and the screen in front meant Binnington had no clue the pass happened and he kept tracking where the original puck carrier was going. This emptied the net for Andrei Kuzmenko and a 5-4 game.
The end of the game was just a travesty. The Blues had possession of the puck with the opponent net empty and Buchnevich fumbled it at the blue line, neither gaining a shot nor a pass to Thomas.
On the ensuing faceoff in the Blues zone, they scored from a Hughes slap shot from the point. It deflected off the shin of Marco Scandella and we went to overtime 5-5.
Fortunately, it only took 28 seconds for the game to end. Schenn found Vrana on the rush and it was over just like that with a 6-5 win.
Cons: Penalty kill
We’ve seen the penalty kill look much worse, but statistically it’s just terrible. A game after allowing four of five against the Kings, they allow two power play goals out of three attempts.
Compounding the problem, not only did you allow the goals, but both of them came in the final two minutes in the first and second periods. That saps all the momentum you might have gained during either period.
The second one was tipped, so you can’t blame much on that one. The first one, it was a solid pass but the defensive shape for the Blues just looked off.
Vrana has been on a tear since arriving in St. Louis. Vrana has eight goals with the Blues in 12 games, including the two he scored in this game.
The first one was just a fire it and hope kind of shot. Vrana found space in the slot and just ripped a whip-shot on net and beat the goalie to the blocker side.
You don’t usually score on that play, but you want your shooters to just put it on goal sometimes. Too often, the Blues wait and cycle that around and get nothing.
The second was just a smart move. After passing to Schenn, Vrana lets the defenders push towards Schenn and then he drove to the back post.
He knew he’d be open based on the motion of the defenders. It’s not just reacting, but having hockey sense on where the opponents are going, finding the open spot and being ready for the pass.
As good as the second was, the Blues took their foot off the gas in the third. They did get unlucky with a couple offensive misses/posts, but it was just not enough.
As bad as they were defensively early in the season, you want them to buckle down and take care of business. However, there’s a difference between that and just kind of laying back.
The Blues did a little too much laying back in the third period here. Granted, the game-tying goal saw Vancouver with six attackers, but Hughes had too much space to get the shot off.
Too many Blues players were just trying to huddle in close to the net. Someone has to rush out there and get in that shooting lane.
Similarly, the Blues had too many guys in front of their own net on the goal that made it 5-4. There were two defenders in Binnington’s vision. If they were more spread out, perhaps the goalie can react instead of continuing on to the right post.
I know a vocal segment out there is upset the team won, but you all can get lost. If you need a bright spot, at least the Canucks got a point, so the teams are tied on points instead of the Blues being a point up.
As far as the game itself is concerned, the Blues were good for another two periods. Despite allowing the opening goal, they had a pretty decent first period as long as you remove that power play goal late.
The same is true of the second. Remove that late power play goal and it’s another dominant second period performance.
Why the Blues just forget to even try leaving their zone in the third is beyond me. Five shots won’t cut it.
Having a somewhat clear chance to score an empty net goal and close things out is just as frustrating. As soon as it didn’t happen for Buchnevich, I knew the tying goal was coming. It’s just the way it’s been for the Blues.
Luckily, the Blues turned it back on in overtime. We’ve seen them sit back and let things come to them and try to react, which never works well.
They got right in on the attack and finished it off. It helped that the defense was so easily drawn to Schenn, but you still have to capitalize.
The win is great. It is a little frustrating that the Blues absolutely need so many goals just to get an extra point, or lose closely to the Kings, but it’s still a better brand of hockey than we got around a month or two ago.