The St. Louis Blues against the Chicago Blackhawks used to be one of the most intense matchups of any season. With the Blues slipping and the Blackhawks tanking, it has become as tame as they come.
Speaking of tame, the first period was pretty lackluster. That statement is true for both teams.
With about two minutes left in the period, the Blues were being outshot 8-3. The Blues did get four more pucks on net in those final ticks, but only a couple actually forced good saves.
Meanwhile, the Blackhawks had nine shots in the first and got a few decent looks on goal. Jordan Binnington made a handful of good saves, including one where he slammed the five hole shut at the last moment and another where the Hawks player literally got so frustrated he just left to the bench while the rest of the play kept going on.
For whatever reason, the Blues seem to like the second period lately. They got off to a good start in terms of shots and also got on the board first.
After a few early saves from Peter Mrazek, the Blues found Jakub Vrana on the back door. Former Blackhawk Brandon Saad fed it through the deep slot and Vrana tapped it home on the backhand to make it 1-0.
Chicago answered six minutes later on the power play. Marco Scandella cheated over instead of staying in position, leaving the near post open and Binnington no chance to make a save after the threaded pass past Justin Faulk and Scandella.
The Blues took over the rest of the period, however. Justin Faulk scored a nice goal after the Blues did not allow Chicago to clear the puck and Faulk snapped it from the slot. It was later changed to Logan Brown, so apparently it went off his hip.
38 seconds later, the Blues got a three-on-one. They found Alexei Toropchenko on the trail pass and he did not dish back, instead going five hole to make it 3-1.
Then, the teams decided defense was optional in the third period. Chicago made it 3-2 on the power play with another back-door tap in.
Nine minutes later, the Blues restored the two-goal lead. Jordan Kyrou came down the gut and sniped one for the 4-2 score.
St. Louis didn’t close the lid though. The puck was just feet from the crease, hovering there, and Boris Katchouk nabbed it before anyone else and deked around Binnington to make it 4-3.
Chicago kept coming late in the game. Binnington had to make a handful of saves to preserve the lead up to and after the Hawks pulled their goalie.
Chicago had a mad scramble play with 115 seconds left, but ended up hitting the side of the net. After all that and a little more, it was the former Blackhawk Saad who finally got the puck out and scored into the empty net to make it 5-3.
Cons: Penalty kill
What has happened with the special teams? The power play turned it around for a little while and now, not only went 0-2, but looked extremely out of sorts.
I get it. They were without Thomas and Buchnevich, but still. Just the inability to do anything is frustrating.
That said, the penalty kill has taken over the full mess category. 4-5 a few nights ago and now you allow 2-3 from Chicago.
Chicago had something like six goals in their previous seven games – those numbers might have been reversed, but I digress. Not only did you let them score three, but two were on the power play.
What’s discouraging is the fact there isn’t even any time to set up. I don’t know if it was the case against Chicago, but often the first shot against on the PK has been going in the net.
I’ll be completely honest. I was a little higher about getting Vrana in the trade than Kasperi Kapanen via waivers, but I wasn’t too sold on either.
At the time, they both seemed like additions just to fill out the roster for this season. I was wrong on both, so far, especially Vrana.
I don’t know if he can continue this pace he’s on. He’s now got four goals and five points in his last five games and nine goals with the Blues since arriving.
I feel like he’s essentially taken over the Vladimir Tarasenko role. He’s never going to be the best defensive forward, but he has great hockey sense, positional awareness and speed to go along with a good wrist shot.
Cons: Too much defending
For this season, we’ve reached a point where focusing on defense is simply going to be the way this team is. That doesn’t mean it can sustain next season, nor is it always fun to watch.
The Blues are more a counter attack team now that does not counter. It’s a small difference, but seven shots is better than five in one period. That said, two periods with seven shots, while allowing 12 shots in two periods is not a recipe for success.
Adding salt to that wound, the Chicago offense is terrible. I already mentioned how few goals they had scored lately, roughly a goal per game, give or take.
You allowed two power play goals, three overall goals and 33 shots against a team that barely knows how to score lately. When you combine that with the 19 shot blocks the Blues had, you’re simply spending too much time and effort in your own zone.
As usual, we got a little bit of everything in this game. The Blues wouldn’t want to be steady and true for 60 minutes.
The first period was just lackluster. For a period that had some flurries of activity late, it just kind of went by overall.
The announcers were all gung-ho about how few stoppages there were. Yeah, the game flowed, but neither team was really doing anything.
The second period was much more interesting, outside of the Blackhawks getting on the board so fast on the power play. It’s hard to imagine how bad the Blues were in second periods earlier in the season and now they seem to dominate the second period, win or lose.
Then, the third period was too much back and forth. There’s not a ton that Faulk could do about the goal, but allowing another on the power play so quickly into the period is just a punch in the gut.
St. Louis traded goals, making it yet another game that fans had to sweat out until the end.
Thankfully, Saad actually hit the empty net. Vrana’s miss gave me PTSD after the Vancouver game when the Blues failed to score an empty netter only to allow the tying goal soon after.
Ultimately, it’s another win against a team the Blues absolutely should beat. Stop whining about draft position and just enjoy things. There’s only seven games left in the season and then we have to watch, or not, other teams in the playoffs and a long offseason after.
As poor as this season has gone, it’s depressing to think it’s coming to end.