The St. Louis Blues had been on a pretty good run of form lately. They had won four of their last six and took the league’s best team to a shootout before they lost.
Unfortunately, the gap in talent was a little more evident against the Minnesota Wild. However, it didn’t initially look that way.
The Blues got off to a strong start. They were the better team early on and even took the lead early on.
St. Louis got on the board just over five minutes in. Sammy Blais got a deflection for the 1-0 lead after a faceoff win and a shot from the point.
The Blues kept up the good pace until they went onto the power play. Things went south incredibly fast.
St. Louis gave up not one, but two shorthanded goals on one power play. The two goals came 20 seconds apart and were eerily similar.
The first one was a terrible drop pass that didn’t have enough steam on it. Ryan Hartman came in on the breakaway, Jordan Binnington tried his best Jon Casey impression and missed the sweep check, allowing Hartman an empty net to tie the game.
20 seconds later, it was deja vu. Kasperi Kapanen pretty much just handed the puck over near the blue line and Sam Steel finished it off for a 2-1 score.
The Blues finished the period strong when it was five-on-five, but could not get a tying goal. Still, things carried over pretty well into the second.
It wasn’t quite as good a period for the Blues as the first, but it wasn’t bad. Nevertheless, things just got sloppy and they were made to pay.
The Wild got a power play goal in the final six minutes. They tripled the lead in the final minute of play as well after a poor step-up by Dmitri Samorukov essentially led to a two-on-one and Minnesota tucked it through the five hole to make it 4-1.
St. Louis tried to make a game of it early in the third period. Brayden Schenn drove into the zone on the left, dropped it to Jake Neighbours and he sniped one past the blocker from the circle to make it 4-2.
With just over 12 minutes left, the Blues got within one. From the right-side point, Nick Leddy threaded a pass through a defender’s legs and found Pavel Buchnevich on the left post for a little shovel shot and a 4-3 game.
Midway through the third period, the Blues actually had a good power play (sort of). They did allow a great shorthanded chance against again, but they also came up just short a couple times on the power play.
St. Louis was putting pressure on late and it seemed poised for a good end. Instead, a poor cross-corner dump in went straight to the Wild defender who launched one down the ice into the empty net on a pure luck shot, but it was 5-3.
The Blues didn’t really challenge after that. They didn’t give up, but they didn’t pull the goalie again either and Minnesota saw it out.
What sucks about this game, as a whole, is that the Blues played more than well enough to get the victory when they were playing within themselves. Unfortunately, when they were bad, they were quite bad.
This is just a truly awful pass. Fans will blame Binnington and, perhaps, he should have stayed back, but the pass never should have happened in that way. It was far too laissez faire.
The same is true on the second goal. The pass gets to Kapanen, but it was completely telegraphed regardless of where the Wild pressure was already set up.
Even when it did not lead to a goal, the Blues kept turning it over on zone entries or exits. Anywhere it was the absolute worst spot on the ice to turn it over kept happening and, in the end, it cost them.
Pros: Third-period push
The second period was not terrible, but there was just a sense of poor body language. Certain shifts saw a lot of guys just kind of skating straight up and not getting that leg drive.
In the third period, the Blues showed back up. Not only did they get the two goals, but they pushed the Wild pretty good.
The shots were not heavily in favor of the Blues, but it felt like they were getting the better overall looks for long stretches. When the Wild were on the power play, they got the better of it, but the Blues just kept punching.
The drive into the zone that led to the Neighbours goal was just good hockey. The pass that led to Buchnevich’s goal was simply top notch.
It would have been nice for the Blues to finish it off and tie the game. Sadly, it was not in the cards.
Cons: Special teams…again
The team has had injuries and guys have been traded away and there was a change in the coaching staff, blah blah, etc. and so on. The nonsense that has been going on with the special teams lately is just ridiculous.
The Blues were 0-2 on the power play, which is to be expected these days. The first one was pretty bad based solely on the Blues lack of chances and inability to do anything that couldn’t be seen a mile away.
Ok, you go scoreless on the power play. Whatever. You can overcome that.
What you can’t overcome is being just as inept in other facets. Not only do you not score, but you allow two shorthanded goals.
You allow two shorthanded goals on the same power play. Not only were they on the same power play, but essentially on the same shift with the same forwards to blame for the turnovers.
Making matters even worse, you allow a power play goal as well. Statistically, the penalty kill was alright going 1-4, but two shorties and a power play goal against made the difference in this game when you lose 5-3.
We’ve reached the point in the season where very little of this actually matters. In the grand scheme, we have decent ideas about what some of these new players can be and what the younger players might provide over the course of full seasons.
In the microcosm of this game, it just wasn’t good enough. Minnesota is a better team, but the Blues could have beaten them.
St. Louis wasn’t even at their best for the entire game, and they could have beaten the Wild. Frankly, they should have beaten them.
It boiled down to the Wild taking advantage of many of the Blues mistakes and the Blues not doing the same in return. St. Louis was very poor in terms of their puck control and passing and that cost them.
Binnington was not to blame for the loss. You would like to see him handle that first goal differently and also, perhaps, get a piece of the third one even though it was a roof shot.
The top guys like Buchnevich and Schenn and a couple others were kind of non-factors for stretches. They didn’t have bad games per say, but they just kind of blended in.
Overall, there’s been far worse performances and the game was not going to impact things greatly, win or lose. It was just disappointing as to how it unraveled so quickly.
If you don’t allow any, or at least only allow the one shorthanded goal, it’s a different result. If you don’t let Minnesota hem you in in the final minute of the second period, it’s a different result.
Every game has plays that could have gone differently, but this one had too many plays that should have gone differently and didn’t. That’s why it’s a disappointing loss.