The St. Louis Blues began closing out their 2022-23 schedule with a rivalry game against the Dallas Stars. The schedule makers must have thought these two teams would be fighting for playoff positioning since they had the Blues and Stars playing back-to-back games against one another.
Despite the fact the Blues had nothing to play for and the Stars were fighting for first place, it was a back and forth first period. Of course, the Stars got on the board first.
The Blues picked off a pass through the neutral zone, but then handed it right back with a poor pass through the slot. The Stars scored on the transition play after Joel Hofer failed to cover a puck and the Stars banked it off the goaltender from the goal line.
St. Louis tied it up just around two minutes later. A somewhat rare power play goal came off a fantastic pass from Robert Thomas from the right, through the slot, for a tap in by Jakub Vrana to make it 1-1.
It seemed like the game would go into intermission tied at one. Instead, both teams scored in the final minute.
I’m not sure if he lost sight of the puck or thought there would be a deflection, but Hofer ended up in the middle of the crease when the Joe Pavelski shot came from the right point, so it essentially went into an empty net for a 2-1 lead.
The Blues came right back and tied it 2-2. With 20 seconds left, Thomas stick handled from the goal line to the front and scooped it over the goaltender as he attempted a poke check.
Things came unraveled in the second period, however. As always, the penalty kill killed the Blues.
Sammy Blais took a high-sticking penalty early in the period and the guy had enough of a cut to make it a four-minute power play. The Blues could not make it two minutes without allowing a goal, so the Stars got both sides of the double minor.
Justin Faulk went too far below the goal line to challenge Jamie Benn for no reason and Benn found Roope Hintz for the 3-2 score. Wyatt Johnson scored off the post from the slot and it was 4-2.
The Blues took another penalty late in the period on a questionable slashing call against Kasperi Kapanen. On the first shot, the Stars scored to make it 5-2.
This time, you couldn’t really even blame anyone. The shot from the point was actually blocked, but it came off the end wall right to Tyler Seguin who tucked it inside the post before Hofer could recover.
The hope was the Blues might stage a comeback in the third period. They received an early power play to give them a chance.
Special teams continues to be an enigma though. The Blues gave up a two-on-one shorthanded, but picked off the pass and went four-on-two the other way. They failed to even generate a shot.
Hofer had to make a stellar save on a back door play to keep the lead at three after the power play elapsed. That kept the team in the game, but there wasn’t enough on the other end.
The Blues simply did not generate enough offense to have a realistic shot in this game. They had only six shots per period for a total of 18. The fact they got two goals in the first period on six shots was somewhat of an aberration.
Cons: Penalty kill
Technically, you could call this special team in general again. However, the power play did go 1-2, so when you only get two team goals and one is on the power play, it lets them off the hook slightly.
The penalty kill does not get that same consideration. 3-5 is just terrible.
The fact they gave up three goals on three consecutive shots is just awful. That might be slightly incorrect, but I’m fairly certain the TNT crew said that once that initial goal went in during the second period, the Stars scored on the first shot of each power play thereafter.
Some of it is bad luck. Some is poor positioning or lack of concentration.
I understand it’s late in the season and the season is lost, but there should still be better effort put forth.
Pros: Vrana and Thomas
I was going to split these into two sections so there would be more pros, but the Blues were lazy, so I can be too. Outside of some pretty good saves in this game, these two were the only ones that had much positive to speak of.
Thomas was just quality on both plays. The pass he threaded through for the power play goal was exactly the kind of play you want to see from your number one center.
The goal Thomas scored showcased the stick handling he has and the touch he is capable of. The only disappointing part of it is it also highlights how often he does not try those same kind of plays at other points in the game or the season.
The Vrana goal was nothing earth shattering on his part, but it was great hockey sense. He knew where to be to make the play and had his stick on the ice. Too often do guys have their stick at their waist and try to make the play or get the angle of the blade wrong and put that wide.
Vrana and Thomas ended the game with three shots, as did Jordan Kyrou. So, the effort was there, but not the finishing throughout the game.
Don’t take this in the wrong way. I do not believe Joel Hofer is to blame for this loss and he made several saves that kept the Blues within reach longer than they probably should have been.
That said, I’m simply confused as to what happened on that Pavelski goal. Hofer seemed to have a good line of sight on the puck, but ended up with a completely wrong angle.
For a guy that’s been so solid positionally, it was odd to see. The more I’ve watched it, I don’t think the analyst’s idea that he expected a deflection is right.
I think, at most, Hofer cheated toward the middle thinking Pavelski might go to the blocker side. If that’s not it, then he simply lost his spot in the goal because he moved to his right and the shot was clearly to the glove side and would have been an easy save if Hofer was closer to the post.
This was not the way anyone hoped the team would close things out on home ice for this season. Though a win was not overly likely, and so many just want the Blues to have better draft position, you still wanted to see a better game.
18 shots will not cut it. The continued defensive mistakes, turnovers and lapses in judgement just won’t do.
Hofer made a couple mistakes, but where was the support. Dallas is a very good team this year, but 37 shots against and only 18 for yourself?
Special teams is just a mess. I get that the personnel is different and some guys shouldn’t be in those spots, but you’re professionals.
You are getting paid to do a job and if the coach needs you on the PK or the PP, you’ve got to get it done. St. Louis has not done that, even though they’ve played better in spurts after the trade deadline.
Dallas is better and deserved to win, but the Blues didn’t do much more than lace the skates and put their jerseys over their heads. There wasn’t much energy or drive or fight, literally or figuratively.
Perhaps things will be different 24 hours later when the season wraps up in Dallas. Unfortunately, different could be better or it could be much worse. We will see.