St. Louis Blues hockey came back in late September of 2023. After an earlier end to the 2022-23 season than we all expected, the Blues opened their preseason with a split-squad game against the Arizona Coyotes.
As is typical with preseason games, it was a lot of hit or miss stuff. There was good, but plenty of meh mixed in there.
In the early contest that took place in St. Louis, the Blues pulled off a 3-2 win. This game had the bulk of the star power for the Blues, so you would hope they could knock off the Coyotes given that.
St. Louis got on the board first with a “dirty” goal from Pavel Buchnevich. It wasn’t necessarily a true dirty goal, since Buchnevich scored from the slot, but it started from in close to the net.
It’s always good to see skill guys get in tight, get their nose dirty and come out rewarded. Jordan Kyrou was the one to set up the goal and was just a few feet from the cage.
St. Louis nabbed a 2-0 lead late in the second period. It was another goal from a dirty area as Oskar Sundqvist got the deflection from in front of the net.
Though it was not a primary assist, Scott Perunovich did get a helper on that goal. I highly doubt it’s a true make or break situation for him, but he needs to prove something in this preseason nevertheless.
Just minutes later, the Blues went up 3-0. This time it was Kyrou with a slap shot from between the blue line and he slot.
St. Louis would go on to win that game by a final of 3-2. It’s disappointing that they let a decent-sized lead get away from them, but they held on in the end.
Joel Hofer only played a period and made six saves with none given up. Vladim Zherenko let up both goals in the late stages, but still made 20 saves on 22 shots against him.
Things did not go nearly as well for those players that made the trek over to Kansas. In the evening game, the rest of the Blues took on the rest of the Coyotes in Wichita.
In a reverse of the game in St. Louis, the Blues never really got started in this game. Arizona did not let the Blues put the puck into the back of the net until the third period.
St. Louis was behind the eight ball from the start. The Coyotes took a 1-0 lead after one period of play.
Arizona added two more in the second for a 3-0 lead after 40.
St. Louis got their lone goal of the contest from Alexei Toropchenko. Matthew Kessel and Zach Dean picked up assists on the goal.
None of those names figure to be top scorers for the Blues in 2023-24, they all need to solidify themselves. Having a good camp and starting strong in the preseason is a good way to earn a lineup spot for Toropchenko or earn a roster spot for either of the other two.
Kessel is still on the outside, looking in, but Dean is highly touted. Both getting on the score sheet is an easy way to get noticed by the coaches, as long as you’re doing all the other little things too.
As far as the goalies, it was a rough night. Colten Ellis allowed two goals on 18 shots and Malcom Subban surrendered three goals on 33 shots.
The Coyotes took the preseason game in Kansas by a final of 5-1. Even in a game that doesn’t mean anything, except to coaches and prospects, that scoreline stings.
However, all in all, there were good things to glean from these games. The afternoon game showed the Blues will not be pushovers.
There was a surprising amount of feistiness and physicality for a preseason game. It had that air about it like in football where they say they’re so tired of beating up one another that it’s fun to let it out on another team.
You got some of your big names involved. Buchnevich and Kyrou scored, while Robert Thomas and Jakub Vrana had assists.
There was less to like about the 5-1 loss, but there was also less veteran presence.
Ultimately, these games are used more to get film on the prospects and help the staff make those minute decisions about who might earn a roster spot on the final day. Still, it was nice to have hockey back.