It had been awhile since the St. Louis Blues had such a long offseason. Normally, even if they had a first round exit, we at least got a couple weeks of extra hockey after the regular season.
That was not the case with no playoff berth in 2022-23. That made the return of the Blues against the Dallas Stars all the more welcome.
The question was which kind of Blues squad would we see. Would they return to a more gritty form, like 2021-22, or still show the cracks of last season.
The first period basically answered none of those questions. In terms of effort, we saw a quality period and solid enthusiasm and energy.
However, in terms of shots, it was not at all a good start. St. Louis didn’t even come close to 10 shots in the first 20 minutes, which was something we saw all too often in 2022-23.
It also seemed to end in disaster. We all thought the Blues gave up the first goal of the game with just 12 seconds left as Dallas scored just after a power play. Instead, the Blues crack video staff spotted offside on the zone entry and nulified the goal.
That only lasted less than a minute into the second. My least favorite player, Jamie Benn, scored on the wrap around to make it 1-0.
Fortunately, the Blues didn’t wait long to score. At 2:37, Tyler Tucker snapped one that was aided by a Sammy Blais screen to tie it 1-1.
The game opened up from there. Both teams were creating chances and the game remained tied late into the second period due to some great saves by both goaltenders.
This continued late into the second period. Jordan Binnington stoned a breakaway, Jake Ottinger kept out an Oscar Sundqvist 2-on-1 and Binner swatted away the puck during a scramble in front and it finished 1-1 after 40 minutes.
The Blues relied on quality over quantity. They didn’t have a ton of shots overall, or in the third period, but they still had every chance to win.
They had some really good pressure in the final minute of play, but unfortunately never got an actual shot on goal. Robert Thomas had an empty net opportunity, but a defenseman slid over to make the block and force overtime.
Dallas had the better looks in overtime. Binnington almost got overextended on one, but the Stars failed to wrap it around.
He turned that around and bailed out the Blues in the final minute. A two-on-one cross-ice play was denied with a great glove save.
St. Louis got three, big blocks to force a shootout. From there, we all know how that typically ends.
For whatever reason, no matter the skill the Blues have, they just suck at shootouts. They got one goal from Schenn on a pretty good snap shot. Other than that, they didn’t even make Ottinger really earn it. Jordan Kyrou didn’t even get a shot off on the last attempt and the Blues fell 2-1, both in the shootout and the game.
Cons: Allowing first goal
This is more a personal thing than anything. I simply hate Jamie Benn.
It’s well documented. If you Google my name, there was actually a petition started by Stars fans over an article I wrote about Benn on a different site.
However, overall, it was just a poor look, though there wasn’t much anyone could do. The Blues were still getting back and their overall defensive scheme is meant to let behind the net alone in terms of coverage.
Tucker was caught defending the far post, giving too much space for Benn to come onto the forehand. In a perfect world, you’d force him to the backhand, but that did not happen and a dangerous player was allowed space to come out in front.
I only ventured into the social media waters to post, so I did not see the reaction. Nevertheless, I’m sure there were plenty of unreasonable haters on both the goal that was disallowed and the one scored early in the second.
That aside, the truth is that Binnington was very solid in this contest. He had over 20 saves in just the first two periods.
Some were not of high quality as Dallas only had 11 scoring chances in the game at a point when they had 24 shots. However, those scoring chances were often high danger.
As mentioned, Binnington stopped a big shot labeled for the top corner with a big glove save. He also had the scramble stop and a big toe save on a partial breakaway.
Binnington was sharp and he was focused. If he can keep this up over the course of the season, the Blues will have every opportunity to win each night.
Cons: Schenn in the box
I admit to being overly critical here. Nevertheless, it just feels like when you’re the captain, you need to not take silly penalties.
These were typical Schenn penalties in the first and second period. It’s never quite his fault, but it sometimes feels avoidable.
Neither were egregious either. It’s just not a great start to the season when your first two penalties of the year are taken by the guy wearing the “C”.
Was the Blues defense perfect? Absolutely not.
They still made mistakes and are still a little weaker on the defensive net-front presence than you’d like. However, they were just better overall.
They were more decisive. They were stronger on the puck than last year too.
The defensive corps made some timely blocks and clogged lanes when they could. Additionally, they kept most shots from the perimeter until late in the contest. That was the reason Dallas had so many shots but not a large number of chances.
There is still room for improvement, but they cleaned up a lot of the mistakes that plagued them in 2022-23. It is just one game, but it was still nice to see a unit that didn’t look like they had never played a game together.
If a win is a win, a loss is a loss. There were good things to see in this contest and reason to be optimistic for the season, but it’s still an L in the standings.
Pavel Buchnevich did not look good in the shootout and did not seem overly comfortable on the puck after the first 10 minutes or so. He never seemed to get the puck to settle and lost opportunities because it would bounce or roll on him.
Torey Krug was still 50/50. He had a few decent moments, but he also got schooled a couple times too. Justin Faulk is a pretty good defender, but I’m not sure he’s going to be able to make up for Krug being overzealous at times.
In the end, the shot totals got pretty even until the end of the third and overtime. That said, the reliance on quality over quantity is dangerous.
They only had three shots in the first period for the longest time and had zero shots on two power plays. Dallas had a great penalty kill, but you’ve got to put pucks toward the goal at some point.
Binnington was not perfect, but he bailed the Blues out big time. He definitely earned this point.
Anyone that had Tucker scoring the first goal of the season probably won big money on those odds. All in all, we should probably be happy with a point.
St. Louis played well in spurts, but probably needed a lucky bounce to get the W themselves. Still, not a terrible start to the season and there are plenty of wins available.