The St. Louis Blues have had an odd start to the 2023-24 season. They earned points in both of their opening games, but it took shootouts in both.
In addition to that, they then had four days off between game two and three. It is by no means an excuse, but you could tell the Blues had too much time off.
The first period was not bad, but it was too much a game of spurts for St. Louis. Once again, they can’t get the first shot of the period and had a few flurries of offense only to go quiet for long stretches.
Overall, Arizona was the better team in the first for longer stretches, but it was just kind of a period of flashes for both teams. Unfortunately, the Blues shot themselves in the foot.
Another too-many-men penalty, their second in as many games, cost them. The Coyotes sucked the high man out too far, hit a quick pass to the halfwall and then to the slot for the shot and a goal to make it 1-0.
The Blues best chances, somewhat similar to the last couple years, didn’t even hit the net. They had some ok looks, but the offense is not clicking early in the year.
Sadly, the second period didn’t turn out much better and was worse in many ways. It started with a power play that opened up pretty well, but then gave up more shots than it achieved.
Shortly after that elapsed, Blues killer Clayton Keller doubled the lead. He got through unmarked and then whiffed on a backhander, which trickled under Joel Hofer’s pad after he lifted it thinking the shot would be a scoop.
The Blues did get on the board less than five minutes later. Jakub Vrana stickhandled himself open into the slot and unleashed a laser beam to make it 2-1.
That was short lived. Arizona cycled around the Blues like they were born to do it and Michael Cirone tucked a shot under Hofer’s right pad for a 3-1 lead.
Keller continued to kill the Blues, setting up Nick Schmaltz for goal number four at 13:58. It was another backhander.
The Blues could have cut the lead in half late in the period with another power play. While they actually looked threatening and connected on some shots, it just did not materialize again and the team went into the second intermission down 4-1.
Things went from bad to worse to open up the third. Arizona held the zone for a good 30 seconds or more and forced a penalty. They found an open man on the right circle for a one-time shot that went off the cuff of Hofer’s glove to make it 5-1.
St. Louis tried to start a comeback attempt shortly after that. Vrana continued his good night by threading the needle on a pass deep in the slot and Sammy Blais had a tap in for a 5-2 score.
The Blues just never really generated much or enough to get themselves back into it. Arizona added a sixth goal late on the power play.
It was a 6-2 loss and a pretty good butt kicking.
Cons: Keller and Schmaltz
Can someone cough on these guys so they’re sick or out of the lineup? It seems like every time they play the Blues, one or both of these guys stick one in the back of the net.
It is reminiscent of the Brett Hull days, but in reverse. You essentially expect them to score when they face St. Louis.
It isn’t just something made up either. Keller now has 11 goals in his career against the Blues. That’s the most against any one team.
Schmaltz is the same way. He also now has 11 goals against the Blues. He doesn’t have double-digits against any other team.
In terms of individual efforts, there wasn’t a lot of positives for the Blues. They weren’t bad as a team, but you need guys stepping up and that wasn’t the case in most instances.
The one bright spot was Vrana. He was generating offense and, more often than not, where he needed to be.
The goal was an absolute beauty. He didn’t need a ton of slick moves, but he still slipped his way from the circle to a better angle in the slot.
The fizz on the shot was palpable. There was simply no stopping that one.
Then, the effort on the team’s second goal was just as valuable. He knocked the puck down with the glove and was careful to play it himself to avoid any potential hand pass.
The hand-eye coordination was on point to even get the pass away, much less actually find Blais on the other side of a defender.
Let’s call this one straight. Hofer needed to stop at least two of the goals against him, but he was also a big reason the game was not a complete embarassment.
When the game was 3-1 and 4-1, it could have easily been 6-1 and maybe even more. Hofer made some quality stops to bail out his teammates.
Hofer made a big save on a late third-period power play, to at least give the Blues a tiny glimmer of hope for any potential comeback.
However, the flip side of that is that Hofer let in some weak ones. The Keller goal, you give a slight pass. Hofer thought it was going to be a scoop shot on the backhand and if Keller gets all of it, it would have been. Instead, he kind of whiffed on it and Hofer picked up the pad at the absolute worst time.
The Cirone goal, he needed to have. It wasn’t a bad play by Arizona and Hofer is trying to adjust himself, but again, the pad comes off the ice at the wrong time.
We could easily say it’s one bad game as far as the loss goes, but this is a trend. While St. Louis had two goals in this game, the offense is simply not clicking at all.
25 shots isn’t enough in today’s game, quality over quantity or not. They aren’t generating enough really good looks either.
As mentioned earlier, their best chances never even materialized. On the first power play in the second period, they had Jordan Kyrou set up perfectly twice. They missed on both passes and he didn’t even come close to getting a shot off.
What is more frustrating is that the defense is actually improved. However, three games in – especially in this game – it seems the defensive improvement has come at the expense of the offense.
There are nearly no breakout opportunities because nobody is trying to get out of the zone with speed. They’re now too worried about defensive positioning.
Yes, the injury to Pavel Buchnevich will hurt, but the top line for the Blues was nonexistent and sometimes outright bad. I’m not one to single out individual players, but if Kyrou and Robert Thomas can’t outshine the opponent on their own skill, then they aren’t true top-line players.
The Blues were not terrible in this game, but they never gave you an indication they were going to win or even tie the game. Even when it was 2-1, it felt like that was more happenstance than anything.
This was the same nonsense we’ve seen over the past few years. The Blues have several days off and come out flat. Arizona was at the tail end of a road trip and had plenty of energy and determination.
That should not be the case. The Blues need to find ways to stomp teams that should be fatigued, not give them immediate life almost out of the gate.
The special teams continues to puzzle. The PK seemed ok prior to this game, but allowed three power play goals against.
The power play shows signs of being better, but still gives up shorthanded breaks the other way. I’m not trying to take things away from the Coyotes, but why can’t the Blues ever be the team to cycle it around, wear out their opponent and tuck one in?
Thankfully, there’s only one day off between games this time around. The Blues are almost never good when they get multiple days between, so now there’s no time to worry about it with Pittsburgh coming in next.
The Penguins are not the Pens of old, but they have plenty of skill leftover. We had better see more push for goals on Saturday or this could get out of hand quickly.