The St. Louis Blues didn’t have the best of performances to start their road trip when they fell to the Winnipeg Jets. Their next chance to get a W came in the form of a team with similar struggles to St. Louis in the Calgary Flames.
The first period was somewhat even in terms of the back and forth play. Both teams registered 10 shots, but you still got the feeling the Blues were closer and that eventually came to fruition.
St. Louis would strike first, which has been rare in and of itself in 2023-24. It came shorthanded on top of everything.
Oskar Sundqvist intercepted a pass back toward the point, picking it off from Nazem Kadri, which made it even sweeter. He slipped it past the defender to Kasperi Kapanen on the breakaway and he made it 1-0 a little over halfway through the period.
Fans wouldn’t wait long for another. Two minutes later, Nick Leddy got his first with a slap shot from the left point. It was initially thought Jake Neighbours might have tipped it, but he was still involved with the sceeh in front. It was 2-0 at that point.
The second period was pretty uneventful in terms of scoring action. Still, the Blues kept up the pressure and got double-digit shots for the second period in a row. On top of that, their defense clamped down and held the Flames to just four second-period shots too.
St. Louis didn’t just sit back and absorb pressure in the third. Though the Flames did have 13 shots, the Blues answered back with 15 of their own.
St. Louis was also unlucky to not increase the lead earlier than they did. Brayden Schenn had a glolrious scoring opportunity in the third and he beat the goaltender, but the puck rang off the blocker-side post and out the other side.
Nevertheless, the Blues persevered and hung on. Oskar Sundqvist got his first of the year, hitting the empty net for a 3-0 win.
You only get your first once – or at least once per season. That was the case for three different Blues on this night.
The Blues needed to get the offense rolling. While three goals in today’s NHL is not the best, it was quality.
On top of that, you had three different scorers and all of them got their first goals of the year.
Kapanen’s goal is exactly why you brought him in. Getting it on the penalty kill is sugar on top of the icing, but he was quick and decisive on the breakaway, not letting the goalie get a good read.
Leddy’s goal was about timing more than anything. It wasn’t a particularly hard shot, but there was traffic in front and it may have been deflected. Regardless, it was the kind of goal to get some momentum for the defense in the offensive zone.
Last, but not least, Sunny came up with the almost unheard of empty-net goal. He’s a capable scorer for a bottom-six forward, but the team needed to get him going with more than just physicality. Putting the game on ice was a nice touch.
Cons: Power play
St. Louis had a better overall game, especially on the offensive end. That did not translate to results for the power play.
0-4 is pretty bad. It should be noted that one power play only lasted 16 seconds, but even 0-3 isn’t good.
The Blues did get a power play goal in Winnipeg, making them one of the last teams in the league to do so. They didn’t carry any momentum over from that.
There’s just not enough threatening play from the man-advantage unit. There’s basically not much to be done at this point. You can’t alter the system and there’s only so much mixing and matching to be done. Guys have to be better.
Pros: Getting the win
Getting any win is always a positive, but it was needed in this game. Not only do you wash the sour taste from Winnipeg away, but you set yourself up for the next night.
The Blues play back-to-back in Calgary and then Vancouver the following night. Lose in Calgary and the pressure is really on against the Canucks to get something.
Now, because they put the work in against a team that is on their level or below, the Blues can play a little more free in Vancouver. You aren’t desperate for points, so you can let loose a little and play to win instead of playing not to lose.
While the Blues were not dominant, this was a good performance. While it is still very early in the season, it also gives us a tiny bit of an indicator.
The Blues are not a great team. Even the most rose-colored glasses fan has to accept that.
They aren’t bottom tier either. That’s why they needed this win.
For whatever reason, Calgary is in the same boat as the Blues. They have enough talent to be dangerous, but it is not coming together.
The Flames are on the same level, or maybe just below the Blues in many ways. Beating them over the course of 60 minutes was a boost in terms of knowing roughly where St. Louis sits this early in the season.
Lose against a team like that and you can figure it might be a long season. Between the 2022-23 Blues and 2023 Cardinals, we have seen that all too often.
This might not be an important win in terms of playoff positioning because it’s way too early. It does give the Blues an indicator of who they are better than, at least for now.
St. Louis still has work to do. But, the message is being received about the offense.
35 shots and three goals is pretty good. The Blues still need more o-zone time sustained, but they were improved.
Now, it’s about showing you can sustain that performance. In recent history, the Blues are rarely good in the second game of a back-to-back. Carry the same game from Calgary into Vancouver and you will at least give yourself a chance to win.