The St. Louis Blues are apparently going to be a Jekyll and Hyde kind of team in 2023-24. We have not even hit the 10-game mark yet and we have already seen some of their very best and also their absolute worst.
One night prior, the Blues had one of, if not their best game of the season against the Calgary Flames. They were winning board battles, forechecking, making skill plays and denying the Flames any room.
24 hours later, they were getting dominated by a Vancouver Canucks team that should not be that much better than St. Louis. The Canucks might have a slight edge in top-end talent, but have missed the playoffs seven out of the last eight years and didn’t make a ton of significant improvements over the offseason.
You wouldn’t know that given how this game played out. After one of their best games, the Blues had one of their worst.
The offense went from looking good to being non-existent again. They had two shots on goal in the first period, though the stats keeper found a third one in the intermission. The bottom line was they barely threatened.
Conversely, the defense started to crack. If not for Jordan Binnington, the first period could easily have been 5-0.
The Canucks did get a goal in the first period with Quinn Hughes scoring almost eight minutes in. St. Louis just seemed to attempt to hang on from there.
It really unraveled in the second period. Though the Blues offense was better and challenged a little more, they caved elsewhere.
Hughes doubled the lead at 5:48 of the middle frame. He drove towards the right circle and just put a backhander into the mixer, where it went off Kevin Hayes and in.
A little over a minute later, it was 3-0. Brandon Saad came in on a transition play and dropped the puck to nobody. He then proceeded to go on a line change when the Canucks countered, split the defenders at the blue line like they weren’t even there and tuck the shot past Binnington.
Then came some salt in the wound around two minutes later. Torey Krug handed the Canucks their fourth goal.
The Blues were on the power play and Krug was trying to get out of his own zone. Like a quarterback that mysteriously did not see the defensive back right in front of him, Krug’s outlet pass went directly to Elias Pettersson and JT Miller scored on the ensuing breakaway the other direction.
St. Louis couldn’t get anything going in the third. They did outshoot the Canucks 8-5 and forced a couple good saves out of Thatcher Demko, but there was not nearly enough push you would need to overcome a four-goal deficit.
By the end, it was 5-0. A Pavel Buchnevich shot was kicked out of the zone by the goalie and only Jordan Kyrou and Marco Scandella were back to defend, so the Canucks easily handled what was essentially a four-on-two from there.
Fans of my articles, or those that hate read, know that I do my best to never truly blame the officials for any result. That is definitely true for this game.
In no way did the refs make the Blues lose. If this game was played entirely five-on-five, the game would have gone the same.
That said, the officiating was quite weak. They were tricked into some calls based on reaction or angle, but they gave some soft calls both directions.
For the Blues, it’s hard to get any offense going when you spend eight minutes of the first 22 minutes of the game killing off penalties. I get it. The league wants to crack down on things, but tripping calls where opponents just fall over or step on a stick or hooking calls where the opponent clamps their arm down on our stick are annoying.
The game probably doesn’t go the other way. However, four calls against the Blues before one against the Canucks isn’t how games normally go.
As usual, the stats won’t show what kind of game Binnington had. He won’t be happy with it and nobody needs to be singing his praises, but several broadcasters mentioned how the game was only in doubt at any point because of him.
When you allow four goals, it’s hard to consider it a good night. It literally could have, perhaps even should have been 5-0 after the first period. He was peppered with 19 shots in the first 20 minutes alone.
He lets up three in the second, but you put the puck right on the stick of Canucks players and the defense is flat footed. How can he be expected to bail them out on breakaways and odd-man rushes?
The guy made 30 saves. That’s a good night most nights.
He stopped all six Vancouver power play shots too.
The team better buy him a steak or lobster dinner, because they hung him out to dry. Binner was solid, as usual, really didn’t get the support.
Cons: Power play
I guess the power play is going to be another copy and paste situation for the Blues. Even when it’s better, they’re just not good.
Another shorthanded chance again, only this time it actually hurts you. I don’t understand how they can continually give up shorthanded breakaways.
The offense was better than normal. St. Louis had no power play shots early against Winnipeg, but averaged three shots per attack against Vancouver.
They did not score. That’s the bottom line.
Nobody expects this power play to be elite, but you have to score. You have to make teams pay for taking penalties and nobody fears the Blues.
On the radio broadcast, they talked about how there were no one-timer connections. That’s how most teams score on the PP, via one timers from the circles usually.
The one goal on the PP the Blues had, was a cross-ice pass tapped in. They’re not connecting on anything like that regularly.
It’s just not good enough. Nobody thought this was a championship team, nor one that would threaten for the division.
We did expect them to still be decent offensively while making the corrections on defense. They made the corrections on defense, but everyone seems to hesitant to push the puck the other direction or they’ve spent so much time defending, they have no energy on offense.
That all caught up to them and they didn’t even defend overly well against the Canucks. Too many mental miscues and lack of player tracking did the Blues in.
Once things unraveled in the second, there really wasn’t a spot where you felt the Blues had any chance for a win. There was absolutely nothing about their game that suggested a comeback.
Eventually, it became a matter of don’t get embarrassed. 5-0 is pretty embarrassing.
In seven games, the Blues have only managed three or more goals twice. That’s five games where they scored two or fewer and got shut out in this game. Demko had a good game, but there’s just not enough push back.
It doesn’t get any easier. The Colorado Avalanche are up next and they just recently lost their first game of the season, so they won’t be looking to make it number two against a team like the Blues.