The St. Louis Blues had another poor showing against the Colorado Avalanche in their last game. It continued a trend that has seen the Blues only wins come against some of the bottom teams around the league and getting outclassed by everyone else.
A good performance against the New Jersey Devils could, at least, give the fan base a little hope. However, the Devils boasted the league’s top scorer and one of the best power plays.
Despite that, St. Louis had a decent opening period. They actually got pucks on net, even if there were few grade-A chances.
The downside was more anemic power play action, posting three shots on two power plays. The positive was hitting the net double digits in the opening period. It was the first time all season that the Blues outshot an opponent in the first.
The Devils lost their best player in Jack Hughes in the first period when he went awkwardly into the boards. Any team losing their star will disrupt things and the Devils didn’t quite look the same in the first half of the game.
St. Louis came out with more good energy in the second period. It was somewhat of an odd period initially because, though the Blues were playing well, they didn’t seem to accomplish anything.
They finally started creating actual chances about six or seven minutes in. Jordan Kyrou had a breakaway, but failed to convert again. I’m one of the few fans on his side these days, but he has to start scoring on those.
The Blues did bulge the net a handful of shifts later. The fourth line had put in some great work and finally got rewarded. Sammy Blais broke into the zone on the right, drew two defenders to him and found Jake Neighbours in the middle and he scored on a nice wrister.
The Blues kept on it as well. They continued to put pucks and pressure on the net and eventually doubled the lead.
This time, it was a greasy goal. After an initial shot block and then a scramble, the puck came to Kevin Hayes who chipped it in for his first with the Blues and a 2-0 lead.
Unfortunately, the Blues took their foot off the gas just enough. The Devils started funneling pucks toward the net and St. Louis kept lucking out.
Justin Faulk fell down, but Binnington made the save. The Devils had a partial break where Binnington got completely faked out, but New Jersey whiffed on the mostly empty net.
The shutout went by the wayside late in the second though. There was a cluster near the net and Hayes’ blocked shot actually directed right to a Devils player on the left and he dove to put it past a sprawling Binnington to make it 2-1.
As most fans worried, the opening of the third belonged to the Devils. They were winning puck battles in dangerous areas, creating odd-man rushes and keeping the Blues hemmed in their zone. Only some good goaltending and diving plays by defenders kept the one-goal lead.
The Blues managed to skate themselves back into things and keep the game on a more even flow. However, they missed an empty net on an odd-man rush and you wondered if that would come back to haunt them.
It seemed as though the Blues were destined to blow it. Combine the missed odd-man chances and a look for Hayes at the empty net only to see him pass to nobody and you figured it was all over.
Instead, the Blues finally got Hayes open a second time and he took the shot right down the gut for a 3-1 score. St. Louis almost desperately tried to get Hayes a hat trick when the Devils pulled the goalie again, but it eventually got finished off by Robert Thomas and the Blues took a 4-1 win.
Ok, so the guy missed a couple chances at the empty net. Once you put the Blues uniform on, that’s par for the course.
Overall, this was the best we’ve seen Hayes play for the Blues. We all knew he was not a huge goal scorer, but this was the kind of night we had been waiting for.
Hayes was strong on the puck, often holding it just long enough for someone to free themselves for a pass. Unlike so many other nights, the passes often hit their mark too.
Hayes was a little too unselfish a few times, but that’s his game. He’s not always, or even often, going to look to get glory for himself.
Beyond just the style of play, any night you get two goals, something went pretty right.
Cons: Power play
We might as well keep this one consistent. The man advantage looked less inept, but they still failed to accomplish anything.
They entered the game scoring on just 4% of their attempts. That will be even less now that they went 0-2 again.
Three shots on two power plays isn’t terrible, but it’s not great either. It did not cost the Blues in this game, but failure to take advantage of power plays is going to keep the Blues from winning more often than not.
Personally, I would not lay the loss to Colorado at Jordan Binnington’s feet. However, it should be said he did not have his best game either.
The contest against the Devils was one where St. Louis needed their goaltender and he showed up. At first, it seemed like it would be a relatively easy game with the Devils struggling to even get shots, let alone good chances.
Once New Jersey scored though, they came on strong. Binnington didn’t always look his most comfortable, but the bottom line was he made the stops.
33 saves on 34 shots is a pretty good night. When the team defense started faltering, Binnington made the stops through traffic and kept the game 2-1 until the offense found its footing again.
Compared to those on social media, I may be one of the few that actually still likes Kyrou and sees value in his potential. However, while he didn’t play a poor game, he’s missing too many chances.
Four shots on goal and a reasonable (for him) defensive game isn’t bad. In the end, the Blues are paying this guy star money to score.
Kyrou had two chances he absolutely should have scored on. The odd-man rush didn’t materialize and the breakaway resulted in a shot into the pad.
This is a guy you’re hoping can get your 40 goals one year. He is getting paid $9 million, with a cap hit of just over $8 million and he has one goal and cannot convert on breakaways.
I give the guy all the credit in the world for improving his defensive game. You need your scorers to score though.
This game showcased how confusing the Blues are likely to be all season long. They have just enough ability to challenge the better teams when they’re on their game, but can also fall asleep and get run over, even when they were just playing well.
You get four goals and your offense is much improved. You also see them slack off the final five minutes of the second period and the first half of the third.
If not for Binnington, this game probably ends up as a different result. That said, the defense played relatively well and broke up several plays with diving blocks and selling out.
St. Louis got physical too, outhitting the Devils 27-9. Much of that is due to the Blues not having enough puck possession, but as long as you’re making your opponent pay for their possession, you’ll be ok.
It does have to be said that the Devils were on the back side of back-to-back games. They also lost their star scorer early and for the entire contest.
It should also be said that the Blues have a penchant for not burying teams that should be tired in those situations. They also manage to often let no-name players come up big, even when the stars are hurt, having an off night or being defended well.
Neither of those things happened. The Blues remained poised, even when they weren’t playing their sharpest and got the win.
Jamie Rivers made the point on the radio earlier in the day that you might have one or two extra wins if the power play had just one or two extra goals. That point remains true, but they got away without one in this contest