One thing the St. Louis Blues had yet to do in 2023-24 is string together two good performances. They had developed a habit of following up wins with losses and vice versa.
The only consistency shown was having a couple stinkers one after another. So, the question after a solid win over the New Jersey Devils was whether the Blues would continue that play against the Montreal Canadiens.
We got an early indication of how the night could go. The Blues got the opening goal from Jordan Kyrou less than 90 seconds into the contest.
Unfortunately, it didn’t take very long after that to have the game tied. Kevin Hayes was called for a hook and the Canadiens scored on the ensuing power play to make it 1-1.
St. Louis didn’t hang their heads though. They kept up the positive habits built from the previous game and the start of this contest too.
They outshot their opponent in the first period for the second game in a row. St. Louis got a slightly late goal to make it 2-1.
Pavel Buchnevich took the defense with him as the Blues brought the puck into the zone. Robert Thomas used the space and ripped a wrister past the glove for the score.
The second period was a little more back and forth than you might like, but there was always going to be a push from Montreal. The fact that the Blues kept up their own steady pace was nice to see.
St. Louis got several odd-man rushes midway through the period, but either ran themselves out of options or a late stick mucked it up. Thankfully, the Blues got some great goaltending from Joel Hofer on their penalty kill to preserve the 2-1 lead.
That would become paramount as the Blues scored their third. St. Louis got another odd-man break and this time Kyrou connected with Brandon Saad and, after a small hesitation, he roofed the puck for a 3-1 lead.
Montreal only took a couple shifts to get themselves back into it. The Canadiens got a player just on the edge of the crease and Colton Parayko completed the screen, giving Hofer no chance to make a save and put it as a 3-2 score.
St. Louis was not going to leave anything to chance in the third period. They came out with force and kept their foot on the pedal.
The grinders got to work in the early parts of the period. Alexey Toropchenko nabbed his first of the year less than three minutes into the period. It came on a shorthanded breakaway no less, turning the tables on what we’ve become accustomed to.
About three minutes later, Brayden Schenn got his first of the season as well. Kyrou had a great seam pass to find Schenn on the back door and make it 5-2.
The Blues were cruising after that and might have just seen the game out. However, the Canadiens rolled the dice and pulled the goaltender, allowing Kasperi Kapanen to put one into the empty net.
Montreal didn’t go quietly into the night. The Canadiens cycled it around with 90 seconds left and a shot from near the blue line got deflected right on the doorstep to make it 6-3. That would be the final.
Pros: Young guns
This was the kind of game we all expect on a more regular basis for Kyrou and Thomas. Between the two of them, they combined for two goals and five points.
Thomas continued to show more of a willingness to shoot the puck when that is the most viable option. His wrist shot goal to make it 2-1 was not some sick move or fancy dangle, but it was a fantastic shot.
Yes, the goaltender likely should have had it, but it was still a well placed shot and a timely score. Thomas also continued to look more like a top-line center, winning exactly two thirds of his faceoffs.
Kyrou just had an excellent all around night. A goal and three points is exactly what the Blues need from him.
He did still skate himself out of a play on one of those odd-man rushes in the second period. However, he also connected on a great pass to Saad and the ability to thread the needle on the pass to Schenn was top level too.
Like Thomas, his goal wasn’t highlight reel stuff, but it was quality. He slammed a one-timer past the goaltender to get the scoring started.
Cons: Little loose
This wasn’t a perfectly played game, but the Blues were solid overall. If we’re going to be nit picky, and that’s what we are as fans, the overall defensive structure of the entire team got a little loose at times.
Montreal is a fast team with high-end ability, so you’re not going to contain them for an entire game. That said, it started to become a little too much of a track meet in the second period.
After a well played first period, the Blues actually got outshot in all subsequent periods. They really relied on Hofer on the power play given up in the second period.
It was not bad defending or the usual standing around, but it just didn’t feel quite contained. Regardless of the score, until the third period, the game just felt a little out of balance and as though the Canadiens could go on a run at any moment. It just never happened.
If I’m completely honest, I’d like Hofer to have stopped that power play goal. It was a lucky/good shot to pop it up from in that tight, but even though I don’t have a definitive way Hofer should have made the save, it just felt like a big goaltender should have got it somehow.
That said, Hofer definitely had a nice rebound game after his last outing. He stopped 30 of 33 and there wasn’t anything he could do on two of those goals.
He absolutely robbed Cole Caufield in tight in the second period. He also made some big stops on that aforementioned power play. At that point, the game was still 2-1, so a goal for Montreal ties it and then the outcome is definitely in doubt.
As Rivers said, you need your goalie to be your best penalty killer sometimes and Hofer was there.
This is just two games and I fully expect this to still be a back-and-forth, up-and-down season for the Blues. However, as a family member of mine said, it was just nice to see the team have energy, look competent on offense and still make good decisions on defense.
For two games in a row, they have excelled in all three phases of the game (offense, defense and goaltending). We can’t comment on the power play for once because, oddly, the Blues did not have a single power play against the Canadiens.
That may have actually benefitted them. They didn’t have to waste two or four minutes trying in vain and could just focus on the normal flow of the contest.
The win over New Jersey is still the better result since they’re an actual top team. The Canadiens came in just above .500, but they’re a very young team and made many young mistakes.
Even with that in mind, the Blues still had to capitalize on the mistakes. They’ve choked on breakaways and odd-man chances all season.
On this night, they converted. You can argue about the type of goal from a definitional standpoint, but in my opinion, St. Louis scored four of their six goals on either rush plays or a breakaways. You could even include Thomas’ goal in a way, but there were more defenders back on that one.
Regardless, the Blues had another solid game. At this point, it doesn’t matter how good or young Montreal is.
Half the fanbase, or more, expected a letdown after beating New Jersey. The boys actually showed up, played up to their talent level and won.