The St. Louis Blues did not have a great performance in their last contest, despite a 2-1 win over the Arizona Coyotes. They needed to be better and sharper against the Colorado Avalanche.
Though the Blues lost 4-1 the last time in Colorado, they actually had an ok game. It was somewhat of a mirror image of that in this game.
St. Louis got off to a fantastic start. St. Louis scored the opening goal of the game just 68 seconds in when Brayden Schenn tipped in a Torey Krug shot.
The Blues relied heavily on Jordan Binnington for several minutes after that. He had to make at least three big saves over the next handful of shifts, just to keep his team in the lead.
That allowed the Blues to reestablish themselves and get back into the game. They kept funneling pucks to the net and even outshot the Avs in the first period.
Their strategy eventually broke through, with St. Louis adding two late goals. Schenn got his second of the period after wiring a wrist shot in from a Brandon Saad drop pass.
Krug would get himself on the goal list after thinking he might have scored the opener. This time, the Blues drew the traffic to the left side of the zone, found Krug on the right circle and he fired it in to make it 3-0 with just two seconds left.
The second period got off to a bit of a back and forth start, but it was similar to most of the first. St. Louis was relying a little too much on Binnington still, though they were winning the shot battle until late in the period.
The Blues managed to increase their lead a little over midway through the period. A fantastic cross-ice pass from Oskar Sundqvist found a diving Pavel Buchnevich who ramped the puck up for a shorhanded goal and a 4-0 lead.
Unfortunately, the Blues could not preserve the shutout for Binnington. With just under four minutes to go in the period, the Avs got the tip in goal from Miko Rantanen to make it 4-1 and give them some life. It wasn’t the cleanest, but the Blues held onto that score line into the intermission.
St. Louis took advantage of a power play to open the third period, which is something we almost never say. It didn’t look great to begin, but they eventually connected with Buchnevich on the back door to make it 5-1.
Amazingly, the Blues actually got another power play goal shortly after. Earned when Kasperi Kapanen was hauled down on a partial breakaway, the Blues possessed and cycled just enough to get Colorado moving. They they found Schenn in the high slot and he beat the goalie up high for a 6-1 score.
Schenn came close to number four midway through the period. A gorgeous stretch pass from Justin Faulk found Jake Neighbours on the right and he connected with Schenn in the middle.
St. Louis kept their foot on the gas, but Ivan Prosvetov was a brick wall after replacing Alexandar Georgiev. He was making several huge saves, making many fans glad he didn’t get the start.
The Blues just kept their nose in their work though and did not give up on anything. They added another shorthanded goal for Buchnevich and then Alexey Toropchenko jammed home a loose puck late in the period.
The Avs would get a goal from Jack Johnson with 28 seconds left. The final was an eye-popping 8-2.
Really, this whole line had an excellent game. But, it’s easy to point to the guy that scored the goals.
Schenn had a slow start to the season and there were even a few social media rumblings about whether he was the right choice for captain or if he was washed up. He has quickly answered that with a flood of goals.
Ok, flood might be a bit much, but he’s gone from zero to five in a very short span. Clearly adding two in this game helps.
These were typical Schenn goals. It was a great positioning deflection to get the first goal.
Though you can’t get an assist on your own goal, Schenn was responsible for the set up by getting the puck out of the zone and onto the stick of Saad with speed. He drove the net, withstanding some pressure and being strong enough to get the chance and get it in.
The hat-trick goal was more about the puck movement ahead of time, but Schenn peeled back and fired it to the blocker side.
Speaking of slow starts, Buchie was apparently kind of domed up due to his slow start. On the TV broadcast, they showed a quotation where Buchnevich was talking about being frustrated with his finishing, but trying to stay positive.
He got rewarded on this night, just like Schenn. He was a special teams whiz.
Buchnevich got two shorthanded goals and also the lone power play goal for St. Louis. It likely is not coincidence that he has the only two power play goals for the Blues all season long.
It wasn’t just slick play either. He drove the net on all three chances.
The breakaway showed he could outmuscle guys even when he was gassed and still have the skill to outwork the goalie.
The power play goal was just frustration leaving his body. He whipped that thing in with such force and you could tell the weight had been lifted.
Cons: Reliance on Binnington
This was more to do with the early game performance than the overall 60 minutes. Really, in totality, the Blues didn’t do that bad a job even though they allowed 38 shots.
However, early in the game, the Blues needed Binnington to save their bacon. It seemed like after their first two goals, the Blues had to withstand huge pushes from the Avalanche and Binnington needed to be sharp.
On one hand, you knew a team like Colorado would have some push back, especially when the game was still up for grabs at 1-0 and 2-0. But the disappointing thing was the slight lack of focus by the Blues.
Yes, you’re up against some all-world players, but that means you should play like you know they’ll be breathing down your neck. Though it was not nearly as bad as we’ve seen this year, there was still a hint of feeling they were better than they are after those first goals.
The goal-scoring streak came to an end, but Thomas continued to be on fire. While he’ll never be a defensive dynamo, he was still one of the Blues best overall players all night.
He won a whopping 84% of his faceoffs, which put the team in better offensive situations all night. He was often going against the top line of the Avs too.
Thomas may not have scored, but he contributed on half the goals. He finished the night with four assists.
The only “negative” for his night was finishing at a plus-2. If he was on the ice for four goals and only a plus-2, that means he was on the ice for both Avs goals. Still, that’s part of the double-edged sword that is plus/minus because Thomas was not at fault for any of those.
Nobody expects the Blues to score eight goals a night. It was fun to see them do it though, especially against a division opponent like the Avalanche.
It was also good to see they’re capable. It is true that even basement dwellers have a good night, but this did not feel like that.
I’m not suggesting this will catapult the Blues into contender status, because that’s not at all what I mean. It felt like this was closer to what the Blues are capable of than we’ve seen all year though.
We knew they could, or at least should be able to score. Their offense was not that much of a problem to end 2022-23 and there had not been any detractions once the roster solidified after the trade deadline.
However, the team seemed so focused on the defensive end that they forgot how to even break out of their own zone and establish meaningful possession on the other end. Muscle memory kicked in during this game.
It does need to be mentioned that the Blues were a little more lax defensively in spots. That’s going to happen when you’re still trying to figure out what the middle ground is between defensive responsibility and actually looking like an NHL team on offense.
What was impressive was their mentality though. They didn’t get two or three goals and try to coast. They kept pressing and looking for more without falling into that trap of just hunting for stats.
The Avs are on a poor run of form, now dropping five of their last seven. Georgiev has not been good either and we saw that help the Blues too.
I subscribe to the you can only beat who is in front of you though. If you beat Pittsburgh with a healthy Crosby and Malkin and beat Colorado with a healthy MacKinnon, you’re doing something right.
Maybe they weren’t playing their best when you faced them, but you took advantage of the situation. The Blues haven’t always done that, so it was good to see.
This game isn’t going to spring into anything else. We still don’t know what Blues team we will see each night, but if this is the best of what they can offer, and they can limit how much we see the worst, then it can still be more than just a one-game performance.