The St. Louis Blues were hoping to end their west-coast road trip with a record of 2-2. Going .500 was not the plan, but having started with two losses, it would be as good as you could ask.
Unfortunately, the Arizona Coyotes have dominated the Blues in recent times. Nick Schmaltz and Clayton Keller have owned the Blues from a scoring standpoint too.
The game got off to a slow start, but the Blues did what they needed, which was score first. Brayden Schenn got the opening goal, finishing off a breakaway after the Blues blocked a shot.
Arizona only took about two minutes to tie it up. Too many Blues players broke toward the puck in the left corner, giving too much space open for the shot from the circle and a 1-1 game.
The Blues got back to it, retaking the lead less than two minutes after that. This time a solid cycle from St. Louis ended with a Colton Parayko slapshot to make it 2-1.
The end of the period certainly went poorly for the Blues. A missed chance came back to bite them as the Coyotes came back the other way.
The Blues got great pressure, forcing a two-on-one with Brandon Saad and Jake Neighbours. Saad had the initial shot and then swatted his own rebound wide.
Arizona came right back the other way with speed. They ended up knocking the puck into an empty net from a pass off the left to make it 2-2.
The second period didn’t start any better. Nick Leddy got turned around and then gave a weak effort to block the ensuing pass. The Coyotes found the trail man behind the backcheckers, who slotted it into another empty net for a 3-2 score before the game was even 90 seconds into the middle frame.
After that, whoever was writing the script of this game went insane. Scott Perunovich took a penalty and, somehow, the Blues managed to score two shorthanded goals.
The first was from Leddy, who made up for his miscue that made it 3-2. The second was a laser beam from Alexey Toropchenko. It was the first time the Blues had taken a lead after trailing at any point.
That wouldn’t last long though. The Coyotes tied it on a fluke goal that hit the post and came immediately out. Unfortunately, the NHL rang the buzzer and upon review, it went off the pipe that connects to the post and crossbar to hold the net up.
Then Blues killer Nick Schmaltz just threw one toward the net, using Colton Parayko as a screen and it went in over the blocker for a 5-4 lead. Both goaltenders had been pulled before the game was even halfway done.
Keeping the theme of a goal about every two-to-four minutes, the Blues would tie it up before 12 minutes had been played. Finally capitalizing on Connor Ingram allowing several rebounds, this time Robert Thomas got one through the five-hole to make it 5-5.
The third period almost started as crazily. The Blues turned it over in the middle of the zone and then banged one off the post. Thankfully, Joel Hofer was able to cover the loose puck.
The Blues kind of hid in the weeds for the early portion of the third. Then, a Hofer save transitioned into a Kevin Hayes breakaway and he made it 6-5 with about 15 minutes left in the third.
For some reason, the Coyotes started getting frustrated. They negated a potential power play by going after Toropchenko when the whistle was blown. They then gave the Blues a five-on-three power play and also took a 10 minute misconduct.
St. Louis did nothing on the power play. In fact, they gave up a shorthanded breakaway on the five-on-three.
The Blues got another power play shortly after and wasted that. The only benefit of these power plays was it was two minutes off the clock.
Due to some good goaltending at the end, the Blues managed to hold on. They finish the road trip 2-2 and won 6-5.
Cons: Power play
Here we go again. It seemed like the Blues power play was improving for awhile, even if they weren’t scoring.
Now, they’ve regressed. The best case scenario is for the game to lose two minutes and nothing bad happens.
St. Louis doesn’t even threaten. They had a five-on-three and gave up a clear breakaway.
They gave up another breakaway on the ensuing power play, but managed to avoid a shot against on that one.
They continue to overpass and miss the net when they actually get a shot. They were 0-3 with the man advantage in this game and are 0-11 against the Coyotes this season.
Pros: Unsung heroes
The Blues got good performances from guys that don’t necessarily show up on the stat sheet. Those are the kinds of things you need in games like this.
Toropchenko, Neighbours and Scott Perunovich did get on the score sheet. Torpo got a goal and the other two got important assists.
However, it was the other things they did to help the team that caught my eye.
Toropchenko was mixing it up most of his shifts. He was credited with two hits, but being able to be smart and not over-retaliate after he got messed with following the kneeing call was important. If he takes a second minor, the Coyotes go on the power play and the game might change.
Neighbours was showing effort all game long. He had a big blocked shot in the first period, playing goalie in the high slot and also sprung some quick counters.
Perunovich still has a few miscues here and there, but he’s much better than the last few seasons. At this point, he is a clear NHL defenseman. His decision making is solid, his passing is quick and decisive and he isn’t afraid to try and shoot.
Some people might wonder why there’s only one good thing and bad thing listed. Frankly, it was just an odd game.
The way the lead went back and forth in the second period was likely entertaining for a neutral fan. For someone who cheers for either the Blues or Coyotes, it was kind of annoying to watch.
Nobody settled into the game. It was just zone to zone and then a bunch of randomness.
We see goals buzzed in from the NHL a decent amount, but this just felt weird. It made a clear metal sound and normally you only get that off the red posts, not the inner bars.
I wouldn’t really blame either starting goaltender for any of the goals. Maybe there was one that each should have had, but it wasn’t truly their fault. Still, when you have 10 total goals scored on 20 total shots, you understand why the coaches made the switches.
What continues to be perplexing is why Arizona poses such a problem to the Blues. The Coyotes are a talented team, but they just seem to find a different level when the Bluenote is on the other bench.
Maybe I should have listed Hofer as a pro. He bailed the Blues out a couple times at the end of the game.
Still, 12 saves isn’t a ton and he wasn’t called on to make any brilliant stops. He might have got a piece of one of the breakaways, which would be a game saver, but it might have gone out of play on the shot and everyone just assumed a save. There was never a definitive replay on that.
In the end, this was just a good win. Not good in the sense the Blues played great, but they needed this.
They needed a victory over Arizona. They also needed to keep Keller from scoring. They couldn’t keep Schmaltz off the board, but at least both didn’t get multiple goals.
You needed to get a win going into the holiday so you’re not stewing over things during family time. It wasn’t pretty, but when you get blown out by two of the California teams, finishing the trip with two wins is good enough.