The St. Louis Blues didn’t make it pretty, but they turned things around at the end of their road trip. However, the question would be whether they had some turkey hangover in their first game following the Thanksgiving holiday.
While the Blues looked fine their first couple shifts, the Nashville Predators got four of the first five shots on goal. It didn’t help that Marco Scandella handed the puck over in his own zone in the first three minutes, forcing Joel Hofer to make two, tough saves.
The Blues offense started to turn things around, getting several shots on goal, but the Predators would strike first. A shot from the point was deflected on the way through. While Hofer got a piece of it, he couldn’t squeeze the puck under his elbow and Filip Forsberg knocked in the rebound.
Nashville scored another just 28 seconds later. The Preds came in on an odd-man rush and forced Hofer off balance on the near post and just snuck it between the pads.
Despite a fight by captain Brayden Schenn to get some energy, the Blues allowed yet another goal. They collapsed far too tightly, with all five players within five-to-ten feet of the goal and that left a man open on the back door for an easy tap in to make it 3-0.
The Blues finally got rewarded for some better effort. Scandella drove towards the goal line, slid a pass to Pavel Buchnevich at the top edge of the circle and Buch deflected it up and over the goalie for a 3-1 score.
The Blues came out well in the second, but came up on the short end of the stick again. After strong break ins by Jake Neighbours and Alexey Toropchenko both didn’t connect on the centering pass, the Predators countered and snapped one over Hofer’s shoulder to make it 4-1 just about three minutes in.
St. Louis got punished after that. They took two penalties that were weak calls, but called anyway and Ryan O’Reilly scored on the backdoor play to make it 5-1 on the two-man advantage. Nashville scored just after the remaining power play when the Blues failed to clear and a blocked puck came right back to the Predators for an easy put back with Jordan Binnington reacting to the original shot. It didn’t feel like the Blues had been that poor, but they were down 6-1 nevertheless.
The Blues weren’t completely done. After killing off another power play, the Blues came in and Buchnevich found Robert Thomas for the one timer on the left and it was 6-2 just over midway through the game.
St. Louis just couldn’t get out of their way though. Nashville made it 7-2 when Forsberg settled into the left slot for a one-timer.
The Blues wasted an early third-period power play. They did get on the board shortly after that with a rare home power play goal off a Neighbours deflection to make it 7-3.
It just continued to be a mess, however. Binnington failed to get a good handoff to his defender in the corner, made a kick save on the ensuing shot, but the Predators slid in the loose puck for an 8-3 lead and that’s how it would finish.
Marco Scandella has been pretty improved this season, in the overall sense. Most people base his performance evaluation on the fact Scandella was originally acquired to be paired with Colton Parayko. The difference now is he is a third-pair defender, which is likely where he was always meant to be.
However, in this game, Scandella was a turnover machine early in the contest. In the first period alone, he had two turnovers that led to quality scoring chances against. Those didn’t result in goals, but it put the team under undue pressure in those situations.
Pros: Neighbours and Schenn
This was one of those games with bursts. Just about everyone wearing blue had a burst here or there, but it was a lackluster performance overall.
The two that seemed to care the most were Neighbours and Schenn. That’s what you want from your captain, but also good to see from an up-and-coming kid.
Neighbours constantly challenged the Predators defenders. He lowered his shoulder and drove the net a couple times and only late sticks or decent saves kept him off the score sheet. When he finally did score, it wasn’t even a slick play. It was a guy going to the front of the net and being a pest and getting a nice deflection.
Similarly, Schenn did his best to get his nose dirty – literally. When the game was 3-0, the captain tried to pick a fight, went after the Predators best defenseman and then did have a scrap. He kept up the physicality, but also did his part to create and was almost the beneficiary of some of those Neighbours break ins.
Cons: Bad luck
I’m not letting anyone off the hook in this game. The goaltending could have been better, the defense could have been sharper and the backcheck is still too lax.
That said, it is human nature to just kind of throw your hands up in the air when things keep going wrong. I feel like that’s what happened with the Blues.
Look at the first couple goals. Hofer got a piece of the first one after a difficult deflection to handle, but the puck just trickled behind him. Similarly, the next one just snuck through his legs and only the kick from the left leg in an attempt to keep it out actually kicked it in.
Along the same lines, Binnington makes a good kick save after the poor exchange in the corner, but the puck goes right back to a Nashville player. Offensively, the puck always seemed to bounce or roll at the worst time. The Blues had several great looks end up hitting the heel of their stick instead of on the button where it might have led to a goal.
Who knows how much difference that makes, but it certainly helped things snowball the wrong direction.
Beyond just the game, it is always interesting to see and hear the different reactions among the fan base. There were a lot of sky is falling people, saying the Blues sucked in all three phases and there isn’t tangible evidence that they are wrong.
However, I didn’t see it being quite as bad. It was bad, don’t get me wrong, but these games happen. Let us not forget that the Blues put up eight on Colorado not long ago. I’m sure Avalanche fans were just as upset at all that and they’re still contenders.
What made the difference for me was I saw effort. There wasn’t consistency and there were certainly mistakes, but this wasn’t one of those games that lacked effort from all 18 skaters.
The defenders were trying, but we are back in one of those periods where individuals are trying to do too much and the entire system breaks down when that happens. Torpo was still skating hard, Neighbours had a good game and Schenn was trying as well.
People talk about Kyrou’s lack of backcheck, but we just have to accept that at this point. He’s been better this year, but it will never be his game. I’m more disappointed by his lack of goal scoring.
What frustrates me about the Blues in this game, and many of their lesser performances, is their failure to stop the bleeding. If this Blues team was a doctor, their patient’s would have bled out long ago.
Even in the Arizona win, they couldn’t keep things contained for more than a couple minutes. You go a long stretch without goals and settle things down and then allow another glut of goals.
The game is in reach at 3-1, even though all three goals came in a short span. You can’t turn around and allow three more in a short span to start the second.
Despite the come from behind against the Coyotes, the Blues are just terrible at trying to battle back this year. If they aren’t playing from in front, they just don’t seem to have “it”.