Coming off a really bad result against the Nashville Predators, the St. Louis Blues needed a pallet cleanser to wash that awful taste away. A quick start against the Chicago Blackhawks seemed to provide that.
If you were still suffering from turkey hangover, you might have missed the first two goals of the game. The Blues didn’t overwhelm Chicago, but they were up 2-0 before the period was even halfway done.
Jake Neighbours continued his point streak, extending it to five games. He was sprung on a breakaway and a nice little move and tuck shot made it 1-0.
Then the newly formed third line of Kevin Hayes, Brandon Saad and Jordan Kyrou struck. After some good passing, a sniper shot by Hayes from the left side made it 2-0. All of this was before the game was even six minutes old.
The Blackhawks had a push midway through the period. Jordan Binnington denied Connor Bedard with a hard shot from the right and the defense clogged the middle, keeping most shots from the outside.
The Blues couldn’t preserve the shutout though. A failure to clear the puck after a good penalty kill resulted in a shot from the right point and a deflection in the high slot made it 2-1.
St. Louis restored the two-goal lead though. A rare power play goal made it 3-1 when a seeing-eye pass from Robert Thomas found Pavel Buchnevich for a one-timer on the back door.
The second period opened a little sloppily for St. Louis. They had a few turnovers in their own zone, forcing too much time defending and a couple decent saves from Binnington to keep the score as it was.
Binnington had to make a big save around the 12 minute mark. He turned away a backhander at first and then went belly down and threw out the left leg to make the stop on the rebound.
Moments later, Oskar Sundqvist was denied on a one-timer of his own. He didn’t get all of the shot, but it was still a good skate save that also went off the post.
Despite a pretty loose period for both teams defensively, it remained 3-1 after 40 minutes.
The fear for the Blues was they would face a comeback, especially when they could not score on several great chances midway through the third period. However, after being denied several times, Neighbours finally cashed in from the slot to make it 4-1.
St. Louis had to make it more interesting than it needed to be though. A push into the offensive zone by the defense got them caught up too high and Chicago found the seam on a breakaway to make it 4-2.
The Hawks pulled the goalie and threw a lot towards the net. St. Louis held on and finished with a win on the road.
I don’t know if this is truly Jake Neighbours showing what he can and will be going forward in his career. It might just be a solid stretch of hockey and nothing more.
While I hope it is the former, we need to just accept it for now and be happy we are seeing such quality effort from the youngster. It might wane or it might stay, but we know we’re getting his best right now.
On the opening goal, he used both strength and skill to score. Neighbours used his size to keep the defender at bay and then tucked the puck past the goalie like a veteran.
Later in the game, he swatted a puck out of midair early in the third, just missing his second goal on the rebound effort. On the same offensive zone stand, he had another one-timer, which was stopped, and only a poke check in the slot avoided a partial break in on net.
He continued to get chances, but Neighbours somehow missed a partially open net on a scramble play. Eventually, he put the game on ice with that one-time shot. Based on the force and style of the shot, you could tell he was just flinging it at that point, but it worked and he was rewarded for a game in which he could have had four goals at least.
Statistically, the Blues were better than the Blackhawks as far as giveaways. It was 18 for St. Louis and 24 for Chicago.
Nevertheless, it just felt like the Blues let Chicago hang around more than they should have due to turnovers. Especially in the early parts of the second and third period, the Blues got trapped in their own zone by failures to clear the puck and giving it right back to Chicago.
Even Jamie Rivers noted it during the broadcast. We have seen worse, but the Blues were not that great in this department for this contest.
If you do the same things against a good team, the Blues might lose this game. Instead, they were able to recover and also get good goaltending to bail them out.
After a slow start, Pavel Buchnevich has reminded us why the team was so excited about his arrival after the trade and why they were confident he was a good enough replacement to send Vladimir Tarasenko elsewhere. He definitely plays a more Blues style.
The early part of the season saw him struggle – enough that he was questioning his own talents. Now, he has 11 points in his last eight games.
The man they call Buchy added a goal and two assists to his totals in this game.
He continues to be the only man the Blues seem to be able to rely on to get a power play goal. Then his assists on Neighbours’ goals were top notch.
To spring the breakaway, he won a board battle to just deflect the puck out of the zone. Only he knows if he saw Neighbours up the ice or not, but at the worst it would have negated a potential icing.
Similarly, it was another board battle win on the fourth goal. He somehow tucked the puck past the defender on him, just far enough away from the goal and into the slot for the one timer.
The Blues definitely needed this kind of game to make them forget the egg they laid against Nashville. In a perfect world, you’d get this result against a team like Dallas or even Vegas, but you can only play the schedule you are dealt.
The win was partly because Chicago is still a bad team and also has injuries. Nevertheless, the Blues played a much better brand of hockey.
There will be mistakes in every game. This defensive unit is never going to remind anyone of the New Jersey Devils of the 90’s.
Even so, they played well overall. The entire team finished with 21 blocked shots, which definitely helps out your goaltender.
On the occasions when the defense broke down, Binnington was up to the challenge more times than not. Nobody with any common sense would blame him for either of the goals against, with one being an unstoppable deflection and the other on a breakaway.
I was pleasantly surprised with the play of the third line. Going into the game, I thought Hayes, Saad and Kyrou sounded like an awful mishmash, but it worked. They played well off one another and each had a point.
The one thing that was missing from this game was the killer instinct. You won by two and it should have been three, but even with their mistakes, the Blues had enough chances to get five, six or even seven goals in this game.
Credit to Chicago’s goaltender, who I’ve never even heard of, for making some good saves. Still, you would like a team like the Blues who still want to be a playoff contender to take care of business a little more against a lottery team like the Blackhawks.
Nevertheless, a win is a win and any win over Chicago is a good win.