With the St. Louis Blues continuing their back and forth season, they stayed out west for a game in Vegas after falling to Arizona 4-1. Getting a good start would be paramount to any positive result, but those have come and gone too.
St. Louis got off to a decent start, creating some good chances. Typically, their best looks missed the net though.
Vegas started getting into the game and the Blues relied on Jordan Binnington to bail them out. Sadly, Binnington had to make several saves on the Blues lone power play of the period. It’s great to have Binner sharp, but you shouldn’t need him to make any saves when you have a man advantage.
Though the period featured a lot of back and forth action, it seemed destined to finish scoreless. However, the Blues poached a late one.
Colton Parayko unleashed a blast from the right side, between the blue line and the circle. Alexey Toropchenko provided the screen, deflection and a 1-0 Blues lead with 20 seconds left in the frame.
Vegas came out hard in the second period. Not only did they get several shots off the bat, but they were grade-A chances. Former Blue Ivan Barbashev was stopped on the door step with a sprawling Binnington pad save.
The Binnington show continued late in the second period. The Golden Knights had a partial odd-man rush, but Binnington thwarted that with a well timed poke check.
Though the Blues were not without chances here and there, they were doing a lot of defending and praying their goalie would help them out for much of the third period. Binnington continued to provide what the team needed until the game was about 13 minutes into the third.
That’s when Vegas tied it. Jack Eichel was able to use a screen and a hard wrist shot to beat Binnington to the blocker side and make it 1-1.
St. Louis had a couple great shifts after they allowed the goal, but they couldn’t muster another goal in regulation. The game finished 1-1 and went to the clown version of hockey we get in overtime.
However, it didn’t take long for the Blues to take the extra point. Making up for his earlier mistake, Buchnevich found himself all alone near the net and he just slammed it through the goalie for a 2-1 Blues win.
For the haters, they need to look back and remember this game. This performance from Binnington is not an aberration, but more the norm for the Blues goaltender.
Clearly you need goals to win games, but Binnington is the reason the Blues won this game. If not for him, this game probably ends around 4 or 5-1 in favor of the Golden Knights.
Binnington was sharp early, throughout and at the end. There was nothing he could do about the only shot that got by him.
Binner made 33 overall saves. He also made more than 14 high danger saves, which are usually in tight and in prime scoring areas.
Binnington had to shut down a handful of breakaways, including those shorthanded looks. He also thwarted five or more odd-man rushes.
His active stick stopped a lot of plays before he had to make an actual save too.
Cons: Buchnevich penalty
Most Blues fans love Pavel Buchnevich and they have good reason to. Yet, he’s definitely not infallable.
He showcased that on the penalty he took in the third. It was as dumb a play as I’ve seen in some time.
Buchnevich slips and compounds the problem by swinging his stick towards the puck. It’s not the effort I fault, but the thought process.
From where Buchnevich is when he swings his stick, there is essentially no way his stick is not going to clip his opponent’s skate. He was always going to end up in the penalty box.
I don’t see a need for that. Let your teammates help you out defensively, get back on your skates and recover into the zone.
Instead, Buchnevich took a penalty and Vegas scored on the ensuing power play. It’s all about situational awareness. There was no way to actually get the puck from his angle without clipping a skate or leg on the followthrough, so not doing that would have been better.
Pros: Game winning goal
If we’re going to fault Buchy for the penalty, we have to give him credit for the winner. It was almost a broken play that could have ended in disaster, but the Blues stayed calm and finished it off.
If you look at it, Robert Thomas bobbles the puck and then almost overskates it while he’s the lone man near the blue line. Instead of freaking out, making a mistake that gives the puck away and losing the game, Thomas kept his composure.
This was beneficial because the Knights thought they smelled blood in the water. All three of their players started charging north, thinking they would get the puck and go on the rush.
Instead, Thomas hits a great pass that ends up with Buchnevich. Even though he was at a slight tough angle, he didn’t just fling one towards goal. He stayed calm, improved his angle and slipped one through the armpit for the win.
Any one thing goes wrong and it’s a three-on-one the other way. The Blues stayed calm, Thomas made a great play to recover and Buchnevich finished.
Was this an outstanding win, full of reasons to hope for the rest of the season? Frankly, no.
St. Louis continues to miss the net almost as frequently as they hit it. It’s great to generate good chances, but if you’re not even troubling the goalie to make a save, it’s effort for nothing.
That said, when you view the entire 60 minutes, the Blues played pretty well. They kept most chances from the perimeter and then Binnington bailed the team out when they did falter.
Special teams continues to be a big thorn. The penalty kill was fine up until the goal allowed, but the fact they did allow one makes it a rough night, getting scored on.
The power play is just a mystery. The individual players are fine, but they can’t do anything together. They continue to allow better chances than they create.
But, don’t let any negativity fool you. The Blues did enough to win this game and deserved the win. They needed some luck, but they didn’t fall backwards into the win.
They earned it with enough good plays to get the job done. You’d like more chances or sustained time in the zone, but this is one of the league’s best teams and a Cup contender. You don’t get dominating performances like St. Louis had against Colorado against all the top teams.
Even if you have to squeak by or hang on at the very end, it’s important to get these wins.