The St. Louis Blues have plenty of problems that are still popping up in the 2023-24 season. For whatever reason, they seem to find a pretty good game to play against the Vegas Golden Knights, who happen to be one of the top teams in the NHL.
Following a solid win on the road in Vegas, the Blues turned around and faced the same team in St. Louis. They got off to a mediocre start though.
The Blues only had one shot on goal for almost half the period, which is becoming a bad trend. They also allowed the first goal of the game when the Blues backed off their own blue line too much and then Jordan Binnington got caught cheating because it was a defenseman on the right and Binnington thought there would be a cross-ice pass.
Instead of wilting, the Blues came storming back. St. Louis would score three unanswered in the first period.
The first one was an individual play by Jake Neighbours. There were assists on the play, but it was Neighbours that just barreled through to the net and shoveled one over the blocker shoulder to make it 1-1.
The next came just about a minute later. Torey Krug fired the puck to the net from the right wall and Kevin Hayes had a well placed stick for the 2-1 lead off a deflection.
Jordan Kyrou continued the quality individual plays. He knifed past three defenders into the slot and snapped one home to make it 3-1 with under three to go in the opening frame.
The Blues offense continued to be hit or miss, only registering one shot in the first six minutes in the second. However, Binnington was on point, making an unbelievable save on an early Vegas power play and scrambling defenders helped him grab the loose puck to preserve the lead.
St. Louis played with fire for too long though. Despite their third power play resulting in four shots, they failed to increase the lead. Vegas shortly after cut it to one when the Blues could not clear and Jack Eichel scored on a spin shot from the slot to make it 3-2.
It only took about two minutes after for Vegas to tie it. With the Knights on the power play, they got the puck to the goal line, Binnington's stick was accidentally kicked away and Vegas scored.
The Golden Knights came down and scored on the ensuing shift as well, completely shifting the game. Suddenly it was 4-3 if you blinked.
Vegas scored on the power play with 17 seconds left in the period. Rubbing salt in that wound was the fact it was a too many men penalty, which is completely preventable.
St. Louis didn't do much to start the third period other than take more penalties. Fans grew frustrated with the officiating when the refs called an unsportsmanlike penalty on the Blues bench because of something that was apparently said.
It only got worse for the zebras as they called a slash on the Blues right as the previous penalty was ending. The Blues did need to be more disciplined, but eight penalties against them with 50 minutes played is a bit excessive. Some teams don't get three power plays in a game and Vegas had three in the third period alone.
The Blues battled until the end, but they just couldn't get enough good looks. Even with their net empty, they managed to keep the puck in the zone for most of the final three minutes, but couldn't generate enough shots. A late empty net goal made the final 6-3
Cons: Special teams
When you have to kill off eight power plays, you would think this might be a positive. However, when you allow two goals and cannot score on any of your own power plays, it continues to hold this team back.
They made the case in the intermission report that the Blues could and would be so much better if they could score on the power play. It definitely would have made a large difference in this game.
You allow two power play goals in the second period alone and go 0-3 on your own power plays. Score on one of those and the game is 4-1 and has a completely different feel. Even when Vegas scores, it's only 4-2 and still a two goal deficit instead of a one-goal lead.
Pros: Neighbours and Kyrou
It felt like a long time coming for Kyrou. He had been playing well and getting looks, but just not converting. You could tell there was plenty of relief based on his reaction to his goal. It was the culmination of good, hard work.
Meanwhile, Neighbours continues to shine. I'll admit that I was down on him, thinking he was only going to project to be a third-line player at best. Whether this is sustainable for his career remains to be seen, but he sure as heck looks like a top-line player right now.
He's strong on the puck and decisive. He's got more of a shooter's touch than we had thought very early in his career. As mentioned in the recap, he put that entire play where he scored on his shoulders. He kept the defender at bay and made the play.
Cons: Shot totals
As great as Binnington played, and yes, he played great. I don't want to hear about the five goals when two came on the power play and he was pelted with pucks all game long.
The Blues defense may be improved, but 49 shots is ridiculous. Vegas has the mentality to get any and all pucks to the net and in this game it worked.
However, the Blues did not play like a team with the lead for enough of the game. They allowed Vegas to come at them and get what they wanted.
St. Louis played fantastically in the first period, but then seemed lost how to keep Vegas on the perimeter after that. Credit to the Golden Knights, but from the St. Louis perspective, you cannot give up 20 shots in the third period alone. The Blues spent way too much time defending when you were down by two goals. Yes, they had to kill off three power plays, which equal six minutes in the period, but allowing 20 shots and only getting eight is not a recipe for a comeback.
Frankly, this was more the result I would have expected given the Blues issues. It was just they gave us confidence and hope after pulling off a win in Vegas and then jumping to a two-goal lead in the first period.
St. Louis has an inability to step on people's throats though. They do every once in awhile, such as against Colorado and Tampa, but it's less often than you'd like.
We know this team isn't overwhelmingly talented, so you would like them to hang their hat on effort. Whether it's subconscious or not, they ease up too much when they need to go harder. If you're up by two, find a way to get up by four. Don't let the opponent even have the opportunity to get good shifts in and get momentum.
Overall, I suppose we should have seen this coming. Though the result was different, there was much of the same in Vegas. The Blues were bailed out by Binnington in that game.
Binnington made several fantastic saves, but it just got to be too much for any goaltender to keep them all out. The offense wasn't useless as they got three goals and created some pretty good chances beyond that. They just didn't do enough to confuse the Vegas defense, which led to too many blocked shots and not enough rebound opportunities.
The result is disappointing, but it's also not quite a true 6-3 result. I won't say it was too much closer than that, but it also didn't feel like a blowout either.
The Blues need to focus more on their own game. They did lose to one of the better teams in the league, but if they'd quite shooting themselves in the foot, they were in the lead and should have won.
Taking too many men penalties and bench minors, even if the refs were being soft, is not acceptable. Continuing to be completely ineffective on the power play is holding this team back.
It was great that Kyrou got a goal, but he had several other looks that you'd like a star to convert. Although Krug had a pretty good game, both he and Robert Thomas looked shaky in possession, often fumbling the puck.
This team is not a championship contender, but if they'd get over their own problems and find some consistency, they're definitely a playoff team. Unfortunately, we will have to sweat it out the entire season since you never get the same Blues one game to the next.