The St. Louis Blues made some changes to their lineup against the Detroit Red Wings, knowing they needed to come out strong. While the difference might not have been because of the changes, it did at least spur the team to a slightly better start.
Even though they continued to fail on the power play, the team did start the game with the first goal. Almost six minutes in, Pavel Buchnevich had a fantastic pass that found Brandon Saad for the finish to make it 1-0 Blues.
The Blues almost made it 2-0 about 12 minutes in. Buchnevich had a breakaway while shorthanded, but was stopped with a toe save.
Missed opportunities haunted the Blues as Kevin Hayes had an empty net on the cross-ice pass, but skied the shot. On the next rush down the ice, the Red Wings would score to tie the game.
About two minutes later, Detroit took the lead. St. Louis didn't win a board battle and then the rebound after a post shot hit Colton Parayko's leg and went right to Jonatan Berggren for a tap in.
Fortunately for him and the team, Hayes would make up for it. Not quite two minutes into the second, he got a deflection on a Nick Leddy shot and the game was 2-2.
Then he found the go-ahead goal on the very next shift. The Red Wings turned the puck over and also failed to clear the puck, leading to a Hayes shot from the high slot that beat Ville Husso to the blocker side.
The game basically went a little crazy from there. Detroit tied it just a little before midway through the second period when the Blues could not clear the puck again.
Then, late in the third period, the Blues took the lead. Detroit broke a stick on their power play, which led to a breakaway for Marco Scandella, who backhanded it over the blocker for a 4-3 score.
Unfortunately, that didn't even last a minute into the third period. Buchnevich took an interference penalty and the Red Wings scored on the ensuing power play to make it 4-4.
The pendulum swung fully back the other way almost seven minutes into the third. Detroit came in on a rush and after working the puck down low, Robby Fabbri snuck in behind the defender and deflected it in from just outside the crease. It was 5-4 Red Wings.
St. Louis had some looks on goal, but they couldn't do anything. Their final power play had one good shot, but ended up giving up an empty net goal, so it ended 6-4.
At this point, it's not really about positioning or scheme. Guys just aren't being hard enough.
That's not a knock on them as players, but for whatever reason right now, there is just not enough fight. Guys don't win the puck and just try to reach out a stick once they're on their heels.
The majority of goals in this game were a result of either lost puck battles or a failure to clear the puck. This is becoming this year's theme just as allowing back-door goals was last year's theme.
Though he missed an easy sitter in the first period, the Blues would not have even been in the contest without Kevin Hayes. Even beyond the goal scoring, he's somewhat of a calming presence.
Hayes does a lot of little things that nobody notices because they expected points and goals when you get a guy through free agency. Though not in name value, he is similar to what David Beckham was when he came to MLS. The average fan expected this superstar, but though the talent is there, neither were ever guys to put up huge stat numbers.
Hayes controls the puck and is tough to get off control. If you get the puck away from him, you've worked your butt off defensively.
Hayes gets his nose dirty too. He got his fist goal by going to the front of the net. His screen got him in position to get a small deflection on the puck and get the Blues going in the second period.
Then, without missing a beat, he found the puck and waited just long enough to gain an inch of space and use the Detroit defense as a screen for his next shot. Those were the decisions by a guy that has been in the league and knows a thing or two.
Cons: Power play
I hate to even include this one again. We know the power play sucks.
However, it's increasingly frustrating when just one - just one power play goal - could make the difference in so many of these games. St. Louis continually gets power plays in crucial moments of the game too.
They could be up by a goal and give themselves some cushion. They could be down by a goal and tie the game up to completely swing momentum.
So, not only do they not score, they give their opponents momentum in those crucial moments. They drain energy from their own building, fans and likely the players themselves.
There is just no urgency. People will whine about speed or this or that. Detroit is not that much faster than the Blues, but they moved the puck much faster than the Blues on their power plays.
Nobody seems to have the balls to grab the bull by the horns and take charge. It's just stand still, or move a couple feet, and make a pass and then a pass and another pass.
It's pretty sad when it's over a 90% likelihood that the Blues will just waste two minutes when they have a power play.
A loss is a loss. This one wasn't a good loss, but not overly terrible.
It's just hard to watch the same things over and over. The team cannot build a winning streak. They can't string together multiple goals and get a sizeable lead (outside of those games with Colorado and Tampa).
They take dumb penalties. Statistically, the penalty kill was good, but just as the power play cannot score in critical moments, the penalty kill gave up the tying goal in the first minute of the third period.
You need guys to step up in those moments. I have defended this guy up and down, but where it Jordan Kyrou?
He gave the puck away with the Blues on the power play and an empty net on the other side. That cost the team a chance to tie.
Kyrou isn't scoring either. He has one goal in his last 13 games and three goals in his last 17.
It's not just him either. Brayden Schenn is a good captain, but he's just not doing anything on the ice to help other than some physicality.
Buchnevich was good in this game, but disappears at times. Robert Thomas was ok.
Your best players have just been ok. Other guys like Kapanen and Vrana are either disappointing right now or complete busts.
The defense isn't as bad as they were last year, but they're not strong. The five-man unit, not just blue line defenders, continues to find ways to allow goals that could have been preventable.
As with all true fans, I will continue to support this team. However, while I fully understood this was still part of a rebuild, I thought more strides had been made.