The St. Louis Blues are a notoriously hard team to read in the 2023-24 season. We have not even turned the calendar yet, but we have been through some stuff this season.
You never quite know what to expect from the Blues right now. They can beat the best of the best and look worse than the worst.
We saw a little of all that against the Dallas Stars. Although the Blues had the same amount of shots on goal in the first period as Dallas, they were fortunate to only be down 2-0 when the period was half over.
Dallas scored their first goal less than five minutes in and doubled their lead before the game was seven minutes old. We all know the end result know, but this continued habit of poor starts is just not good for a team that doesn't really have the consistency or firepower to come back that often.
Fortunately, they did battle back in this game and it started in the most unlikely of ways. The Blues got a power play goal to cut the lead in half when embattled Jordan Kyrou found Brandon Saad for the goal. It was Saad's third straight game with a score and also ended 20 power plays without a goal for the Blues.
It's great to cut the lead in half, but it was pararmount that the Blues strike early with another one. They did just that with Kyrou scoring less than two minutes into the second period.
Robert Thomas started the play with a good back check. Then, Torey Krug sprang Kyrou with a nice outlet pass and Kyrou got back into many a good graces with a decisive shot.
The Blues then took the lead with just over three minutes left in the second. Kevin Hayes continued a strong run of form by knocking in a rebound off the wall and it was 3-2 going into intermission.
St. Louis didn't try to sit on the lead in the third, but they also weren't putting as much into the offensive side either. Both teams ended the third period with eight shots, but Dallas made one count.
The Stars scored on a tipped shot, tying the game with about seven minutes to go. While the Blues turned things around late, clearly the mentality shifted to at least getting a point.
The Blues did generate some late looks. They hit two posts in the last handful of minutes, one cleanly and one went off a defender's skate and then the post. Still, the game went to overtime.
It only took one shift for the Blues to win it. Kyrou burst into the zone with speed and generated a good chance that either went off the goalie's skate or the side of the net. Regardless, Colton Parayko came up quickly and deposited the loose puck over the sprawled goaltender and the Blues won 4-3.
Pros: Special teams
It has been quite some time since you could feel good about the Blues special teams. The penalty kill has been good on the road, but they've been as bad at home as the entire power play has been all year.
In this game, they were the key to winning. It's great that the Blues scored on the power play finally, but it was the timing that mattered.
You are down by two and in need of something big to swing the game the other way. Power plays are supposed to provide that and in this case, it did for the Blues.
On the same page, the Blues needed their penalty killers to step up. Dallas was given three power play opportunities in the game and St. Louis needed to kill those off.
Score on any one of those and this is a different outcome. The game might not even go to overtime, but it did because the power play scored and the PK kept the Stars off the board.
Cons: First period
Compared to some other games, the Blues really weren't that awful in the first period. They just weren't that good either.
You're going to get scored on and it will test you and the Blues showed resolve. Nevertheless, even though it took longer than two minutes, the Blues are still making too much a habit of getting scored on first.
It would be nice to have a really solid first period where the Blues are up 2 or 3-1 or even not surrendering a goal. Instead, they have to change their game and their mindeset because they weren't ready against a team challenging for the divisional lead.
Nine shots against sounds pretty good and it is. However, when you compare it to a better defensive approach put forth in the second and third periods, it doesn't look that great.
You shut out Dallas in the second period and only allowed one goal in the third, that came off a faceoff loss. Allow two goals in the early part of the first and, frankly, be lucky to only trail 2-1 is not a good opener.
Pros: Redemption night
Fans are always going to have their whipping boys or guys that can do no right in their eyes. Even on the team that won a Stanley Cup, people complained about almost everyone on that roster.
So, one game will not change that fact. However, it was good to see so many embattled players have a good night on the ice and on the scoresheet.
Kyrou had a big night with a goal and three points. He assisted on the first and last goal of the game and scored an important one to tie things up.
Parayko has had a much improved season this year compared to the last two. Even so, many fans have still looked for reason to hate on the guy. Him getting the game winner continued to prove that he's a valuable asset when healthy and that the team should even think about expanding his role to, perhaps, include power play time.
You also had Hayes continuing a good run. Hayes now has four goals in his last six games and three in his last three. Many fans, including myself, were disappointed by the lack of any offensive production to start the year. Now that we see what his game really is, getting the offense on top of it is a bonus.
Any game where you beat Dallas is a good game. Any game you keep Jamie Benn off the scoresheet is a great game. I don't care - the guy can suck an egg.
While some of Dallas' budding stars still managed to impact the game, the Blues did a good job of keeping their bigger names from having much to do. St. Louis wasn't stellar defensively, but they got the job done.
The Blues had more blocked shots, hits and takeaways. Those aren't always hallmarks of a win, but it helps.
St. Louis' big guns also stepped up. I'd still like to see Brayden Schenn do more to impact the game beyond the occasional scrap, but maybe this is just going to be that kind of season for him. I don't think it's permanent - we are seeing that Ryan O'Reilly went from washed up last year to a scoring threat in Nashville. I would just like there to be a threat in #10 and he's not doing much other than just being the captain.
Jordan Binnington was not bombarded with shots, facing 23. He still needed to make key saves to preserve a win.
The Blues were not perfect, but they were playing a very good team. Dallas is right up there with Colorado, who the Blues also beat earlier this year, and St. Louis didn't look overmatched or outdone.
These are the games that make the losses to the basement teams hard to take. You can hang with and/or outplay Dallas in spurts, but get blown out by San Jose or not show up against Chicago?
Just like for Schenn, I think it's just one of those years for the Blues. There will be ups and downs and the ups are great and the downs are bottom of the barrel.
Fortunately, on this night, we got an up.