St. Louis Blues Pros/Cons From 2023-24 Game 32 At Florida

Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

After the St. Louis Blues got blown out by the Tampa Bay Lightning, you expected changes to the lineup to face the Florida Panthers. Most did not expect a change in the goaltending department.

Though Joel Hofer played alright in the first period, he was allowing a few more rebounds than you would like. The defense did a decent job of not allowing many second-chance efforts.

The first period of this east-west battle was surprisingly physical. It was not a playoff style physical, but more than you would expect from teams that play twice a year. Jordan Kyrou was up ended at the blue line and Oskar Sundqvist nearly pushed a Panther into the bench area, as well as others.

Neither team would score in the opening frame, though Florida was closer outshooting the Blues 9-5. Florida also hit two posts.

Things opened in the second period in favor of the Panthers as well. A scramble play ended up in a puck off the crossbar and Hofer had to make a couple early saves as well.

Against the early flow of play, St. Louis struck first. After failing on an initial rush, the Blues came back in three-on-one and the rebound found Kyrou on the left for a 1-0 lead.

The Blues scored a goal on the very next shift with Kyrou connecting for a tap in by Pavel Buchnevich. Unfortunately, upon review, Kyrou was offside and they took the goal off the board.

Though the Blues did give up a few quality chances afterward, that top line eventually did connect again on a goal that would count. Kyrou drove in on the right and found Buchnevich cutting through the middle. Buchnevich outwaited the goaltender and scooped it over the goaltender for a 2-0 lead.

Nearly 11 minutes into the second, Brayden Schenn had a great look. He snuck in behind the defender, but ran out of space and hit the side of the net on the backhander.

The Panthers cut the lead in half on a fluke play with 6:13 to go. An innocent dump in somehow hit a partition and went into an empty net because Joel Hofer had come out of the net to cut off what was supposed to be a rim around.

The goaltenders came up big with around four minutes left. Both teams had rush plays that Hofer and Sergei Bobrovsky turned away.

Roughly a minute after that, the Blues restored the two-goal lead. Marco Scandella just whipped it to the net from the left point and it went off Alexey Toropchenko for a 3-1 score.

Not quite three minutes into the third, it appeared as though Florida had cut the lead to one again. It originally appeared to be another crazy bounce, seeming to go off Torey Krug and into the net. The refs discussed it and called it a high stick on the Panthers. It was reviewed and that call was confirmed, so it stayed a two-goal difference.

St. Louis ended up focusing almost solely on defense for the first half of the third. They only had three shots on goal eight minutes in, while the Panthers threw everything at the net.

The Blues got the job done though, giving Hofer clean looks. St. Louis achieved another rare feat by scoring into the empty net with Buchnevich making it 4-1.

That would be the final. It wasn't the best overall performance, but it was a good scoreline and the Blues got a split on their trip.

Pros: Hofer

Like the team in front of him, Hofer wasn't perfect, but he got the job done. He finished the night with 39 saves on 40 shots, which gives him a big boost in both his stats and his confidence.

Goaltenders typically are harder on themselves than even fans, so Hofer might not be 100% satisfied with his game. Still, he got plenty of work and found ways to keep the puck out.

The detraction on Hofer in this game was, despite Jamie Rivers claiming otherwisde, he wasn't that great at controlling some of his rebounds. There were plenty of shots he froze right away, but there were also some, such as in the third period, that hit him in the chest and he couldn't hold.

Nevertheless, you have to take the performance as what was, not what could have been. The reality is that Hofer made a lot of saves, plenty of which were high quality.

*Note - the NHL apparently took away some shots on their box score, however I left the 40 shots and 39 saves alone since the box score said 37 shots total for the Panthers but then listed Hofer with 37 saves and 38 shots against. Either way, it was a lot of work.

Cons: Too much reacting defensively

Especially early in the game, the Blues did too much reacting instead of looking to prevent. This allowed the Panthers too many chances to get shots.

St. Louis got zero takeaways in this game. While that's not a tell-all stat, it shows they weren't forcing the Panthers into errors. Florida did make some mistakes as both teams had six giveaways, but the Panthers made those mistakes on their own and the Blues weren't putting them into bad spots.

Also, even though the Blues did the job, they allowed a lot of pucks through. As mentioned in the TV broadcast, the Panthers look for quantity over quality, but they still had plenty of chances.

St. Louis got a little fortunate with two posts and a crossbar keeping Florida out. It definitely was not the worst defensive performance of the year, but they were on their heels a lot and reacting instead of being proactive.

Pros: Top line

The only gripe against the top line in this game was Robert Thomas reverted to his "unselfish" ways. He forced a pass to Kyrou instead of taking the open shot on a two-on-one.

Other than that, this trio of Buchnevich, Kyrou and Thomas looked great, particularly those first two. Both Buchnevich and Kyrou had goals and Buchnevich and Thomas both ended the night with three points.

Buchnevich might have had a hat trick if Kyrou had dragged a skate on the disallowed goal. That might be harsh though because we don't know how things would have played out if that counted.

Still, it was the fashion in which those goals came. The passing and the patience shown on all the plays, even the goal that didn't count, showed some good collaberation and chemistry.

The only bad thing is it increases frustration when that disappears for a game or two and they look lost, like in Tampa. But, this is the kind of game we expect from those guys as they need to be carrying the load.


I've said for quite some time that this team is going to drive us all mad and this game showed why. When they aren't getting in their own way, they can beat teams when they aren't even at their very best.

There were plenty of flaws to the Blues game. They were outshot, out-chanced, had much less time in the offensive zone and terrible on faceoffs. More often than not, that leads to a loss.

Instead, the Blues made the most out of the chances they did get. They scored four goals, put the puck in the net five times and didn't have many other looks.

They did have three goals in the second period, which was the only period where they had double-digit shots. That's still a good thing though to make the most out of things when you're not getting many chances.

The question for this game was whether the Panthers forced the Blues to defend a lot, or if they defended a lot because they were hyper-focused on it. With the result as it was, it doesn't truly matter.

However, the entire road trip was a good encapsulation of how this season has been for St. Louis. They were not awful, but got schooled by the Tampa Bay Lightning. Then, they turn around and weren't great against the Panthers, but end up with a relatively comfortable win. Frankly, if not for a one-in-a-million bounce, Hofer would have had a shutout.

Now, the Blues need to finish out the calendar year strong. Their final game before the Christmas holiday is a home game against the Chicago Blackhawks. That should be a winnable game, but we said the same thing for the contest in Chicago and the Blues shouldn't have even bothered coming on the trip with the effort they put in that one.