If you weren't ready for the start of the St. Louis Blues against the Chicago Blackhawks, you missed quite a bit. The two teams combined for three goals on four shots.
The Blues got off to a great start. Robert Thomas found his scoring touch again, scoring the opening goal of the game.
Unfortunately, things swung the other way very quickly. Connor Bedard scored on the Blackhawks' very first shot, on a modified "Michigan", which is essentially a lacross play where you scoop up the puck and shove it in the top portion of the net.
The Blackhawks took the lead on their next shot. It was a lofted shot from the left point that was expertly deflected in front to give Chicago a 2-1 lead.
The Blues sort of hit the panic button. They allowed Chicago to get a couple more quick looks and also turned the puck over on zone exits twice.
The second period got off to a bad start as the Blackhawks scored just 20 seconds in. Chicago was on the power play and pulled the Blues away from the net just enough. As it cycled down low, the shot came from the right side of the zone and Nick Foligno was at the top of the crease for the rebound and a 3-1 score.
The Blues seemed like they had gotten back in the game with a Colton Parayko goal. The defender just took a slap shot from the right and the lead was reduced to one with under seven to go.
Unfortunately, the game opened up wide and the Blues could not react. St. Louis had an odd-man rush, but Pavel Buchnevich's shot was stopped and the puck was chipped up and over a pinching Torey Krug. Chicago got a two-on-one of their own and it was an easy tap in for a 4-2 score.
St. Louis got that score into the third, seemingly giving them at least some hope. However, that hope became dim when the score became 5-2 just about five minutes into the third.
St. Louis was on the power play, but the top line was getting nothing done. Foligno brought it out of the zone and Jordan Kyrou and Robert Thomas must have assumed he would dump the puck because they just sort of glided back on defense. Instead, Foligno drove the net and tucked it in for a shorthanded goal.
Just when most fans had given up and were ready to start up the Facebook threads about trading the useless Kyrou, the Blues exploded. In the span of three minutes, the Blues got two power play goals - one from Brandon Saad on a tip in and another from Jake Neighbours via a deflection.
With all the momentum on their side, the Blues capitalized just 19 seconds after the power play goal. The top line burst into the zone and Thomas found Buchnevich for the shot and Kyrou popped in the rebound.
St. Louis had three goals in under three and a half minutes to tie it, but they weren't done. With just over two minutes left, Justin Faulk raced back in after a poor zone clearance by Chicago. He fired a wrist shot from the right circle and scored on what should have been a save, but the Blues will certainly take it.
St. Louis finished things off with a Kyrou empty net goal. It was just the fifth time in team history they scored five or more goals in a period and they defeated the rival Blackhawks 7-5.
Kyrou had a two-face type of game. He was pretty poor early on, but came to life just when the Blues needed him.
Early in the game, we saw some of the worst from Kyrou. He was weak on the puck, defensively poor and really looked foolish on the shorthanded goal. I get that you don't really expect Foligno to charge the net, but he wasn't even remotely prepared for that possibility.
Meanwhile, offensively, we saw some of the very best from Kyrou. He scored two goals, including the one that tied the game and an empty net goal where he showed his speed by lowering the shoulder to slide past the defender. The tying goal was impressive in that he drove the net to grab the loose puck.
He didn't get any assists, but was still involved enough to really benefit the team even away from the puck.
Pro/Con: Special teams
I guess everything that had to do with special teams in this game became a wash. Still, it appeared as though it was truly going to cost the Blues and ended up helping them to win it.
St. Louis gave up a power play goal as the PK has had some struggles of late. Normally, the Blues get way too compact and close to their net, but in this one, they got drawn out just far enough to give Chicago space to slip in between the defense and the net.
I suppose we shouldn't be surprised by shorthanded goals since the Blues lead the league in that category, in terms of actually scoring them. However, the lack of hustle to not only give up a shorty but also get scored one-on-two was shocking.
Then, St. Louis turns around and gets two power play goals. Goals when up a man have been rare enough, but to see two in one game almost felt like some sort of dark magic had been used.
Still, the power plays were awful early in the game. There was a clear reason why Drew Bannister eventually started using the second unit and it was because that top line was incredibly ineffective.
Con: Sleeping through two periods
The biggest detraction of the Blues the last few years, even when they were decent, is they rarely play the same way for 60 minutes. We saw that in this game as they looked much slower than Chicago for the first two periods.
It wasn't as though the Blues were making a ton of mistakes or playing with their heads up their rears like we have seen. They just seemed to lack any pep and the Blackhawks were taking it to them.
As pointed out on the broadcast, it did not look like Chicago had played the night before, nor did it look like the Blues were the fresher team. Clearly the Blues woke up in the third, but you can't expect to win a game based on 20 minutes against most teams, nor can you expect to get five goals in one period.
It's great that all happened, but they need a more consistent effort.
One of the unsung heroes of this game will have to be Kevin Hayes. He was Mr. Steady again, making very few mistakes and also coming up with huge plays that impacted this game.
If you only look at the box score, you'll say he only had two assists and was a minus-one. What's the big deal.
The big deal is he was a big reason the Blues scored both power play goals. The first one was a lot about the Saad deflection, but you still need Hayes' calmness and puck control to draw the defenders away so he can fire the puck down low.
Hayes didn't get the primary assist on Neighbours' goal, but he did get an assist. Similarly, he's so tough to separate from the puck that Chicago didn't pressure him. He just slid back to the blue line, fired a pass to Faulk on the left circle and it got deflected in from there.
It wasn't so much about the passes themselves, but just his overall play and Chicago's unwillingness to challenge him since he's tough to get the puck away from that led to his great plays.
This was a fun game if you didn't get too down on the Blues early in the contest. That was probably hard for most of us.
It's one thing for the Blues to be trailing by a goal against anyone. It's quite another to be down by three and have allowed five goals to Chicago, who is one of the bottom teams in the league.
We do need to realize the Blues are not that far above the bottom teams in the league, but you'd still like to see them stop playing down or under the level of those types. Especially when you could easily have won this game with not problem if you didn't shoot yourself in the foot with a shorthanded goal against and some poor bounces.
Offensively, this was a solid game for St. Louis overall. I'm not sure what was said in the locker room in the second intermission, but it worked.
The Blues fired 22 pucks on net in the third alone. There have been some games where they struggled to get 22 shots total, let alone in one period.
This was necessary because the Blackhawks have a young defense and an unproven goaltender. All of those buckled under the pressure in the third, so who knows how many goals they might have had if they played even close to that level for 40-60 minutes.
Instead, we got a lot of ups and downs. It was a fantastic win and a fun game when the final buzzer went off, but it just didn't need to be that hard.
You can excuse the first two goals. Bedard's is just a freak play that there is almost no way to defend unless you put him on his rear like Chris Pronger would have. The second was just a deflection with no chance.
After that, the Blues needed to close things down and, instead, the game got looser.
Ultimately, you can't complain a ton. It was entertaining and St. Loius picked up a win, thanks to some Christmas magic. At least now we can relax, celebrate the holiday and worry about the next game after we've all eaten too much turkey, ham and cookies.