The St. Louis Blues continue to be an enigma during the 2023-24 season. Win or lose, they tend to look awful against any team with a sub-.500 record. Conversely, they rarely look like they don't belong with some of the division leaders.
The Dallas Stars seem to bring out some of the best in the Blues this year. They came into this game with a 1-0-1 record and the loss came in a shootout.
Dallas seemed determined to make things different early in the first against St. Louis. They raced out to a shot lead, but the Blues were defending pretty well and Joel Hofer was solid in net.
That allowed the team to settle down and, though they were not offensive juggernauts, they scored the opening goal of the game. Jake Neighbours kept the hot touch by unleashing a one-time slapshot from the right circle and it was 1-0.
That came with just under two minutes left. St. Louis actually opened up the second period pretty well as well.
The Blues offense usually dries up in the middle frame, but not so in this one. It took over half the period, but St. Louis doubled the lead. This time is was Marco Scandella to cash in with a rising wrister after a good cycle at the edge of the zone.
Despite having a power play that actually looked fantastic, the Blues couldn't do anything with it. They failed to score on a full two-minute five-on-three.
Under 90 seconds left in the second saw Dallas cut the lead in half. The Blues were in the midst of a line change and Justin Faulk failed to get the puck deep, leading to a Stars breakaway for the goal.
The third period opened up with a lot of Stars pressure. Initially, the Blues were doing a good job of blocking shots and forcing passes, not allowing anything on Hofer even though the Stars looked like they had an extra man. Then there was a flurry of activity three minutes in, but the score remained 2-1.
This trend would continue. Although Dallas was kept at bay for the most part, the Blues only had three shots on goal 12 minutes into the final period of regulation.
It seemed as though the game was poised to be handed to Dallas. They led the league in come from behind wins and had scored two in 13 seconds in their previous game in Nashville.
The moment that put the biggest lump in the throat was when Brayden Schenn had the puck in his own zone and waited too long to do anything. Jamie Benn picked his pocket and that's where it usually falls apart.
Instead, the Blues managed to clear it and almost scored on a long shot into the empty net. While the Blues didn't get the empty net goal, they kept the puck and finished off a 2-1 win.
This is one of those games where you can't really remember any one particular save standing out. However, Hofer was in the line of fire for a lot of the game.
The only respite he got in this contest was in the second period. The Blues puck possession kept Dallas defending there, but other than that the Stars were on the offensive.
Hofer finished the night with 39 saves and has only allowed one goal in each of his last starts. He's not doing it with flashy saves, but with solid positioning and good rebound control.
Every now and then he had to get in front of a flurry, but for the most part, he did a good job of controlling the game.
Cons: Failed power plays
It's funny how situations dictate your perspective. Earlier in the season, we would have killed for the power play to just look like they could threaten, even if they didn't score.
We got just that against the Stars. Unfortunately, it almost cost them.
The Blues went 0-4 on the power play and gave up a goal almost immediately after their long power play. That was late in the second period and gave Dallas hope when they had been stymied the entire contest to that point.
Additionally, it's not just four power plays by the wayside. St. Louis had a full four-minute double minor and then they had an entire two minutes with a two-man advantage.
To their credit, they generated some good opportunities, but they just could not capitalize. That would have been the turning point if Dallas went on to tie it.
Jake Neighbours continues to impress in this first full season of his young career. What is now interesting is that he seems much better suited to be in the top six than on the third line. I would not have guessed that beforehand.
We keep finding new aspects to his game too. It wasn't as though nobod thought he had a slap shot, but we hadn't seen much of one. Then, he unleashes an absolute bomb for the first goal of the game.
While he did not get a deflection on the puck, he definitely factored into the second goal as well. He was in perfect screening position for Scandella and came within a whisker of tipping the puck himself.
This is one of those games where you might argue the Blues didn't deserve to win. However, they definitely did not deserve to lose.
They weren't perfect, but they put in the work. That's what you have to do when you don't have all the talent in the world.
The funny thing is that the Blues are willing to put in the work against teams like Dallas and they have seen the results. Out of three games, St. Louis has five points against the Stars.
Why they can't give that same effort against teams like Chicago or Arizona is beyond me.
The main detraction for this game is the third period. It was hard to tell whether Dallas was just pushing that hard, or if the Blues were trying to defend too much.
Whatever the reason, the bottom line is that five shots in the third period is not good enough for the Blues. You have to have some sort of offensive push back.
In the end, you can't argue too much about the result. St. Louis didn't make it easy on the fans, but it was a quality game overall.
Things don't get any easier with Colorado coming into town next. If the Blues play like they did in this game, they can beat anyone.