The St. Louis Blues are an odd team, for sure. Against the Pittsburgh Penguins, they continued to prove that even when they play a pretty good game, they can still end up with ways to lose.
Going up against the incredibly fast Vancouver Canucks, the worry was that any mistake might go the other way and end up in the back of the net. It wasn't necessarily speed that caused the first goal of the game, but it was on a transition play.
St. Louis didn't get spaced properly in their own zone and the slot ended up wide open. A quick pass from behind the net led to a one-time slap shot for a 1-0 Vancouver lead about two minutes in.
The Blues had chances to tie, though most of their first period offense was a good deal of one and done. They were doing a good job of driving the net and working, but they just didn't have a lot of sustained pressure.
The Blues best looks came on the lone power play of the first period. It should have gotten tied up, but Pavel Buchnevich shoveled a rebound shot wide when the net was wide open.
Eventually, the Blues would tie the game in the second period. Colton Parayko snapped a shot from the right across the grain, off the left post and it was 1-1.
It seemed like the refs were determined for that tie to be short lived. They called a high stick on Buchnevich on what was a partial breakaway. The stick did clip Quinn Hughes on the facemask, but he was leaning down and may have ramped the stick up too. Fortunately, the Blues killed it off.
The early portion of the third period felt like it was mainly played in the Blues zone. Statistically, St. Louis had more shots in the first six minutes, but the Canucks had more zone time and missed the net on some grade-A chances.
The Blues turned the tables just over eight minutes in. In a similar play to the Canucks first goal, the Blues found Robert Thomas in the slot and he whipped in a wrist shot to make it 2-1 after a nice pass from Scott Perunovich.
St. Louis did a decent job of avoiding the inevitable push from the Canucks through the next section of the game. In fact, the Blues narrowly missed increasing their lead when Brayden Schenn spun a backhander toward the net, from his knees, that narrowly missed.
Vancouver pulled the goalie with more than three minutes left in regulation. While the Blues didn't manage to get an empty net goal, they did limit the chances against and held on for a 2-1 win, snapping a two-game losing streak.
It should come as no surprise that on the day Robert Thomas was named the St. Louis Blues All-Star representative. he ended up being the first star of the game. It wasn't just his offensive output either.
Of course, that part helped, for sure. He ended the game with a goal and an assist, so when you only have two goals and one guy is involved in both, he's had a good night.
The goal was a fine bit of play too. He not only shot the puck, which used to be a big problem, but he showed situational awareness that there would be some open space on the side of the slot. Earlier in his career, he might shy away from that area for fear of physicality on the way through.
Additionally, he played a pretty good defensive game. Of course, we're not going to see Thomas win the Selke anytime soon, but he's putting in the work. He is now earning his time to play against the opposition's top lines instead of the Blues looking for matchups.
Con: Missed chances
I don't like to point the finger, but Buchnevich needs to get on a hot streak or get out of his own head or something. While many Blues have been guilty, he has missed so many open nets in recent games that it makes your mind spin.
I'm not going to pretend his chance on the first-period power play was the easiest thing. He had to try and react to a hard rebound, adjust himself and get the puck in. Even with that in mind, the goaltender was a non-factor and he still missed the net.
As I said, he's not the only one to miss open looks or empty nets. The Blues make a habit of it. If they aren't missing, the puck bounces over their stick and they don't even get a shot (or not a good one) like Alexey Toropchenko earlier in the period.
These things happen, but they continually happen and can often impact a game negatively. The Blues found a way to win anyway, but it should have been 2-1 in the first period.
In the grand scheme of things, Jordan Binnington didn't have a ton to do in this game. He wasn't making flashy saves or spectacular displays of highway robbery.
That's actually a good thing. Binnington was denying the Canucks through good positioning and smart positioning.
We've seen Binnington get outdone when he starts having to recover from poor positioning. Being smart about when to challenge and when not to is key.
A good example of that was when the Canucks had the goalie pulled and got a good look from the left side of the zone. Binnington held his ground in the crease, but made himself as big as possible without over challenging and possibly giving up a rebound.
Simlarly, he made a save earlier in the third period, when the Canucks were buzzing early, where he did come out of the crease. However, instead of doing it early, allowing them to make their way around and tuck it in, he came out right as the shot was about to be taken, giving them nothing to shoot at and missing wide.
This was a good win because it was somewhat boring. The game, itself, was reasonably entertaining because the Blues were victorious, but there wasn't a whole lot of offense.
The Canucks only ended up with 26 shots, but felt like they had the better chances overall. Meanwhile, the Blues had 32 shots, but did a lot of one and done through portions of the game.
The Blues basically won by being steady. Other than early in the third period, they never really let the Canucks get a foothold in their zone.
If Vancouver did have sustained possession, the Blues were very sound defensively. Whether due to Binnington or the defense, St. Louis forced a lot of shots wide and blocked 12 as well.
It wasn't the greatest defensive display of all time, but it was steady and solid. The Canucks led the league in goals coming into the game and St. Louis held them to one goal and not a ton of chances against.
If the Blues converted more of their chances, it would have been smooth sailing late in the game. It's tiresome to have to sweat it out at the end of these close contests, but as long as you get the two points, it's worth it.