It can be amazing how the outlook for a season can change in the matter of four games. That's what has happened for the St. Louis Blues.
They entered their west-coast road trip knowing these games could make or break their season. Not only were they desperately in need of points, but they faced three teams ahead of them in the standings when the trip began.
Coming off impressive wins over Calgary and Vancouver, the Blues headed into Seattle within sniffing distance of a playoff spot. However, a loss could have put them back behind the Kraken.
St. Louis got things started right. Under eight minutes into the game, the Blues' suddenly resurgent power play struck again. Right after the line change, the Blues connected on the backdoor play to Oskar Sundqvist for a 1-0 score.
The lead didn't last three minutes as the Kraken would tie it around the midway point of the period. Seattle worked the puck through the zone and scored through traffic on a shot from the left point.
The game remained 1-1 going into the intermission. Despite the good start, the Blues only had five first period shots and Seattle had 11 and also had eight quality chances out of their 11 shots.
The Kraken took the lead before the second period was four minutes old. After a weak penalty call for a hit to the head, the Kraken came down on the rush and went tic-tac-toe for a finish in the slot and a 2-1 lead.
The game seemed to be slipping away after an awful turnover by Scott Perunovich. The Blues were heading out of the zone, which allowed Seattle to have essentially a two-on-none in front of Jordan Binnington and it was 3-1.
The Blues buckled down and got to work. They scored a second goal on the power play, this time with Perunovich taking the point shot and Robert Thomas getting a deflection on a 3-2 game.
The Blues wasted no time tying the game in the third. Not even 90 seconds in, the top line struck when Thomas found Pavel Buchnevich on the left hash for a whip shot.
The game went back and forth with both goaltenders making huge saves. Binnington in particular made a sprawling pad save late in the game that eventually went to overtime.
Overtime was loose and fast, which most fans love but drives me nuts sometimes. In this instance, it benefitted the Blues as they would score the winner.
Seattle displayed some awful defense, allowing two Blues to thread passes through their three defenders. Buchnevich found Brayden Schenn on the left circle and the captain gave it back to Buchnevich for the backdoor goal and a 4-3 win.
Pro: Power play
I don't know what to attribute the surge to. Maybe the consultant, former NHLer Brad Richards, has actually made that big an impact.
Whatever the reason, we shouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth. I still don't understand that phrase, but I know what it means.
The Blues power play is actually decent now and the team is winning because of it. We always had an idea that if they were just mediocre this team could have more wins and now that it's actually borderline good, the proof is in the pudding.
The Blues have power play goals in back-to-back road games for the first time all season. They went 2-2 on the man advantage, which ended up being even more key since the Kraken were 1-2. That ended up being a gigantic difference in the game.
Con: Falling asleep
I'm not sure what else to call it, but there were too many lulls for the Blues in this one. In the broad sense, the defense has been much better throughout the season, but as a five-man unit, they just have big lapses.
I understand it's a power play, but the way the Kraken threaded things down to the goal line and then found a man wide open in the middle was shocking. Perunovich's turnover on the other goal was inexcusable, but it's also embarassing to have Seattle with enough time to play catch in front of the Blues net until they scored.
To say it's been an odd season for Pavel Buchnevich would be an understatement. He has been ice cold, inconsistent and snake bitten. I'm not sure I can remember a player of his talent missing so many glorious opportunities as he has.
With that said, he still has 16 goals now and remains on pace for 25 or more. That's still about what he averages per season and this has not been a great year for him to this point.
He found his game in this contest though. Two goals and three points is an evening that will definitely turn your stats around in just 60 minutes.
They were typical Buchnevich goals too. He's not the guy that is going to make all the dangles and score on some Michigan style scoop. He's the one that settles in the hard areas, like the slot, and cashes in. Let's hope he's found a hot streak.
Pro/Con: Making the most out of little
The Blues got away with it in this game, and over the corse of the road trip really. The shot totals have been relatively low (especially the last two games) and yet they won.
Chris Kerber made a crack about the Blues having more chances than the statistician gave them in Vancouver, but the bottom line is the score sheet said 18 shots. That's what they had against Seattle too, and that includes two overtime shots.
On the one hand, you wonder what is going on with the offense to have six or fewer shots in every period. On the other hand, you score four goals on 18 shots and how much of an argument can you actually make?
It's not sustainable, but it got the job done in this game.
Similar to the idea about the offense getting away with not enough, the Blues are also getting away with relying on goaltending too much. That's always been a theme of theirs since the 2019-20 season, but it's been too much of a theme the last few weeks.
It doesn't even matter if it's Binnington or Joel Hofer at this point. The Blues are allowing 30-plus shots almost every time and requiring their netminders to make a lot of quality saves.
You can argue that's what they're paid to do, but that's like saying a quarterback is paid to make passes but you're requiring they drop 20 passes on a dime against the sideline while on the run. The rest of the team is supposed to help out.
I'm not going to bash a win because the Blues needed the points and they leapfrogged another team. However, there is still worry.
The types of turnovers they have are just horrendous at times. They get caught puck watching while the opponents hit one-touch passes like they're going through practice cones.
The effort is much better from everyone involved in a blue note. The worry is that is has to be just to eek out one-goal victories.
This team is not good enough to go on a title run. They are good enough to make the playoffs and the franchise needs them to. We can't overlook the financial necessities of a midmarket team that always spends to the cap.
With that in mind, the team still needs improvements. But, the fact they can win without playing perfectly is also a good sign.
Let's just not run both of our goaltenders into the ground, please.