If there is one thing the Blues and their fans re-learned Thursday night with Winnipeg in town it’s that the Central Division is going to be a hellacious one again.
After an off-season full of excitement the Enterprise Center was rocking downtown, ready for a new season, ready for a new goal song, and ready to return to the playoffs…Then the balloon popped during around a minute and half stretch where the Jets scored three goals in the third period en route to their 5-1 win.
If you look at the score, then take a glance at the boxscore you see five goals allowed by Jake Allen on 25 shots, you see 0 for 4 on the power play, and you see one late meaningless goal by the Note and you have to be thinking “same as it ever was.”
However, it was not as bad as the score indicated.
Reality check: The Winnipeg Jets are really, really good…they’re the team to beat in the Central Division and probably the team to beat in Western Conference. That’s not excusing the sloppy play, and lapse in the middle of the 3rd period with a 1-0 game, but good teams like the Jets wait you out and pounce on the smallest of opportunities.
One more thing on the Jets, this team has the second youngest roster in the NHL, and over 75% of the roster was in place when they lost in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals last year. This team is hungry, this team is firing on all cylinders, and this team is one the Blues should model their game after.
Now onto some observations of the game.
Things I didn’t like:
— Alex Steen receiving the fourth highest ice time of all Blues forwards. He was on the ice more than Brayden Schenn, more than Jaden Schwartz, and more than any of the youngsters that shined in game one. By the way, he finished with the second lowest Corsi rating on the team, an awful 26.67%.
— The sloppy plays from end to end. The team was credited with five giveaways, and if I am a betting man, all five of those were made in transition when the Blues were trying to move the puck up the ice. The best teams make tape to tape passes with ease, they break out of their own end and give themselves odd man opportunities; I didn’t see a lot of that from the Note Thursday.
— The defeated attitude in that third period. Listen, Jake Allen bailed the team out in the first period when the team obviously missed the start time and didn’t find their game until the last few minutes of the first frame. The last thing I expected was this team to give up after allowing a short-handed goal after the Blues had thoroughly outplayed the Jets to that point.
— The defensive depth. Chris Butler is a fine fellow, but he’s probably no longer an NHLer. I know his Corsi will tell me that he was all over the ice offensively, but in reality he halted the momentum that the fourth line had in the first period with three misfires from the point after the team circulated the puck beautifully.
Butler’s time here won’t be long, and that is a good thing because Jordan Schmaltz showed me some things and I really hope he can breakout in 2018-19. Jay Bouwmeester is probably the perfect fit to work alongside Schmaltz, because Jay has lost a step and his days as a No. 1 defensive pairing defenseman are behind him. This was evident at times when Bouwmeester was a step too late in a couple of step ups to keep the puck in the zone, and a bit slow on the play that resulted in a hooking call that led to the Jets first goal.
Some things I liked:
— That fourth line is going to be fun if Mike Yeo keeps them together. Ivan Barbashev looks much more comfortable on the wing with Robert Thomas centering both he and Sammy Blais, and it was that line that jump started a slow moving Blues team late in the first period.
Those three players had a Corsi rating of 65% or higher, and they stood out to anybody that watched that game.
— The power play had some nice movement, and didn’t look completely incompetent. The team registered 12 shots on 4 power-plays, and even though the box score shows 0 for 4 on the PP, Vince Dunn’s goal came at the tail end of the team’s last opportunity.
Ryan O’Reilly is the captain of the ship on the first unit and when he has the puck he looks to be in control and knows what he’s doing with a man-advantage; this is encouraging. However, his cohort Vladmir Tarasenko still looks lost at times.
I love Vladdy and despise those who criticize him just to criticize him, but at some point No. 91 will have to realize when the puck is on his stick on the power play HE NEEDS TO SHOOT. He did record three shots on the power play, but I can think of at least three other opportunities that he was looking to pass when he should have been looking to shoot. This is the one area that will take Tarasenko to the next level when he finally figures it out.
— Jordan Kyrou has the skill-set to be an NHLer, but his overall toughness impressed me the most. Anyone who has followed the Blues farm system knows about Jordan Kyrou. He collected award after award last season in the OHL after registering 109 points in 56 games for the Sarnia Sting.
However, the big fear with Kyrou was about how his game would translate to a bigger NHL. Well, he passed the coaches’ and front office test in the preseason, and even earned rave reviews from Doug Armstrong, who said he was the youngster that really opened the team’s eyes the most in training camp and the preseason.
“His speed is something you don’t realize you miss it until you see it. It’s a real benefit for our team. Now the question is ‘can they at that level when the real bullets are flying?’” Doug Armstrong said in his Wednesday press conference.
Well, if game one is any indication of Kyrou’s sustainability I think the Blues are in for a fun ride. The 20-year old was tied for 2nd on the team in shots with 4, but again it was his ability to take a big hit along the boards while still making a play.
The Blues are putting a lot on this kid, pairing him with last year’s most consistent line of Jaden Schwartz and Brayden Schenn, and he answered the bell with an extraordinary performance in game one of what the team hopes to be many more donning the Blue Note.
All-in-all it was a disappointing night for the Blues, but if fans are already throwing in the towel on Jake Allen, Mike Yeo, Vladmir Tarasenko, Jay Bouwmeester, and all the other annual punching bags then they’re not allowed back on the bus when things get rolling in the right direction.