AP Photo/Paul Vernon
We now have the first and only exhibition game in the books for the St. Louis Blues (Thank God!!!). An ugly 4-0 loss on paper to the Chicago Blackhawks that the Blues swept in the regular season four games to none, that’s a fun coincidence. From the game last night, a few thoughts popped out to me while watching the team skate in game action for the first time in nearly 4 months.
• Remember that this was EXHIBITION hockey! After four months of no hockey, no skating and only two weeks of practice. That was exactly what I expected from the Blues. Moments that looked like strong offensive pressure from special teams and even-strength, but a lot of the time the players were to close together. There were times when the SCHWARSCHENKO line (it’ll stick) couldn’t even look up for a pass without seeing his linemate right next to him. That’ll come with more time on the ice together so don’t panic.
• The players looked fatigued half way through the night. Both teams took 4 penalties but the last couple from the Blues were a tripping call and slashing on the back-rush. To penalties that most of the time signify fatigue on the ice. Plus the proof was in the pudding when you saw guys keeled over on the bench after a shift. By no means am I saying these guys are out of shape. Again, it’s 4 months with no hockey. This takes time to get legs back underneath the players.
• Tarasenko looked like the usual #91. He may not have found the back of the net but he did spend over 14 minutes on the ice and led the team in shots (4) and shot attempts (6). It was more than that thought with Tarasenko. He was going into corners, going to the front of the net and sniping shots. That’s when you know he is locked in.
• Finally, Jordan Binnington and Jake Allen. They may not have looked like they were in mid-season form but the defense left them out to dry numerous times. Specifically in the 1st, Chicago had a flurry of chances with 5 consecutive shots on goal and Binnington stopped them all. Then, a turn-over on the PP to end the first had Binnington lunging to keep the game 0-0 after 20 minutes of hockey. The two goals that were let up were odd-man rushes and too many bodies in front of the net. Not what St. Louis is accustomed to on the ice.
The main thing to takeaway from last night’s action is that this looked exactly as I thought, an exhibition game. The Blues will have practices for 3 straight days before their first Round Robin game on Sunday night. Plenty of time for Berube to skate his players, work on the offense and mentally prepare for games that matter.