Well, this feels pretty nice on top of the division and in the midst of a 4-game win streak. The win streak, itself, is inspiring but the fact this team has pulled off victories against multiple teams, in multiple fashions, is what gets the juices pumping. That being said, let’s dive into my five takeaways from last night’s winner over the Coyotes:
1. This Team Is “The Best” At Even-Strength
Last night was just another example of the dominance of this team when they play 5v5 hockey. 19 goals scored in their last four games and only 3 of those were scored on the powerplay. A slow start by St. Louis last night was a little nerve-wracking but when they got to their game, there was no stopping the Blues. Arizona scored at the midway point of the 1st period and the shots were 11-1 in favor of ARI. From that point on, the Blues outshot 25-7 up to the 3rd period. On top of that, the Blues this season have scored the second most goals at even strength…of any team (29). The weakest spot for the Blues last night was when they gave up a 5-3 PPG and when the goalie was pulled. It’s easier to win a game being great at even-strength than winning a game and being great at, just, power-play time.
2. Jordan Binnington, That Is All
We had Darren Pang on the 4th period (post game show) last night and he said that Jordan Binnington is playing better now, than what he was when he was recalled in January of 2018. Mainly from his body language of pursuing the puck and being aggressive at the top of the crease and it’s hard to disagree with him. He’s not sprawling to make desperation saves, he’s cool, calm and collected in between the pipes. At even-strength, Binnington has the 4th best save percentage of any goalie that has played 7+ games. He is making the timely saves when the Blues need them (1st period to keep the game 1-0 ARI before the Blues tied things and stopping 14-15 in the 3rd with 3+ minutes of an empty net). Binnington is making sure the Blues can continue searching for the game while stockpiling points to stay in 1st place.
3. Power Comes From The Defense
This seems like the most obvious comment about this Blues team but I’ll say it anyway, when this team’s defense is engaged their offense soars. The first 7 games of the season, defensemen put together 11 points in the first 7 games of the season. In the last 3 they have 12. Craig Berube has confidence in his defenseman that he continues to switch up the pairings to bring the best out of his guys. Paryako was moved to a pairing with Dunn and the result was a 2 assist game. In result, Mikkola was put on a line with Scandella and wasn’t scored on at even-strength when together. This team is scoring goals at a high rate and that is a result of defenseman jumping into the offensive play.
4. Blues Have A Great Problem On Their Hand
Speaking of the defense, Blues have a great problem on their hands because of the defense. Justin Faulk is playing at an All-Star level and performing as one of the best d-men in the league. Parayko has stepped his offense up and is contributing in a big way for the Blues. The main reason though is Niko Mikkola. The young defenseman is looking as trustworth on the blue line of any player on this roster. He plays a big-game on the board, has the long reach and speed to create offense when need be. Craig Berube trusted him so much in last night’s winner that he had him on the ice when up by a goal and the goaltender pulled for ARI. The Blues, when healthy, will have 8 defenseman for 6 spots.
5. Hoffman Is Heating Up
Finally, it’s the player everyone wants to talk about, Mike Hoffman. After last night’s victory, the sniper is starting to find his “new found game” with the St. Louis Blues. He put 5 shots on goal last night, some of those coming on the PP, but they all resulted in high-danger scoring chances for the Blues. On top of that, his goal was the first “pure goal” of the season for the Blues and from there he looked like a player that belonged on this Blues team. I still question why he’s not playing on that #1 PP unit but his confidence rising, he will have plenty opportunities to score at special teams and even strength. If Hoffman is heating up for a team that already is scoring goals at a high clip, watch out.