A loss that shouldn’t have been a loss, I feel like we’ve said that a lot over the last few seasons for the St. Louis Blues. Add last night onto that list because that game was a solid performance by St. Louis and it all was thrown away by a couple of unintentional penalties and a special teams blunder.
1. The Forecheck Was Solid
There were multiple times last night I found myself saying, “that’s St. Louis Blues hockey.” I know that it all resulted in a loss which makes this statement erroneous but it’s something to build off. From the mid-way point of the 1st until ARI tied the game, the Blues were the aggressor. Continuous fore check on the Coyotes with multiple scoring chances created scoring opportunities. I can think of 5 different plays where the Blues cycled the puck to get a fresh set of legs onto the ice and scoring chance. It comes down to conversion which is the frustrating part from last night’s loss but I think the Blues found the recipe to success with that forecheck.
2. The Blues Recognized Their Weakness And Capitalized
After the 1st period I realized something about this Blues team this season, they need help adding a spark to their game. No fans in the stands affect this team differently than other teams. Some teams have shown the ability to create energy for themselves while the Blues need the other team to get them engaged. This isn’t a good thing because some games won’t turn out for the good of the Blues but Arizona fell into the trap. The 2-game losing streak came from lulling this Blues team to sleep without engaging in the post-whistles and putting the Blues to sleep. Last night, they tried to play heavy with St. Louis and that woke up a giant. Clifford dropped the gloves and ARI tried to step-up for their teammates after the big hits and that was all St. Louis needed. The problem is they have to find that energy quick in games, otherwise they are non-existent.
3. Solid Addition To The Scoring Depth
I loved Ivan Barbashev on that top line with ROR and Perron. Berube talked about the conversation he had with Barby before the game about needing him to play heavy and create space in front of the net for his line, and he did just that. Perron’s goal was all from Barbashev driving the net and leading two defenseman in front of Kuemper. Frankly, this is how the Blues can score a majority of their goals (2 of them last night) by putting bodies in front of the goalie. It’s just a matter of players wanting to get those dirty goals. Barby plays that game for Berube and that’s when he’s at his best. He made that line better last night and I would bank on seeing that in the coming games. Now, if we could only get that effort from the 3rd line.
4. Blues Have To Be Tighter In Their Own Zone
Once again, the Blues are bitten by their own players watching the play happen. I did enjoy the Blues effort on the game-tying goal late in the 3rd with two “superman” diving plays to keep the game in a lead for STL. The problem was the other few goals, Binnington making the big saves and defenseman getting outworked by forwards for the rebound chances. That has never been the Blues mantra and surprised that it’s that way this season. Stronger on the puck plays in front of their goalies and less turnovers. It sounds cliché but that’s how this Blues team goes from a group that lacks confidence to a team that plays the way they need to to be the best in their division.
5. Discipline Seems To Be The Continuous Issue
We’ve talked about this all season but the penalties HAVE TO STOP. They are the 3rd most penalized team in the NHL with 127 minutes in 13 games but the worst part is when the penalties are being taken. They are either negating PP time or responsive to a clean hit that leaves the door open for the opposition. Special teams has been an issue this season but the Blues inability to play with discipline has taken 6-8 points away from the Blues. Cleaning that up will change the outcome of this season for St. Louis. The question is, how does Craig Berube get his time to actually compete that way.