Now that was a hockey game last night. Back-and-forth, offensive, action resolved by an OT/SO for the 5th time in the history of these two teams. If that set the tone for the next 7 games this season, then I’m kind of wishing we could skip Wednesday and get to Thursday’s game 2 now. While we wait, let’s go through my five “takeaways” from last night’s shoot-out winner.
1. Bow Down To Jordan Binnington
I have been tooting this horn since the off-season but it is has shown up in every game this season, Binnington is a #1 goalie. Last night Vegas had outshot the Blues 11-3 in the first 5:00 of the 1st period, on top of, scoring the first goal of the game. From that moment he made highlight reel save after save in high-danger situations to kill the momentum. He was the main reason the Blues eliminated 5 of the 6 Golden Knights power plays and eliminated any threat of not getting to OT with his 3rd period heroics. This team sits in the middle of the NHL with a save percentage at even-strength (91.2%) but Binnington in the 1st and 3rd period has top 5 numbers in the NHL. He has helped this Blues team pick up 9 of 14 points.
2. The Penalties Need To Stop … I’m Talking To Players And Officials
I’m to the point now where I’m not blaming the players for these penalties as much as I am blaming the officials. Now, I’m not making excuses because 6 penalties should not happen. Delay of Game, Too Many Men and, frankly, Holding penalties were mostly on the players and mistakes. But the slashing and cross-checking calls? Even Craig Berube thought these officials were a joke. I’m not sure if this is youthful officials who are trying to be a part of the game or if it’s just the beginning stages of the season for the officials. There is no way that 1/3 of an entire hockey game should be played away from 5v5. The Blues players must play more disciplined but the NHL needs to take a look at some of these officials.
3. Still Needing Some Line Chemistry
This does not apply to the most productive line for the Blues (Schenn-Schwartz-Kyrou) that produced another 2 goals last night. After last night’s win we are seeing a stronger performance from the O’Reilly line with two goals from Perron and offensive pressure from Sanford and O’Reilly. The problem, for me, right now is the Thomas line with Bozak and Hoffman. The Blues need to have that line become effective in play and last night we, once again, only saw around 12:00 from both Hoffman and Thomas. Most of that is due to special teams dictating the night but when they were on at even-strength it still felt like they were absent. Secondary scoring and depth should be a strength for this team but as of late, it just feels like they are non-existent.
4. This Team Is In Need Of Some “Power” On Their Play
This one is hard for me because they did score on the power play last night which gives them 2 on the season. But out of 4 opportunities the Blues were unable to capitalize on any of the other chances that could have put a dagger in any more chances from Vegas. The 3rd period the Blues had two separate chances on special teams (shortened due to penalties) but they didn’t capitalize. I know Craig Berube likes familiarity but it feels like a crime that Mike Hoffman is stranded on the second unit that barely sees any time on the ice. If chemistry seems to be an issue then they need to let that #1 unit figures out its issues WITH Hoffman on the unit. You signed him to score on the PP but can’t justify his lack of goals when he sees maybe :20-:30 with the man advantage.
5. Blues Showed Something That All Of Us Needed To See
This was, by far, the biggest thing for me from that Blues victory, Justin Faulk. That hit to Tyler Bozak was plain BS from Mark Stone with a blatant shot to the head at center ice to a player that didn’t possess the puck. If Sammy Blais can get a 2-game suspension then let’s not keep the phone on hold for a guy who is the captain of a team. What I loved was the response from the team. Immediately Schenn skated over and had words for Stone and center ice before being sent to the box. The Blues couldn’t make them pay on the powerplay so instead Justin Faulk took it in his own hands and dropped the gloves with him. Faulk, who has been in 1 fight in his NHL career, showed the entire roster that this team will not be walked over in these divisional match-ups and strengthened his rapport among his teammates. This Blues team showed fight, attitude, against a team that thought they could pounce on a vulnerable team after a loss. The key will be following up with another win on Thursday to show Vegas that the Blues are the real deal. They may have blown a lead last night but a win is a win in the early portion of this season.