Since all the Blues do, it seems, is play the Arizona Coyotes I thought it would be best to put a wrap on the road trip rather than a look game-to-game. Not the way anyone would have thought this series would go but it proved one thing, Arizona is no joke in this division.
Goaltending Is The Strength Of This Team
This must be my “Captain Obvious” statement of the day because I doubt anyone has blamed the goalies up to this point of the season. Binnington faulted yesterday from an offense that couldn’t solve the opposing goaltender but over the weekend, the goalie was the reason they took 4 of six points on this trip. Binnington in two of the games saw his even-strength save percentage jump to .943 in his two games. He made highlight reel saves in moments that the Blues needed to kill momentum from Arizona. And Ville Husso was just as impressive in his start. He did allow 4 goals but if you re-watch that game, those 4 goals held a minimum chance of any goalie making those saves. It was also the rest of that game, stopping 32 of 36 shots (12 of those in the 2nd period). Both goalies have given their team a chance to win, and that’s all you can ask.
The Penalty Kill Doesn’T Seem To Be A Problem, For Now
If you want a bright spot (on top of the two victories) it was the discipline and penalty kill. 9 penalties taken in 3 games is an impressive feat in itself considering this was only the 2nd time, in a series, that the Blues took less than 10 penalties and killing those off was a game changer for the Blues. Prior to this road trip the Blues only had 3 games where they went 100% on the PK but they did that in every game in Arizona. David Perron talked a few days ago about Steve Ott working at making the PK a strength again and it showed. Hard on the opposition in the neutral zone and clearing the puck with ease. That is one of the main reasons the Blues were scarce in playing “catch up hockey” against Arizona.
The Blues Are Still Looking For Chemistry In Their Own Zone
Now, as great as the PK has been in the Blues zone over the weekend, they have an issue at 5v5 play. Maybe it’s just the top line of the Coyotes that caused problems for St. Louis but the Blues struggled with clearing the puck out of their zone this series. Every opportunity the Blues had to move the puck up the ice it would result in a forced pass that Arizona would read, intercept and continue their offensive pressure, which sometimes resulted in a goal. This comes down to players still learning the others’ tendencies. It no longer is Petro and Bouwmeester moving the puck up the ice where his teammates know what they’re doing before it happens. It’s Torey Krug and Justin Faulk with accelerated playing time so the wingers are still finding out what works and doesn’t work. They have to figure it out fast.
The Depth Proves To Be A Strength Of This Team
It’s no question that Blues fans are starting to get a little concerned with the injuries with this team. The bad news is the names are starting to pile up (Thomas, Blais, Scandella, Schwartz and now Krug). We all expected these to be an issue because of so many games in so little time but the Blues have an advantage in that area, depth. We talk all about it but if you look at each position the Blues have bodies who are more than qualified to carry the load for a bit. Defensively, Mikkola, Gunnarsson and Bortuzzo have shown strength when stepping in for Scandella and a struggling Parayko (17 goals in 7 games). Offensively, de la Rose and Poganski have looked like weapons that are finally getting dusted off from the taxi squad and they bring that internal competition that Berube loves. The Blues still need to score goals (unlike yesterday) but that offense will come, it’s the fight that Berbue is looking for and these depth players are bringing that style.
The Blues Need More From Some Of Their Players
If I could be critical one last time, the Blues do still need something from their players. More fight for net front presence. It felt like deja vu with Berube every post game saying that “the players didn’t make it hard enough on their goalender”. Berube talked about, when he switched up his lines, having heavy players on each line to fight for the puck. Barbashev has been that guy for the ROR & Perron line and it seems like Kyrou doesn’t even need a net front presence but has it with Schenn and Schwartz. Still looking for guys on that bottom two to provide that presence. We saw Sanford score on Saturday with his slick shot but with the net front presence of Poganski. Clifford scored again (3 goals on the season) but with the presence from de la Rose. The Blues are still at the top-end of the league in goals for this season but taking that to the next level comes down to net front presence and utilizing the size of this team.