While the season is very young, this “new look” Blues team already has fans wondering if it is just like other recent versions. Opening night saw the Blues outshoot an opponent only to lose the game in a 4 minute span. They outshoot their opponent wildly but lost. They failed to bury prime scoring chances only to have the other team score shortly after their failure to capitalize.
On Saturday, the Blues showed they continue to lack a real killer instinct, starting out strong with a 2 goal lead before taking their foot of the Blackhawks throat (2014 Ken Hitchcock quote reference). They then rallied to take a 3rd period lead before quickly giving it right back and losing in overtime. Oh and for you “advanced stats” fans, the Blues won the “corsi battle” in both games but still lost. Sound familiar Blues fans?
Speaking of corsi, Jay Bouwmeester was a poor 36% on Saturday as he struggled mightily again though he still almost played 18.5 minutes of 5 on 5 hockey. I guess at least that was lower than his 19+ 5 on 5 minutes from Thursday. I like Jaybo but he really is showing to be a third pair defenseman this year. Also, count me as someone who couldn’t care less about how great of a preseason he had as his regular season hasn’t come anywhere near close to that performance.
Also speaking of corsi, Robert Thomas was a team low 16.67% on Saturday. Consider this blogger as someone who has been underwhelmed with Thomas so far and will soon be in favor of sending him back to juniors. Jordan Kyrou has looked much more NHL read than Thomas. Kyrou has been creating chances and involved in the play, generating 6 shots in 2 games while even registering a couple of hits.
Enough about corsi, let’s look at some of Saturday’s issues. On the Blackhawks 1st goal, Alex Pietrangelo gets lost, failing to mark Jonathan Toews and Jake Allen misplays the odd bounce. Allen moves off the post rather than moving toward the post as he should. For those who will use this as another example to blame Allen for the losses, I’d note that Allen’s read and play is harder (against your natural tendency and reaction in the situation) and isn’t as bad as Pietrangelo completely letting Toews go free by himself to the front of the net.
On Kane’s game tying goal, the Blues had plenty of blame to go around. Bouwmeester makes a number of poor plays along the wall deep in the defending zone while the rest of the team seems like spectators watching Kane move into the prime scoring area before putting a screened shot past Allen who had on chance.
Marcus Kruger would give the Hawks the lead less than 10 minutes later on a play that develops because of the Blues poor positioning in the offensive zone. The Blues are attacking when Tyler Bozak tries to make a simple drop pass to Alexander Steen rather than using the wall to get him the puck. He is being pressured so this is a terrible choice that results in a bad turnover. Making matters worse, David Perron also jumps into the play rather than covering the right point for Alexander Steen who is rightly jumping into the play. Pietrangelo, who has shifted to the left side also fails to read the situation and also jumps into the play. Note where the Blues players are as the puck is getting ready to exit the zone. This is a recipe for disaster.
On the Hawks next goal, Pietrangelo gets beat again by Toews, getting spun around while losing the physical battle in front of the net. I wonder if this part of the “Shi**y” (that’s shinny) hockey that coach Mike Yeo was referring to.
Of course, Vince Dunn’s failure to get a shot through in overtime led to the Toews breakaway and hat trick, sending the Blues home with only a lone point. If we are being honest, the Blues lost because players they count on to be responsible were simply bad Saturday night. Bouwmeester, Pietrangelo, Bozak, Steen, Perron and Dunn had poor games and Allen wasn’t able to bail them out enough.
Speaking of Allen, fans may want to consider this little face when assessing his play so far this year. According to Corsica Hockey, Allen’s shot mix is one of the toughest in the league with goalies having played more than 1 game. Only 25% of his shots against have been low danger shots, the lowest % in the NHL. Over 1/3 of goalies have at least 40% of their shots being low danger shots and almost 2/3 are at least 35%. If you don’t think that facing a lot more medium and high danger shots impacts save percentage, you are fooling yourself. Also, it’s not just the actual save percentage but it impacts your fatigue, both physical and mental, making it harder to make all of the saves as the game goes on. Think about how you feel if you have “white-knuckle” driven for a long period of time. It makes driving a lot harder than it normally is.
Let’s turn to the positives for a moment. Pat Maroon was very good on Saturday, playing appropriately physical and making some nifty passing plays. Here are two examples:
Another positive that I think was very overlooked was the ridiculously strong play of Ivan Barbashev on Chris Butler’s third period goal. Notice how Barbashev creates the turnover on the fore-check and smartly moves the puck to Brayden Schenn. As he mostly misses Jaden Schwartz’s pass, he smartly goes right to the net, setting a great screen which is key to Butler’s shot going in. Barbashev was strong in limited minutes, getting 5 his and keying a goal in just over ten and a half minutes. Watch the strong play here.
Other positives included two Vladimir Tarasenko goals, three Ryan O’Reilly assists while winning 87% of his face-offs, and the play of Butler and Colton Parayko.
Tonight the Blues will host the Calgary Flames who are 2 and 1 and have won their last 2 games. The Blues are sitting Vince Dunn and Jordan Schmaltz for Joel Edmundson, who is healthy again, and Jakub Jerabek, who the Blues got in a castaway trade from Edmonton. I’m not sure how any team could think someone who couldn’t crack the Oilers defense could help their own but I’m trying to reserve judgement until I see Jerabek play.
I don’t like the idea of Dunn sitting as the optic seems like punishment for his blocked shot in overtime. Dunn is barely more than a rookie and this has the appearance of a Ken Hitchcock like move, benching the young kid for a mistake. I’m hoping the dialogue and the message between the coach and player are a lot different than this optic. I’m not saying Dunn was good on Saturday but frankly, if we are going by what has been shown on the ice this season, there are more veteran Blues defensemen who have played worse to date than Dunn in my opinion.
NHL Champions for Charity
We’ve gotten some traction on the charity wager among the Central Division bloggers. More on that to come.
It’s a great day for hockey.