The Blues had a nice run out West … is everybody calm now?
Are we happy?
I think so … well, at least until the next crisis that isn’t really a crisis.
Miracle On Ice! Saturday night in Anaheim, the Blues won the first of two games. Sunday night in Anaheim, they won the second game, which means they captured a set of back-to-back games with the same opponent for the first time this season.
Almost like winning the Stanley Cup all over again.
(Sarcasm alert. Sorry.)
The Road Trip: The Blues went 3-0 in their first western swing … winning by a 5-4 shootout at Vegas, then outscoring Anaheim 10-2 in two victories there.
The Standings: The Blues are 6-2-1 for 13 points, tied for first with Colorado. But it’s a little complicated. Vegas has played only seven games but has the best points-percentage in the division at .786. Last season the Blues were 4-2-3 through nine games. Two years years ago, they were 2-4-3 through nine.
Other than going 3-0, The 5 Best Things That Happened On The Road Trip:
- Getting a win over old friend and captain Alex Pietrangelo, and avoiding the Covid in Las Vegas.
- More thrills from the radiant Jordan Kyrou. After another productive flurry, Kid Kyrou has 10 points and is a +4 in nine games. The line of Jaden Schwartz, Brayden Schenn and Kyrou continued to shine. It’s been a terrific combination all season.
- Ville Husso stopped all 23 shots at 5-on-5 in Sunday’s 4-1 win at Anaheim. I’ll tell my grandkids about this one day. But seriously, can he stay now? Can we stop concocting trade scenarios? Good grief.
- The Justin Faulk, Torey Krug defensive pairing was outstanding. In three games the duo played 11:15 at 5v5, and here’s a partial list of the goodness: 3-0 Blues advantage in goals, 70 percent of the shots on net, and 75% of the scoring chances,
- The Blues scored on three of nine power-play opportunities (33.3%) and killed nine of 11 opponent PPs (81.8). Gotta start somewhere.
Honorable Mention: The feisty and underrated Sammy Blais got a chance to play. When playing 5v5 in the two games at Anaheim, Blais had a 61.1 percent Corsi rating and the Blues outshot the Ducks 11-6. He was a +2 at even strength and registered eight hits on Ducks. MANIAC.
An Interesting Trend: The Blues’ strength is 5v5 hockey. But truth is they haven’t been stout in this area, not on a consistent basis. During the three-game trip the Blues had 45 percent of the shot attempts and 46% of the shots on goal. But … at 5v5 the Blues also outscored VGN and ANA 11-4 in the three games.
It’s an early pattern to the season. Through nine games the Blues rank 21st in Corsi For percentage (47.8.) That’s down from their 51 percent Corsi last season, and the 51.5 rate during their Stanley Cup season. Overall, it isn’t a major deal, though I’m sure coach Craig Berube would emphasize his team’s need to improve at 5v5.
The Blues are transitioning parts of the roster, and getting accustomed to competing without Pietrangelo. The addition of free-agent forward Mike Hoffman hasn’t been as smooth as hoped, but he’s getting better.
Ryan O’Reilly spends a lot of time killing penalties (as always) and hasn’t been quite the same. Two seasons ago, O’Reilly had a 53.6% Corsi, followed by a 52.9% Corsi last season. Early in the 2021 schedule O’Reilly’s Corsi is lagging at 43.5% at 5v5. This should level out over time.
But the Blues have overcome the slippage by finishing their chances about as well as any team in the league. For example, they rank 18th for most scoring chances — but are third in the NHL with 22 goals on those chances. And when a scoring chance resulted in a goal by either team in the Blues’ first nine games, the Blues have deposited 59.4 percent of those goals.
The finishing touch is also evident on high-danger chances at 5v5; the Blues have outscored opponents 13-6.
The ability to make the most of their chances has given the Blues an overall scoreboard edge at 5v5. They might not be quite as sturdy as we’re used to seeing, but here’s the old bottom line: The Blues have 26 goals at 5v5, ranking second to Vancouver’s 30. (And the Canucks have played two more games than the Blues.) And the Blues have 63.1 percent of the 5v5 goals scored in their nine games; that ranks third in the league to Tampa Bay (68.4) and Montreal (65.2.)
Now, For A Potential Problem: The Blues’ percentage of shots that result in a 5v5 goal is 13.2%. That’s unsustainable. As a point of reference, last season the Blues ranked 10th in the league — still very good, right? — with an 8.58 percentage of shots that turn into goals. This leads to another bottom-line reality: They’ll have to be more dependable at 5v5.
The Schwartz-Schenn-Kyrou Line at 5v5: Over the three-game trip the Blues’ best line controlled 58 percent of the shots on goal, 65.5% of the scoring chances, 75% of the high-danger chances and outscored the opposition 4-1.
For the season, this luminous line has outscored opponents 8-3 in 69:37 of 5v5 time. They’ve also rolled up a huge advantage in scoring chances in games, with 49 to the opponent’s 18. That includes a large 19-5 edge in high-danger chances.
Next On The Schedule: Two games against the Arizona Coyotes … Tuesday and Thursday night (7 p.m.) at Enterprise Center.
Thanks for reading …
Listen to Bernie’s sports-talk show on 590-AM The Fan, KFNS. It airs weekdays from 3-6 p.m. but runs 4-6 p.m. on Friday. Or go to 590thefan.com to listen online or to download The Bernie Show podcast. The 590 app is available in your favorite app store.
For the last 35 years Bernie Miklasz has entertained, enlightened, and connected with generations of St. Louis sports fans.
While best known for his voice as the lead sports columnist at the Post-Dispatch for 26 years, Bernie has also written for The Athletic, Dallas Morning News and Baltimore News American. Bernie has hosted radio shows in St. Louis, Dallas, Baltimore and Washington D.C.
Bernie, his wife Kirsten and their cats reside in the Skinker-DeBaliviere neighborhood of St. Louis.