Bernie’s Blues Review
The Bottom Blue Line: Despite their 0-for-5 struggle on the power play, the Blues got back to what they do best, outscoring Arizona 3-1 in 45:15 of dominant 5-on-5 play. That was enough for a 4-3 victory at Enterprise Center as the Blues extended their winning streak to four in a row.
Standings Check: The Blues are 7-2-1 for 15 points, tied for first in the Western Division. Colorado also has 15 points but has played 11 games to the Blues’ 10. The Blues are tied for second in the NHL with six wins in regulation.
Let’s Talk More About 5-on-5: It was quite a thrashing by the home team, with the Blues controlling 57.5 of the shot attempts, 56% of the shots on net, and 62.8% of the scoring chances (22-13.)
Binner, Winner: Goaltender Jordan Binnington stopped 17 of 18 shots at 5v5 and repelled the Coyotes during late-game moments of frantic activity around his cage. Binnington is 6-1-1 on the season. Since taking over as the Blues No. 1 goaltender in January of 2019, Binnington’s regular-season record is 60-19-9. Dynamic. Since Binnington’s installation in goal, and among 21 goaltenders that have played at least 4,000 minutes at 5v5, Binnington ranks third in save percentage, fourth in goals saved above average, and second in high-danger save percentage.
Can We Talk About Vince Dunn? When coach Craig Berube scratched Dunn from the lineup for the Jan. 26 game at Vegas, the move drew plenty of attention. And Dunn was in a rut, at least in terms of being careless with the puck, and Berube took action after Dunn’s horrible and costly turnover in the 6-3 loss to LA Kings on Jan. 24 Through his first six games Dunn was minus 3, and the Blues were outscored 5-2 with him on the ice at 5v5.
Again, I want to make it clear that Berube’s benching was justified. It was appropriate to sharpen Dunn’s attention. But there’s been a lot of “Trade Vince Dunn” chatter around town, and I think it’s probably a good idea to take a deep breath on that. Yes the Blues will have to move salary at some point, when Vladimir Tarasenko returns. And yes, the Seattle expansion draft is a consideration.
But let’s pause to review a few things.
1–In his three NHL seasons before this one, Dunn had a 5v5 Corsi For percentage of 54.6%. That ranked sixth among qualifying NHL defenseman behind Dougie Hamilton, Mark Giordano, Shea Theodore, Jacob Slavin and Jeff Petry.
2–When Dunn was on the ice at 5v5 for his first three seasons, the Blues controlled 54.5 percent of the shots on goal. Only four NHL defenseman had a superior percentage in the category.
3–The Blues scored 56.5 of the goals at 5v5 with Dunn out there; only six NHL defenseman had a better percentage.
4–In his first three seasons, when Dunn skated at 5v5, the Blues expected goals-for percentage was 55%. Only seven NHL defenseman had a better rate than that.
5- Dunn is 24 years old … 24! Despite taking a puck to the face in the Western Conference final vs. San Jose, needing minor surgery and missing two weeks, Dunn returned for the final four games of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final against Boston, skating 85 shifts and averaging 13:30 of ice per game. In 20 games overall that postseason Dunn contributed two goals and six assists in his 20 games during the Blues’ manic push for a Stanley Cup. You wanted to know if this kid had heart? He showed you that at age 22.
Vince Dunn is an asset. And he’s still an asset even though he wobbled early this season. I went back — and it took me a lot of time — to see how Dunn fared with various defensive partners in his first three seasons.
And here’s what I found: you can play the LH Dunn with just about any RH partner you want, and the ensuing Corsi metrics are positive … good … very good. Alex Pietrangelo, Colton Parayko, Robert Bortuzzo, Justin Faulk, Nate Prosser. And even if you match Dunn with another left-hand shot, the Corsi stuff is a fine. Roughly average with most; better than average with some. (One exception was Jay Bouwmeester; in limited ice time the Dunn-Bow pairing didn’t click.
This season at 5v5 Dunn has a 69.7 Corsi with Justin Faulk, 57.1 with Torey Krug, and 55.0 with Bortuzzo. The Dunn-Parayko pairing is slightly below average (47.6) but keep in mind that Parayko has had some minor struggles of his own. A couple of pairings that aren’t clicking — at least so far — are the double-LH combinations: Dunn and Carl Gunnarson (28.7 Corsi); Dunn and Niko Mikkola (40 Corsi.)
In last night’s win over Arizona the 5v5 pairing of Dunn and Parayko had a preposterously good 85.7 Corsi. Dunn and Faulk combined for a ridiculously good 80 Corsi. In the combined nine minutes of 5-v5 that put Dunn with Parayko or Faulk, the Blues had 10 of the 12 shot attempts, seven of the eight shots on net, and outscored the Coyotes 2-0. What didn’t work wss Dunn and Mikkoka; in 3:52 at 5v5 they had a 20 Corsi and a one-goal deficit.
Vince Dunn … back in good graces with Berube. That’s one narrative.
Here’s my narrative: Vince Dunn is a really good player, and we shouldn’t forget that before we start going all Scotty Bowman and concocting trades because the dude has a couple of lousy games.
Dunn received a message from Berube.
Dunn sent a message of his own against the Coyotes. He had a goal and an assist and was a plus 3 in Tuesday’s win. Since his release from a one-game stay in street clothes, Dunn has two goals and an assist and is a +4.
Line Alert: Heating Up! Ryan O’Reilly had a goal that turned out to be the winner. During the Blues’ four-game winning streak, at 5v5, the line of O’Reilly, David Perron and Zach Sanford has a 52 Corsi, has controlled 60 percent of the shots on net, revved up 20 scoring chances, and outscored opponents 3-1. They were strong on Tuesday night.
Same As It Ever Was: The Brayden Schenn, Jaden Schwartz and Jordan Kyrou line had an 80 Corsi against the Coyotes and had a 9-1 advantage in scoring chances. Let’s update the tote board: for the season the trio has controlled 62 percent of the shot attempts at 5v5 — and has an overwhelming edge of 58-19 in scoring chances. Two assists from Kyrou on Tuesday. That makes for 3 goals and 5 assists in his last eight games. And 12 points in 10 games this season.
Justin Faulk: His +11 for the season is third-best in the NHL among defensemen. In a related note, Trey Krug is a +7 this season.
Mike Hoffman: A goal and two assists and +3 in his last three games. We have a pulse.
Sammy Blais: Two assists last night. That’s 1 goal and 2 assists and 10 hits in three games since returning to the lineup.
Next Game: Rematch with Arizona, 7 p.m. Thursday at Enterprise.
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