BERNIE’S BLUES REVIEW
Final Score: Blues 5, San Jose 4 on Monday Night at Enterprise Center. In their home-opening game for 2021, the Blues received two goals from defenseman Justin Faulk and a goal each from forwards Mike Hoffman, Brayden Schenn and Jordan Kyrou.
The Turning Point: At 2:36 of the second period, Faulk scored a goal only seven seconds after being freed from the penalty box to cut the San Jose lead to 2-1. Down by two goals the Blues needed to make something happen to reverse the established order, and Faulk delivered.
No. 1 Reason Why the Blues Won: The Blues grabbed this one back from San Jose because of absolutely dominant play at 5-on-5. Really dominant. At 5v5 the Blues outshot the Sharks 32-16, rolled up a huge 28-9 advantage in scoring chances, and had a preposterous 12-0 edge in high-danger shots. The Blues outscored San Jose 5-2 at 5v5.
The Good: The determined Blues kept cool and erased two deficits in a comeback that improved their record to 2-1 on the newborn season. It was a fine and timely recovery from Friday’s ridiculous mess of a loss (8-0) at Colorado.
The Bad: The Blues special teams were horrendous again, failing on two out of three penalty kills and getting skunked on their three power-play opportunities.
The Ugly: Through three games the Blues are 0 for 9 on the PP and have been strafed by opponents for eight power-play scores on 14 attempts. The Blues’ PK rate of 43.9% is the worst in the league. The penalty-kill futility is somewhat understandable because it’s early and the unit has been revised after the departures of defenseman Jay Bouwmeester and Alex Pietrangelo and forward Alex Steen.
On last season’s team, only Ryan O’Reilly logged more PK time than Bow, Petro and Steen. For whatever it’s worth — again, this is a sliver of a sample size — the the players that have clocked the most time on the Blues’ PK this season are defenseman Justin Faulk and Marco Scandella, forwards Oskar Sundqvist and Ivan Barbashev, and defenseman Colton Parayko. The other two guys with at least five minutes of shorthanded time are centers O’Reilly and Tyler Bozak.
One problem: losing too many faceoffs while killing penalties. Yeah, the side with the extra skater or skaters has an advantage in the faceoff draw for obvious reasons. But last season the Blues had a faceoff win percentage of 46.3 while playing short; in the early hours of the ‘21 season their shorthanded FO win percentage is 35.7%. O’Reilly has won 5 of 8 on the PK; the other Blues are winning at a rate of 25%. Last season the Blues other than O’Reilly won 40% of their draws on the PK.
The Best Line: The triad of Jaden Schwartz, Brayden Schenn and Jordan Kyrou had a mighty good evening of hockey at The Enterprise Center. In 11:49 of 5v5 time, they outscored San Jose 2-0, controlled 75 percent of the shot attempts, 82% of the shots on goal, and sired 11 of the 12 scoring chances.
It’s All About The Bottom Line, Right? At 5v5 the Blues’ line of Tyler Bozak, Robert Thomas and Mike Hoffman had some struggles in 9:25 of ice time; they were about 42 percent worse than their teammates Corsi Relative Percentage. You’re thinking … for the love of Mike Milbury or Don Cherry what the hell is this fancy-pants gobbledygook the writer is talking about? Answer: The good ol’ Corsi Relative Percentage shows the relative effect of a player on the ice. A positive CF% Relative indicates that when the player is on the ice, the team’s CF% is higher than when the player is not on the ice. Or, as in this case, it can apply to a specific line. I’ll be using it here to identify the positive and negative on the performance spectrum. And Monday night the Bozak-Thomas-Hoffman trio had a minus 41.7 relative Corsi percentage. Here’s the beautiful thing: with a goal by Hoffman, that line outscored the Sharks 1-0 at 5v5 last night. So who cares about these snotty-ass metrics? (Well, I do … but point taken.)
The Best Pairing: Colton Parayko and Torey Krug. When the Blues’ No. 1 defensive pairing was on the ice at 5v5 — 17 minutes and 44 seconds — the home team controlled 63 percent of the shot attempts, 70 percent of the shots on goal, 14 of the 20 scoring chances. The Blues outscored the Sharks 2-0 at 5v5 with the assistance of Parayko and his new Pally.
Keep It Going, Kid: Prospect-turned-performer Jordan Kyrou scored the game-winning goal Monday night to continue his fast start to the season. Kyrou has two goals and an assist in three games. Last season Kyrou scored four goals in just over 300 minutes of ice time; this season he’s already halfway there with two goals in 36 minutes of action. With Kyrou out there at 5v5 during the first three games, the Blues have 75% of the scoring chances and have outscored foes 3-1. With his timely tally Monday, Kyrou became the first Blue to have two game-winning goals within the first three games of a season since Jim Campbell in 1996-97. Hat tip to @STLBlueshistory for that last stat.
What About Jordan Binnington? The Blues goaltender gave up two goals on 16 shots at 5v5, which ain’t great. But let’s widen the lens a bit. Through the three games Binnington has a .930 save percentage at even strength. And he’s snuffed eight of nine high-danger chances. He’s OK .. as in “Nothing to worry about here. And it’s only three games stupid.”
Quote That Sums It Up: “This game was a winnable game for us,” Sharks coach Bob Boughner said. “We scored four on the road, we won the special teams and that should be a recipe for at least a point. I can think of three, off the top of my head, goals that came off our sticks. Just high percentage, really unsmart hockey plays, and they go down and score and that hurts. St. Louis is a good team. You can’t give them anything.”
Next Up: The Blues and San Jose will play round two on Wednesday night at Enterprise; this time it’ll be an 8 p.m. start local time. Viewable at Fox Sports Midwest.
Thanks for reading …
Listen to Bernie’s sports-talk show on 590-AM The Fan, KFNS, weekdays from 3-6 p.m. Listen online or download the show podcast at 590thefan.com … it’s available in your app store.