What Went Down: After being Impaired by penalties, general sluggishness and then yuckiness in a lousy third period, the Blues were fortunate to scrape a point Wednesday night in a 2-1 shootout loss to visiting San Jose at Enterprise Center. The Blues are 2-1-1 on the season.
Who Deserved To Win? Hello, and welcome to Metrics City! How can I help you? How about some Expected Goals For? (Shorthand: xGF.) Using all on-ice situations, San Jose had a xGF of 2.7, compared to the Blues’ 0.69. In 5 versus 5 situations, the Sharks had 1.13 xGF to the Blues’ 0.57. There’s your answer.
The Good: (1) The Blues killed all seven Sharks power plays, and that’s quite the turnaround from the first three games; opponents had drilled the Blues for 6 PP goals in 14 setups; (2) Jordan Binnington made 33 saves on 34 shots including all 13 of San Jose’s shots on the PP; (3); Jordan Kyrou used his speed to motor into the offensive zone and indirectly set up Brayden Schenn for the Blues’ only goal, Kyrou has 2 goals and 2 assists in the team’s four games, and had a 65 percent Corsi-for rating at even strength in Wednesday’s game; (4) defenseman Niko Mikkola made his season debut and provided a boost to the penalty-kill unit, working 1:57 with Colton Parayko and 1:43 with Justin Faulk to keep the Sharks off the board.
The Bad: The Blues have been whistled for 21 penalties so far; among all other NHL teams only Vancouver (22) has more. The Blues are a averaging 11 minutes per game in penalties, with their opponents averaging 7.5 minutes in penalties. That deficit not only creates a disadvantage for the Blues; their high penalty count disrupts continuity at 5v5, and 5v5 hockey is the Blues’ strength … among the Blues’ opening line combinations featured Tyler Bozak, Robert Thomas and Mike Hoffman. It didn’t go very well, and coach Craig Berube switched and put Hoffman with David Perron and Ryan O’Reilly. And while that trio had only 3:55 at 5v5 (because of penalties), they were the Blues’ best line on the night with a Relative Corsi of 44.07 percent.
The Really Bad: The Blues have not scored a power play goal this season. They went 0-for-5 in the loss to the Sharks. Through four games they’ve struck out 14 times in 14 at-bats. Just for the record, the defenseman with the most PP time so far are Torey Krug (8:10), Vince Dunn (7:01) and Colton Parayko (3:33.) The forwards with the most PP action are Ryan O’Reilly (7:52), Brayden Schenn (7:51), David Perron (7:22), Jaden Schwartz (7:18), Tyler Bozak (5:48), Robert Thomas (5:18) and Mike Hoffman (5:10). But Hoffman has those minutes in three games, not four. He missed the season opener with visa issues.
The Ugly: Robert Thomas isn’t ugly; he’s just really struggling right now. He wasn’t strong or sure with the puck against the Sharks on Wednesday. Thomas received 11:49 minutes of time overall, the third-lowest among Blues forwards. And during 8:43 of time at 5v5, Thomas had an abysmal Corsi For percentage of 30.7. Not good.
Best Pairing: That would be Justin Faulk and Vince Dunn. This was a new pairing, with Marco Scandella being scratched from the lineup. In 14:47 of even-strength play with Faulk and Dunn on the ice, the Blues had a 16-6 edge in16 shot attempts.
Underrated: the line of Sammy Blais, Oskar Sundqvist and Ivan Barbashev had a 70% Corsi rating in 5:30 of 5v5 time.
One More Thing: The Blues could have gotten out of the building with two points but couldn’t get a shootout goal from Perron, O’Reilly, Schenn or Kyrou. I would probably fuss about this more than I am but large San Jose goaltender Martin Jones is effective in shootouts.
Oh, Before I Forget: How the hell do you get a penalty for too many dudes on ice when your team is on the power play? The Blues were fuzzy (as in not sharp of mind) too often in this one.
This About Sums It Up: “We’ve got a lot of guys that aren’t skating and not competing hard enough,” Coach Berube said.
Runner-Up Quote: “It’s ridiculous, these penalties,” Berube said.
What’s Next: The Los Angeles Kings will be in town to play the Blues on Saturday (7 p.m.) and Sunday (also 7 p.m.)
Thanks for reading …
Listen to Bernie’s sports-talk show on 590-AM, KFNS each weekday from 3-6 p.m. Or listen to the show or show podcast online at 590thefan.com … download the 590 app at your favorite app store.