After a flaccid performance in their 3-2 loss to Arizona, your St. Louis Blues rearranged their lines and minds and razed San Jose by a 4-1 score on Thursday evening at Enterprise Center.
The scrubbing washed away the odor of a four-game losing streak. But the Blues need to follow up by gathering more wins and points. Their 9-5-2 record is fine, but the .625 points percentage is good for only 14th overall and sixth in the Western Conference.
There was a lot to like about The Note’s showing against San Jose. Let’s Roll Four Lines…
FIRST LINE: Ryan O’Reilly and David Perron were reconnected on the same line, and the reunion went very well. And it doesn’t hurt to have Jordan Kyrou join in. The threesome combined for 10 shots on goal, five by O’Reilly. Perron had two assists, including the setup of Kyrou’s eighth goal of the year. All together, the three dudes had a goal and three assists and were a +4 collectively. And in 12 minutes of five-on-five play, the line controlled 55 percent of the shot attempts.
Kyrou has six goals and two assists in his last six games.
The O’Reilly-Perron combo found its rhythm after a disruption and funk phase caused by O’Reilly’s time in Covid quarantine.
How good are the Blues when O’Reilly and Perron play on the same line?
I have answers thanks to Natural Stat Trick:
— Since O’Reilly joined the Blues via trade before the 2018-2019 season, St. Louis has outscored opponents 181-91 at all strengths with O’Reilly and Perron forming two-thirds of the line — a goal share of 66.5 percent. With O’Reilly and Perron doing their thing at five-on-five, the Blues have scored 59 percent of the goals (86 to 60.)
Perron isn’t the same when playing with other centers. Since the start of the 2018-2019 season the Blues are a +26 in goals scored at five v five with O’Reilly and Perron on the same line. And when Perron is playing with all other centers? Well, the Blues are a minus 9 at five-on-five. Big difference, yes?
SECOND LINE: Coach Craig Berube remixed his lines and defensive pairings for Thursday’s game, and the results were positive and obvious. As Blues coach Berube has almost always had a good feel for making changes, creating chemistry, and finding good matchups. And even if the line and pairing combinations are temporary and fade after a while, Berube usually concocts another effective mix.
— The Perron-O’Reilly-Kyrou line had 55% of the shot attempts at five on five and outplayed the Sharks. The unit deserved better than a 1-1 draw on the scoreboard when competing at five-on-five.
— Brandon Saad, Ivan Barbashev and Oskar Sundqvist controlled 54% of the shot attempts, 58.3% of the shots on goal, and outscored the Sharks 1-0. Saad scored that goal and had another goal on the power play. The three gave the Blues an active and aggressive presence. That pleased Berube, who dubbed them the “Identity Line.” And the ID Line gave the Blues plenty of offensive zone time in Thursday’s triumph.
— Vladimir Tarasenko, Robert Thomas and Pavel Buchnevich had 61 percent of the shots on goal at five on five, and outscored San Jose 1-0. Tarasenko had seven shots on net overall, and Buchnevich set up a goal by Thomas.
— Two of the three defensive pairings were strong. The Blues controlled 57% of the shot attempts at five on five with the Colton Parayko and Torey Krug pairing in service. But the real wow-factor pairing was Justin Faulk and Scott Perunovich. With that duo playing 15:34 at five on five, the Blues had 58% of the shot attempts, 63% of the shots on goal, and outscored the Sharks 3-1.
The only line that didn’t click Thursday was the grouping of James Neal, Tyler Bozak and Klim Kostin. And the defensive-partner combo of Robert Bortuzzo and Marco Scandella was a weak link at five on five; San Jose got 67 percent of the shots on goal with the two guys out there.
THIRD LINE: Perunovich has played two games since being summoned from AHL Springfield to make his official NHL debut. So yes, that’s a small sample size and all of that. But my goodness … what an impressive start. Perunovich has averaged just under 19 minutes of ice time per game. And when he’s been out there — all strengths — the Blues have outshot opponents 29-11 (72.5%) with a 3-1 advantage in goals.
The rookie defenseman has an expected goals percentage of 70.4% overall, and 52.4% at five on five. The Blues have 70% of the shots on net at five on five with Perunovich in action.
All of Perunovich’s skills were on display when he recorded the second assist on the Robert Thomas goal. Skating into the zone, alertly and adeptly sliding a on-money pass to Buchenevich, who cued Thomas for the score. So nice.
So far Perunovich has been on the ice for eight offensive zone faceoffs, only two defensive zone faceoffs, and six in the neutral zone. He’s also logged just under six minutes of power-play time. The Blues haven’t scored a power play goal with Perunovich piloting the second unit, but that will come. They’ve had eight PP shots on goal with Perunovich at the point.
“Pretty high-end,” Berube said. “He looks like he’s pretty special. It’s still early, but he’s got great composure and great vision.”
FOURTH LINE: Ville Husso has made two starts this season, and the No. 2 goaltender has played like a No. 1 ace on both occasions. In wins over the Kings and Sharks, Husso has stopped 60 of 61 shots overall for a .984 save percentage. And he has a .979 save rate at five on five, intervening on 47 of 48 shots on net. He’s allowed only one goal in his 120 minutes. And because of his stay in Covid isolation, Husso went 24 days in between starts. He’s been great.
Dating back to late last season, Husso is 6-3 in nine starts with a .928 save percentage overall, and a .930 save rate at five on five. He’s been tough on shooters from high-danger range, with an outstanding .899 save percentage on HD chances over the nine games.
Overall, Husso has been credited with 3.59 Goals Saved Above Average in the nine starts. Strong.
Thanks for reading …
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Stats used here were cultivated from Natural Stat Trick, Hockey Reference or MoneyPuck unless otherwise noted.
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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.