After spending more time with their comfy-home pillows and catching some rest, the Blues put on their boots Thursday night and returned for a 5-1 victory over the Calgary Flames at Enterprise Center.
Let’s roll four lines …
FIRST LINE: After getting truncheoned in Monday’s six-goal loss at Calgary, the Blues had no problem rebounding from a game in which they failed to generate the Berube Energy … or much of anything at all. The stinky-bad showing an off-form Jordan Binnington unable to fend off a Calgary attack that turned the St. Louis goal cage into a dunk tank.
When Thursday rolled around it was time to check in, go back on the clock, and collect two points. And the boys did it their way: fiddle around early, work up a healthy sweat, then apply the chokehold as the night moved on.
Faithful to their form, the Blues scored the final four goals in this funfest. This season your favorite hockey team has scored 51 percent of the goals in the first period, just under 63% of the goals in the second period and 56% of the goals in the third.
Through 43 games the Blues are 26-12-5 for a .663 points percentage that ranks 9th in the NHL. Only Colorado, Pittsburgh and Carolina have a higher points percentage than the Blues (.763) since Dec. 7. Very nice.
SECOND LINE: I’ll say this: the Blues are peculiar in a way. They successfully defy the analytics models that suggest this team should be floating face-down near the bottom of the pool with the Montreals, Arizonas and Seattles. You’re not supposed to come up short in the shot-attempt counts on a frequent basis and still win most of your games. They did it again Thursday. This aspect of the Blues can be confusing, but it makes them more endearing.
And so here are the Blues, owning the league’s ninth-best record, and holding the No. 3 spot in the Western Conference despite:
– Ranking 24th in the NHL Corsi percentage at five-on-five, having produced only 47% of the total shot attempts in their 43 games.
– Ranking 24th at five-on-five with a shots-on-goal share of 47.5%.
– Ranking 21st at five-on-five scoring chances, with a share of 48%.
– Ranking 30th – 30th! – at five-on-five with their 43.8% share of high-danger shots from the slot and crease.
– Based on shot volume and shot location, the Blues have a terrible expected goals percentage of 45.6 percent at five-on-five, which ranks 27th among the 32 teams.
– Ah, but in actual goals scored and goals allowed at five-on-five, the Blues are No. 10 in the league with their goals-scored rate of 53.8 percent.
That’s 8.2% higher than their expected goals-scored share.
That isn’t supposed to be possible.
And this is why so many Type A personalities – the “A” stands for analytics – are having diaper-baby fits over the Blues.
THIRD LINE: I’ve got more on this. The Blues have had the lower shot-attempts total at five-on-five in 26 of their 43 games. But they’ve won 15 of those 26 games. And in their current 14-4-1 streak the Blues have had fewer total shots in 15 of the 19 games, and it hasn’t slowed them down.
FOURTH LINE: Let’s cover all three zones and chip in some Blue Notes:
A) Ville Husso has turned the Enterprise Center in St. Louis into his personal Helsinki. This season he’s 7-0 at home with a .948 save percentage … among 46 NHL goaltenders that have played 375 or more minutes on home ice, Husso’s .948 save percentage leads the pack and he has the lowest goals-against average at 1.65.
B) Husso is a consistent lad. This season among 54 NHL goaltenders that have played 315+ minutes on the road, he ranks first in save percentage (.941) and is 4th with a goals-against average of 2.06.
C) In his last nine games, home or away – seven were starts – Husso has a 6-0-1 record and a .955 save percentage. And this dude could leave at the end of the season and sign elsewhere as a free agent? Cha-ching.
D) The defensive pairing of Colton Parayko and Niko Mikkola played very well Thursday and were particularly effective against the line led by their future teammate Matthew Tkachuk. In 16 minutes and 37 seconds of all-situations ice time, the Parayko-Mikkola tandem had an expected goals-for rate of 56.8 percent. That’s outstanding.
E) Winger Brandon Saad had two goals and an assist in Thursday’s win and is showing why the Blues coveted him as a free agent last summer. Saad has 15 goals and 10 assists in 29 games. Last offseason GM Doug Armstrong also traded for winger Pavel Buchnevich, and he’s been fantastic with 15 goals and 21 assists.
F) In 66 combined games for the Blues this season, Buchnevich and Saad have 30 goals and 31 assists and are a plus 16. The four Blues forwards that were traded or who walked as free agents last summer – Jaden Schwartz, Mike Hoffman, Sammy Blais and Zach Sanford – have 20 goals, 27 assists and are a collective minus 35 in 107 combined games this season. This only underlines the heavy impact made by Saad and Buchnevich. They’ve not only been strong in taking care of their own business, but they are vastly superior to the four forwards that are no longer employed by the Blues.
G) Writing about the Husso-Binnington situation at Daily Faceoff, Scott Burnside checked in with retired NHL goaltender Mike McKenna, the St. Louis native.
McKenna advised to stay patient with Binnington. McKenna believes Binnington can bounce back. “This doesn’t change the trajectory of who he is and what he can accomplish,” McKenna said.
But McKenna added an interesting point: “What I can’t quantify is why the team lays better in front of Husso.”
Thanks for reading …
Bernie invites you to listen to his opinionated sports-talk show on 590-AM The Fan, KFNS. It airs Monday through Thursday from 3-6 p.m. and Friday from 4-6 p.m. You can listen by streaming online or by downloading the “Bernie Show” podcast at 590thefan.com — the 590 app works great and is available in your preferred app store.
Follow Bernie on Twitter @miklasz
Statistics used here are from Natural Stat Trick, Hockey Reference and Evolving Hockey.