The rodeo in Calgary was hard for the Blues … and hard to watch. I believe the final score had the Flames on top, 17-1, with Matthew Tkachuk assisting on 12 goals … but I’ll double-check all of that as I roll four lines.
FIRST LINE: Well, the score was actually 7-1 but I lost count after straining my brain cells during the final two-three minutes of the Bills-Chiefs AFC playoff game on Sunday night.
Calgary wouldn’t be my first choice for a visit on the most humdrum evening of the week. Accordingly, the Blues played down to the level of a typically uninspiring Monday, getting spanked by the Flames in a night of the living dead performance that wasn’t all that surprising.
The Blues were playing their third game in four days. They wobbled into Calgary with tired legs and displaced minds and were undone by seeping boredom and an overwhelmed goaltender.
You can’t win them all — and in this case, the Blues can’t win at all when they malfunction like the android hosts in the dystopian HBO hit series, “Westworld.”
The fairest and best thing to do is toss this one aside, give the boys the benefit of the doubt, and accept the reality of a long season that inevitably will make every hockey club look hopeless and hideous at times.
There will be faceplants along the way.
Still, 7-1 stings, and Outraged Blues Twitter had a ridiculous but highly entertaining breakdown late last Monday night.
Listen up, good peoples: No, Jordan Binnington will not be sentenced to a labor camp down near the Louisiana swamps. And good ol’ Charlie Lindgren – evidently the greatest goaltender in St. Louis Blues history – is gonna stay put in Springfield, Mass.
Some friendly advice here from The Lair: unplug the Bud Light IV from your arm, cool down with some deep breaths, and ease up on the death metal soundtrack. Go for some soothing rain sounds as you drift to sleep. Or perhaps some Seals & Croft? (That would be taking it too far, sorry.) Most of all, remember that the Blues are 15-5-3 for the NHL’s fifth-best record since Dec. 7.
You can look at Monday’s mayhem from around the bend: (A) the Blues went 2-1 on their far-west swing, collecting four of a possible six points. That’s fine. You can’t demand road-trip sweeps. (B) Given how the Blues were outplayed at Vancouver – only to win 3-1 – it could have been worse. In the stops in Vancouver and Calgary (combined), the Blues had 29 percent of the shot attempts, 30% of the shots on goal, 28.3% of the high-danger shots on net, and had an expected-goals metric of 28.6% — and they managed to win one of the two games. That’s pretty good, because they deserved to drop both games.
SECOND LINE: On postgame social media, most of the rocks were thrown at Binnington, who was pelted for seven goals on 35 shots in 40 minutes. He took a seat for the third period as Ville Husso took care of the final 20 minutes without incident.
In Binnington’s two periods of work, the Flames had a preposterous 35-9 count over the Blues on shots on net. And in total shots directed at the net, it was Flames 61 to 18. When the opponent has 83 percent of the shots on goal, and 77% of the shot attempts in the first 40 minutes, I’m strongly disinclined to join the wolfpack in blaming Binnington for the loss. Because that would be … well, stupid.
Binnington allowed seven goals. But because of the huge margins in shot counts and shot quality — extreme — Natural Stat Trick listed Binnington with 3.17 expected goals against. Translation: J.B. played better than we think he did on a night when his teammates checked out and showed little life. The opportunistic Flames went on safari, and Binnington was an easy target.
Fairness doesn’t matter in real time when emotions are bubbling out of control as fans watched the Blues take a whupping. Binnington wasn’t going to get a mulligan from many people because he’s been trending down, just as Ville Husso continues to trend up. And Husso stopped all 13 shots faced in the third period last night, and that only increased the snarling over Binnington’s showing.
We can debate the amount of blame that should be assigned to Binnington for the disaster in Calgary, but we can all agree that he hasn’t played well in a while now. Here and there, yes. Consistently? No.
After a strong October, Binnington has an overall .892 save percentage in his last 17 games. That ranks 28th among 30 NHL goaltenders that have played at least 900 minutes since Nov. 1. And Binnington’s goals-against average (3.61) is the worst among the 30 goalies. The Blues are 6-8–3 in Binnington’s starts since the start of November.
In 12 games since the beginning of November Husso has a .938 save percentage, a 2.05 goals-against average, and a starter record of 7-2-1. He’s been playing at a high level, and statistically rates among the best goaltenders in the NHL over the last two-plus months. Binnington statistically sits among the NHL’s worst goaltenders over that time. Facts don’t lie.
THIRD LINE: Blues defenseman Colton Parayko is the most frustrating player on the team, and it isn’t even close. I really don’t understand why so many in the media want to walk softly around this subject instead of just coming straightforward with blunt honesty.
Parayko isn’t slumping, he isn’t just going through a rut, he isn’t just trying to find his game after dealing with a painful injury last season. And it’s ludicrous to give Parayko a pass by putting at least some of the blame for his terrible play on the backs of his various defensive partners.
The truth: Parayko is playing poorly. He’s having a bad season. He’s not average, or mediocre. It’s worse than that.
And this matters because Parayko leads all STL defenseman in ice time – at all strengths, and at five-on-five. He ranks 14th among NHL defenseman in total minutes played, and is second among league defenseman in five-on-five minutes.
The high volume of minutes is allocated to your No. 1 defenseman, your top difference-maker at the position. Parayko doesn’t match the criteria. Facts are, the Blues are running a deficit when Parayko is on the ice.
— The Blues have been outscored 50-31 with Parayko on the ice. Meaning that the other team has scored 61.7 percent of the goals at five-on-five goals with Parayko playing defense.
— In all situations, the Blues have been outscored 61-44 with Parayko in action.
— Opponents have just under 57% of the total five-on-five shots when Parayko is on the ice.
— Opponents have 55% of the five-on-five shots on goal with Parayko on duty.
The Blues have been outscored 23-11 on high-danger area goals with Parayko on the ice at five-on-five.
Keeping in mind that Parayko has played the second-highest number of five-on-five minutes of any NHL defensemen …
— Among the 39 league defensemen that have at least 700 minutes at five-on -five this season, Parayko ranks 37th among the 39 with a Corsi For (shot share) rating of 43.1 percent.
— The percentage of goals scored by the Blues with Parayko on the ice – only 38.3% – is the poorest among the 39 defensemen. No NHL defenseman is carrying a goals-deficit load as huge as Parayko’s.
— And if you’re blaming Parayko’s defensive partners for this bleak and revealing set of numbers … well, think again.
All stats come from five-on-five situations:
— When Parayko is teamed with Niko Mikkola (300 minutes) the Blues have been outscored 22-9.
— Parayko + Marco Scandella (265 minutes), Blues outscored 15-10.
— Parayko + Torey Krug (90 minutes), outscored 6-5.
— Parayko + Justin Faulk (46 minutes), outscored 2-0.
— Parayko + Scott Perunovich (48 minutes), the Blues are even in goals at 2-2.
Hey, at least the Blues are on the plus side when Parayko lines up at five-on-five with Robert Bortuzzo (2-1) and Jake Walman (2-1) in 46 combined minutes.
FOURTH LINE: Vladimir Tarasenko’s playmaking binge was interrupted with a no-assist night at Calgary. Before that, he had 11 assists (and six goals) in his previous 11 games. In 38 games this season Tarasenko has 24 assists to go with his 14 goals. His assists rate of 2.2 per 60 minutes this season would be the best of his career in a full season. The same applies to his first–assist rate of 1.5 per 60 minutes.
The Athletic did a midseason refresh and included a list of players they underrated or overlooked in the preseason “tier” rankings. Left winger Pavel Buchnevich was recognized for his excellent play in his first season with the Blues.
“The offseason trade that landed Buchnevich with the Blues (and Sammy Blais with the Rangers) always looked a little lopsided,” The Athletic wrote. “Maybe more than a little, given Buchnevich’s potential. The early returns, though, are even more one-sided than expected. Blais is hurt, and Buchnevich (15 goals, 21 assists) is showing just how under-utilized and underappreciated he was in New York. He’s also had a positive impact defensively, in case you’re a St. Louis fan who wants to twist the knife a bit more.”
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.
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All stats used here are sourced from Natural Stat Trick or Hockey Reference.