It was another fabulous weekend for your St. Louis Blues, who responded to the slap-down loss at Pittsburgh by coming home to their peoples and delivering a one–two punch that felled the Washington Capitals (5-1) and the whiny Dallas Stars (2-1.)
The Blues are good … very good.
The Blues are entertaining … very much so.
They’re 11-3-3 since Nov. 26 and 9-2-1 since Dec. With a three-day break until their next game, the Blues can take a few seconds to appreciate their 21-10-5 record. The Blues are solidly positioned after turning pandemonium into opportunity – with waves of injury-illness replacements coming to the aid of the core-nucleus roster.
Let’s Roll Four Lines …
FIRST LINE: Jordan Kyrou continues to create buzz with his skill, speed, quick-thinking instincts and mass production. Despite missing four games Kyrou leads the Blues this season with 36 points, and has illuminated his star presence with five goals and six assists in the last five games. All of this is impressive. But I am here to declare that Kyrou’s season is more magnificent than we realize.
+ With 36 points, Kyrou is tied for the NHL lead among players age 23 years old or younger. The other 36-point manufacturer in the age grouping is NY Rangers defenseman Adam Fox. Which makes Kyrou the top points man among NHL forwards age 23 or younger.
+ Among the 90 NHL players (any age) that have accrued a minimum of 525 minutes of ice time this season, Kyrou ranks No. 3 with a rate of 4.11 points per 60 minutes. The only two ahead of him are Connor McDavid (4.28) and Mikko Rantanen (4.18.)
+ Kyrou’s rate of 2.51 assists per 60 minutes is tied for seventh best, and his goals per 60 (1.6) ranks 15th.
+ Kyrou has some flaws defensively in the neutral zone and in the defensive end. But let’s try to keep that in perspective. The Blues have scored 65.5% of the goals (40-21) with Kyrou on the ice in all situations, and rolled up a 61% goal share (25-16) with Kyrou out there at five-on-five.
+ Kyrou has been at his best in games against Central division rivals, racking nine goals with 10 assists for 19 points in 11 games.
+ The Blues are 7-1-1 when Kyrou has two-plus points in a game.
Kyrou is playing at an elite level. He’s putting on a show. He’s coming through in important situations. And he’s still growing.
SECOND LINE: You’re aware of the Blues’ excellence at home. They are 14–3-2, at Enterprise Center for a .789 home points percentage that ranks fourth in the NHL. And the Blues are 11-0-1 in their last 12 at home – with three more games to go on their current home stay.
Please allow me to sprinkle in some powdered sugar to top it all off:
–The current .789 home points percentage, if it holds, would be the best by a Blues team since Ken Hitchcock’s 2011-2012 squad went 30-6-5 at home for a points percentage of .793.
– The Blues have scored 63.1 percent of all goals produced in games at Enterprise Center this season; that home-ice dominance compares to the 2011-2012 Hitchcock-Blues percentage (63.3%) of the total goals scored in home games.
– This is a big change from last year’s truncated season; the 2021 Blues ranked 24th in the league with a home points percentage of .518 based on their 12-11-4 record.
– During the 11-0-1 home streak the Blues have scored 68% of all goals (49-23) and 65% of the five-on-five goals (35-19.) Is that good?
THIRD LINE: The Blues received exceptional goaltending over the weekend, with Ville Husso (Friday) and Jordan Binnington (Sunday) combining for 52 saves on 54 overall shots on goal for a stop rate of .963. The two also combined to stop nine of 10 high-danger shots. Husso has started only eight games this season because of absences related to a strained groin injury plus COVID issues.
Despite the significant length of time off, Husso has somehow remained sharp and in top form. He’s been outstanding. Among 56 NHL goaltenders that have played at least 474 minutes (all situations) this season, Husso is tied for fourth with a .931 save percentage, and ranks 1st with a high-danger save rate of .893. Bravo.
Overall the Blues rank 5th in the NHL with a .916 save percentage. That includes a .927 save percentage (8th) at five-on-five.
And in a key stat that remains largely ignored for whatever reason, the Blues have the NHL’s No. 1 save percentage .848) on high-danger scoring chances. High-danger shots come from the slot and the crease.
This season only four NHL teams have yielded more high-danger shots than the Blues … but 22 teams have allowed more high-danger goals than the Blues. With even average goaltending, the Blues would be on the wrong side of that equation. But the Blues continue to rob opponents of goals launched from prime shooting areas, and this is a huge factor in close-margin wins, come from behind wins, taking the lead when the score is tied, etc. STL’s strong goaltending is pickpocketing points from their foes, and that’s making a profound difference.
FOURTH LINE: I never blame a team for being frustrated by a win that gets away, but the whiny Dallas Stars take it too far. Sunday – as the Blues erased a 1-0 deficit with two goals in the final minute of the third period – Dallas coach Rick Bowness clutched a stick behind the bench and madly slashed it around, wildly venting his protest as the Blues rallied to win on power play goals from Ryan O’Reilly and Jordan Kyrou. The lightning strikes occurred only 18 seconds apart. Bowness was ticked by a missed penalty call on Blues forward Brayden Schenn, who held onto the stick of Stars defenseman Miro Heiskanen and tripped him up before O’Reilly’s tying goal. Heiskanen got up and immediately slashed Kyrou to get whistles on a delayed penalty, and the Blues banked the game winner on the ensuing power play.
“If you’re watching the game, you saw what happened. They clearly pulled Miro down. Clearly grabbed his stick and pulled him down. That’s my opinion. They got lucky,” Bowness said of the Blues.
Bowness continued by saying his Stars deserved a better outcome from their dedicated effort in the road game. “Broken stick on a penalty kill, second goal goes in off our feet. That’s the breaks of the game,” he said. “We played a hell of a hockey game. We deserved a lot better than that. We did. We played a hell of a road game for our third game in three and a half days. We battled hard. We deserved a lot better than that.”
Your Stars did NOT deserve better than that.
The Stars had a 1-0 lead after two periods, then geared down in the third. At five-on-five the Blues had a 21-6 advantage on shot attempts during the third period, and put 11 shots on net to the Stars’ four. Scoring chances in the third? That would be St. Louis 11, Dallas 3.
The Stars not only failed to extend their lead and put the Blues away while controlling play over the first two periods – but they allowed the home team to churn momentum and reverse the flow of the game in the third. The Stars didn’t take care of business when they had the lead and a good chance of winning. Instead they got passive, and the Blues jumped them. Moreover, all teams get screwed by bad calls. That doesn’t justify losing your temper and making matters worse. That’s what the Stars did in the final minute Sunday.
The Stars are a horrendous 4-10-1 on the road this season, ranking 29th among the 32 teams with a road points percentage of .300.
Gee, I wonder why?
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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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.