As a Blues fan, the morning after a win is always good, as I assume it would be for a fan of any team in any sport, but the morning after a big win at home against the hated arch-rival Chicago Blackhawks; now that is a feeling like no other. The feeling is especially great when the Blues not only beat the Hawks, but they beat them mightily and for the majority of the game outplayed Chicago heavily. Now, Hawks fans will try and tell you that it is not a big deal because it is early in the season and that “they don’t care because the Cubs are in the NLCS right now,” and well frankly, I do not buy that. Every single one of these games are big games and mean a lot to both clubs and both fan bases. Obviously, if you watched the game you saw the score, the goals, the highlights, and so on. Let us get to what you saw if you were actively watching and dissecting the game.
First off, let’s start with the positives. There were a lot of positives from this game, but there were a few in particular that I want to discuss. I know I said that the Blues out-played Chicago for the majority of the game and here are the key reasons why. First and foremost the Blues out-played the Hawks in the dirty areas of the game which led to a lot of pretty results for the Blues. The Blues out-hit Chicago 29 to 17, the Blues had more blocked shots by a count of 27 to 15, and they out-shot Chicago 33 to 24. The shots number was heavily one-sided at 26 to 8 in favor of the Blues after forty minutes of play and had it not been for some craziness down the final stretch in the third period the Blues would have out-shot them by much more for the final count. I want to discuss the hits again and overall physicality from the Blues. Not only were the normal heavy hitting guys laying out some good checks as always, but Vladimir Tarasenko was throwing his body all over the place as he has been doing so much more this year. The notable hit I saw from him was in the first period in the offensive zone when he laid out Chicago defenseman Jan Rutta in the corner. Tarasenko has been blocking many more shots this year as we saw last night as well. When you have a talented player like Tarasenko able to be a huge presence with skill and then be more physical too that does wonders for influencing the team overall and really adds some fire to the rest of the guys. The final note on Tarasenko is his two-way play from this season so far and how much it was on display nationally last night. At one point, Dunn got too deep into the offensive zone and turned the puck over, but because Tarasenko was getting back on defense in Dunn’s place there was nothing that came of it for Chicago. That kind of play speaks volumes to the rest of the team. Not only can your star forward score, but he is not afraid to go out there and be a solid all-around hockey player when he needs to pick up his teammates. His maturity as both a player and leader is truly starting to show through, carrying on from last season over to this one.
Another few players I want to talk about real quick are Jaden Schwartz, Alexander Steen, and Vince Dunn. First of all, we know Schwartz had the hat-trick, but the fact that he is playing much more aggressive and at a higher level in my mind is not only a pat on the back to him and the coaching staff, but I think directly attributes to the fact that he is fully healthy. I do not think he was completely healthy last year after recovering from his ankle injury from the year prior, but I think he truly is this year and it is really showing in his play. Next up, Alexander Steen, and just a quick hit for him because it was only his first game back from that broken hand, but you could just see the depth and positive influence he added to the team and how much added skill he brought back to the lineup. Finally, Vince Dunn. This kid is only 20 years old and is really playing some good hockey and to do it at this level is very impressive. He showed us all last night that in the face of a big game, against our biggest rival, that he could still keep his wits about him and continue to make smart hockey plays and continue to move the puck very, very well in all three zones. It will be interesting to see what the Blues do with Dunn once Jay-Bo returns.
The final big positive areas I want to hit on is the overall team play containing Chicago who came into this game just firing on all cylinders. They contained Chicago’s top three forwards (Toews, Kane, and Saad) and basically made them seem like they were not even there last night. The penalty kill was also outstanding yet again. Had it not been for some bad and questionable calls towards the end of the game I do not think Chicago would have scored on the power-play or at all for that matter. The Blues killed off 5 of 7 penalties and I believe had those calls not have been made Allen and company would have shut out Chicago because of how great they were playing and owning the game and if not for the play of Corey Crawford I think the Blues would have had a much higher goal total.
Next I want to get to the negatives from the Blues last night. There are not many, but no team ever plays a perfect game. First, the aforementioned bad penalties. Whether they we bad calls or flat out bad penalties taken by the Blues, that aspect of the game has to get cleaned up because it will burn the Blues in the future, it’s just a matter of time. The next one I think most everyone will agree with is the power-play; oh good-grief the St. Louis Blues power-play. It is not the worst in the league, but when you go 0-5 against the Hawks in a big game, that is noted. They had some good chances and played well on the PP, but they need to clean it up and get more consistent and heavy pressure in the opposition’s defensive zone when they are on the PP, especially in those 5-on-3 situations. The Blues also got up to a 4-0 lead and expectedly so, played a bit back on their heels, which in turn let Chicago back into the game ever so slightly towards the end of the contest. Finally, Dmitrij Jaskin. This young man is the constant target of heavy criticism on social media and usually as a fellow fan I ignore it, but last night it was very noticeable. The amount of turnovers he had while in the offensive and neutral zones is getting frustrating to watch. Now, he is not the only one, but he is the one that gets targeted the most right now when it comes to those type of plays. He also tends to lack in the ability of making strong plays and shooting the puck effectively, shooting when he should have passed, or passing when he should have shot. I think if he is able to boost his own confidence we will see his overall play improve.
All in all, it was a great game played by the Blues and that led to a huge 5-2 win in an early divisional match-up against Chicago. Overall, I believe it was one of the best games played by the Blues so far this year, if not the best game played by the Blues. The Blues are out on the road again for a quick two game trip starting tonight in Colorado with a puck drop time of 8 PM Central Time. The Blues are now 5-2-0 with 10 points and hold the Central Division lead while Colorado is currently 4-3-0 with 8 points and sitting in third place in the Central.