The St. Louis Blues broke a seven-game losing skid against a shorthanded Vegas Golden Knights team on Wednesday night by a 3-1 count.
This was one of those games where there are a lot of things that went wrong.
To start, the VGK were shorthanded because of salary cap constraints and had to play without Alec Martinez on defense.
Then a turnover in the offensive zone and a misplay by Nick Hauge at his own blueline ended up in the back of the net just 48 seconds into the game. Another slow start, another early first goal against the Golden Knights.
In the first period, the Blues simply sat on D-to-D passes in the offensive zone and attacked them, creating havoc and odd-man rushes. Thankfully Marc-Andre Fleury was able to make some big saves and just after Vladimir Tarasenko scored to make it 1-0, Fleury faced him again on a breakaway but made a big glove save.
St. Louis scored again a short time later off one of those turnovers at the line from the Vegas defense, making it 2-0 and putting the Golden Knights in an early hole they couldn’t recover from.
The defense had a rough night without Martinez, exhibiting poor gap control and decision-making for most of the game.
It wasn’t all bad, as in the second and third periods the VGK woke up offensively, but credit to Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington who was nigh unbeatable. Binnington looked much more like the goaltender who led the Blues to a Stanley Cup title two seasons ago in making 50 saves for the win.
Nic Roy scored the only goal for Vegas at 15:44 of the third period.
Once again, despite the early goal against, Fleury was the reason the Golden Knights even had a sniff in this one. The second goal ramped off the stick of Alex Pietrangelo just enough to route it over his left shoulder, and the third goal came via a scramble.
D for Defense? More like “efense” because there was no D. I know it’s tough to play with five guys on the blueline but this is the reality of burning the candle at both ends when it comes to the salary cap. The Golden Knights know full well this is the price to be paid. As I mentioned above, there were a lot of issues including gap control, decision-making, and reading/reacting to the play. Those passes across the blue line in the first period that were repeatedly picked off had me wondering why they kept attempting them, because the Blues were clearly sitting on them.
This was a hard grade to assign. The forwards did manage 51 shots on goal, 21 in the second period alone. They generated plenty of scoring chances and Binnington shut the door. So part of that I can say is running up against a hot goalie. But offensive production has gone cold from the top line and almost everyone else. When you lose four-of-five, you can only say nice things for so long. This team has to find ways to put the puck in the net.
Special Teams: D
The power play continues to look anemic, going 0-for-4 in the game. The penalty kill only faced one chance against and did its job.
- The timing of the current nose dive is curious, coming just a few days before the NHL trade deadline. I’ve been clamoring for more secondary scoring for this team for a while. They were knocked out of the playoffs last year because they couldn’t score. They’re struggling to score on a consistent basis now. One blowout win in five games is not reassuring.
- Speaking of the trade deadline, I wonder if GM Kelly McCrimmon might try to get a power-play specialist at the deadline. It’s hard for me to say if it’s the system that has guys standing around with little movement and almost no chance generation off the puck, or if the players simply stagnate on the ice. Perhaps a change in systems would bring success because clearly, the talent is on the roster. But maybe one more piece is what’s needed to push this team over the top.
- The Golden Knights ended up with a total of 95 shot attempts. That’s a crazy amount. Fifty-one made it on net, and only one went in. Again, maybe this is a coaching or systems issue, but whatever the reason is Vegas simply not pushing the puck over the line. Hot goalies aren’t there every night. The fourth line can’t be the only one that chips in if you expect to win games.
- It’s definitely frustrating for the Vegas Golden Knights and Mark Stone voiced that at the post-game podium. While there were a lot of cliches, there was also a lot of accountability. With a leader like Stone on the team, I don’t think things will get too far off the rails. They just need to get it on track sooner than later.