The Blues look to rebound tonight from their Enterprise Center opening loss. The night started poorly with Commissioner Gary Bettman being in town (I kid, I kid). It did start our poorly as there were a number of production/technical difficulties in the new arena from competing live bands playing to guest speakers not being microphoned properly (or at least being shown how to use it properly), to even cutting off poor Ms. Joann Taylor Kindle before she was done with her speech. Unfortunately, the new look Blues performed much like the new look Enterprise Center, looking rusty and unfamiliar with each other in their 5-1 loss to what should be one of the best teams in the Western Conference, the Winnipeg Jets.
Let’s start with the positives on Thursday night:
- The kid line of Sammy Blais, Robert Thomas and Ivan Barbashev definitely showed their speed, some good forechecking and some sustained offensive zone pressure.
- Tyler Bozak looks to be a very strong third line center, setting up a couple of good scoring chances, getting an assist, being mostly responsible defensively and winning 77% of his draws.
- Jordan Kyrou didn’t look out of place at all with Jaden Schwartz and Brayden Schenn, having 4 shots on goal and missing a couple of other shots while hitting the post on a deflection. He’ll need to learn to be a little more selfish sometimes and get his shot off quicker.
- Forward minutes were balanced with nobody playing 19 minutes and none with less than 10 minutes.
- Jake Allen, for the most part, but I’ll get to that later.
Now for the challenges:
- Even with all of the pressure of the kid line, they still had few, if any, real scoring chances. For example, one sustained pressure sequence led to three point shot attempts from Chris Butler hardly qualify as scoring chances in my book. Oh, the kids were all -2.
- Jay Bouwmeester reverted back to his old self and struggled through much of the game, especially in the 1st period.
- Colton Parayko only played a little over 16 minutes, less than 1 minute more than Butler and less than 2 minutes more than Jordan Schmaltz.
- The defensemen struggled much of the night breaking out of their zone and made too many turnovers on stretch passes through the middle.
- Passes in general were off the mark, perhaps hopefully mostly due to unfamiliarity.
- Vladimir Tarasenko again generated shots but struggled to find the twine.
- The Blues failed to bury high quality scoring chances – Ryan O’reilly not elevating his shot enough to get it over the diving Hellebuyck. Alexander Steen not burying his power play chance. Pietrangelo ringing his dangerous slot shot off the post and Schmaltz failing to even hit the net on his dangerous slot chance.
- While the power play looked more dangerous, in the end, they still went 0 for 4.
New Blues notwithstanding, much of this looked the same old Blues. They still couldn’t convert strong scoring chances. They hung around in the game outshooting their opponent decently before eventually losing, in this case caving in during a 2 minute span. They were doomed by only a few minutes of play. You get the idea.
Let’s get to Allen. The Bronx cheer of Allen was ridiculous in my opinion. Sure the 5th goal was weak but the game was long lost and frankly his team quit on him well before that goal. His teammates were the ones that deflected a goal past him, made a poor decision to create a breakaway against, and were completely unaware of the game situation allowing them to have 4 forwards and 1 defensemen on the ice as the Jets returned to full strength which helped create the 2 on 0.
He would have stopped the original shot even with the Parayko screen but for the deflection
Parayko screen and deflection
Wrong personnel on the ice at the wrong time
Key to the 2 on 0
Prior to the 5th goal, I actually was very pleased with Allen’s game. I’d have liked him to play the breakaway a bit differently but felt that was nitpicking. He hadn’t given up any weak goals while making a number of quality stops. More importantly, he was much more calm in efficient in net while being more explosive in his lateral movements when appropriate. His rebound and puck control was also better. I like what I saw as a starting point from Allen and what I presume is the influence of the new goalie coach. My only concern is that the team and Allen may be too far gone in their lack of confidence in each other but I’m hoping that can be built as the season goes.
Regardless, they’ll need to put it all behind them when they take on the Hawks tonight at home. The Hawks barely came back to beat the Ottawa Senators in overtime on opening night.
NHL Champions for Charity
I need to work with my Central Division bloggers but hope to institute our annual charity wager. More on that to come.
It’s a great day for hockey.