The St. Louis Blues entered Monday’s game seeing their Eastern Conference opponent the Ottawa Senators for the first time this season. Both clubs came into the game hovering around .500 in the standings, looking to change course and push for a playoff spot. Even with seven of their players listed on the injured reserve list, they put together a game that was just good enough to come out victorious over another struggling team. The Senators’ strong defensive efforts seemed to elevate the Blues’ level of play into a chippy, heavy-hitting evening with 48 hits and 28 blocked shots between the two teams.
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Ahead of the game, Blues forward Nikita Alexandrov was a late scratch with a reported upper-body injury and was replaced by forward Nathan Walker on the fourth line. The unexpected injury is a tough break for the team as Alexandrov has three points (two goals, one assist) in seven games, and was one of four players with a plus rating in January. They will await further results to determine if he will be fit to play in their next game Thursday against the Nashville Predators.
Neighbours Fuels Blues Victory
Twenty-year-old forward Jake Neighbours continues to be a bright spot for the team since his Jan. 3 recall from the Springfield Thunderbirds. After struggling to find a groove over the first four games of the month, he has produced consistently over his last six games leading the Blues with three goals and five points. After the game, goaltender Jordan Binnington said: “He provided a lot of energy tonight. … I personally think that energy is great and good for the team.”
Not only did Neighbours provide one of two goals scored last night, but he turned some heads sticking up for fellow teammate Noel Accari by fighting Senators forward Parker Kelly. The Blues have to like what they are seeing from their 2020 first-round draft choice. If he keeps this up, he will force a difficult decision whether to keep him with the NHL squad for the remainder of the season or to re-assign him to the Thunderbirds once players begin returning from their respective injuries.
Blues Second Period Struggles Continue
The Blues managed to skate away fortunate to have only allowed one goal during the second period. Despite ending the period with a 60.61% Corsi For percentage, they were outshot by the Senators by a total of 7-4, having produced only two shots on goal through 14 minutes of the period. Their lack of sustained offensive pressure and as Blues general manager Doug Armstrong would put it, ‘killer instinct’ nearly caused their two-goal lead to evaporate.
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To the credit of the Ottawa squad, they prevented scoring opportunity after scoring opportunity by St. Louis throughout the game with the visiting team blocking 21 of the aforementioned 28 blocked shots. With an opportunity to earn two points against an Eastern Conference team coming off of a 7-0 defeat at the hands of the Colorado Avalanche and a 5-4-1 record in their last 10 games, the Blues let 20 minutes slip through their fingers as they struggled to increase their lead further.
Binnington Steals Victory for Blues
Despite the Blues’ middling record this season, Binnington has performed well enough to be considered team MVP mid-way through the season. During last night’s game, he shined bright once more stopping 32 of 33 shots against, and eight of nine high-danger shots. His awareness was consistently tested as he made save after save, including a shot that went off Claude Giroux’s knee that left many scratching their head at how he managed to keep the puck out of the net. Binnington ended the night having allowed only one goal despite a 2.74 expected goals-against rating.
The Blues’ win Monday night was the franchise’s 2,000th victory in team history, becoming the eighth franchise in NHL history to reach this milestone. They will see the Senators again this season on Feb. 19 at the Canadian Tire Center in Ottawa. They will continue their homestand on Thursday night against the Nashville Predators at 7 pm CST.
Mike is a writer for The Hockey Writers and covers the St. Louis Blues since November of 2021. He has a keen love for statistical analysis, prospects, signings, and trades. Follow Mike on Twitter for further Blues or Central division hockey discussions, interview requests, or to provide content info.