The St. Louis Blues are back home in their own beds and in the comfort of friends and family once more after a three-game road trip through Seattle, Vancouver, and Calgary that produced a 2-1 record. The team starts a four-game homestand tonight against the Calgary Flames as they look to avenge a 7-1 loss to end their trip.
The club will need to find their offensive game once more as the club’s firepower saw itself dim as each game passed, scoring five goals in the first game, three in the second, and only one in their final game. Forwards Brandon Saad and Vladimir Tarasenko led the team in those three games each with three points, while Jordan Kyrou, Brayden Schenn and Tyler Bozak each scored two goals. To paraphrase Rafiki from The Lion King: the past can hurt and you can either run from it or learn from it. Hopefully, the Blues will choose the latter.
Here’s a look at the storylines and projections ahead of Thursday’s matchup:
|GOALS FOR |
|POWER PLAY||PENALTY KILL|
|BLUES (25-12-5)||.655 (9th)||3.45 (5th)||2.71 (9th)||28.9 (3rd)||84.3 (3rd)|
|FLAMES (20-12-6)||.605 (14th)||3.26 (10th)||2.47 (2nd)||23.2 (11th)||83.6 (6th)|
2 Storylines: Blues (25-12-5)
Blues Looking to Rebound After Embarrassment in Calgary
Blues head coach, Craig Berube was on local sports talk radio station 101 ESPN Tuesday afternoon after his tough loss against the Flames. During his interview, he was asked about the game and the response of the club for Thursday’s rematch. The head coach answered stating: “Its going to be a different game Thursday, I can guarantee you that. We’re going to play a lot better. We’re going to be way more engaged in the game, and our special teams will be better, too.” While it may not be difficult to imagine a head coach demanding more from his team after a 7-1 loss, it will certainly be a tough test for the club that is 16-4-2 at home this season.
The Blues were able to take an early 1-0 lead on Jan. 23 against the Flames after Tyler Bozak scored five minutes into the hockey game. Unfortunately, that would be all the offense that the team would muster for the night as the Flames elevated their play and the Blues failed to match. Less than a minute later, defenseman Nikita Zadorov tied the game with his third goal of the season. By the end of the period, the Blues were down 3-1. As the second period came to a close, the Blues had surrendered another four goals and were being outshot 35-9. The club fought back in the third period and fired 12 shots on goal, but Flames netminder Jacob Markstrom stopped all attempts with the buzzer sounding on the 7-1 loss.
Blues Goaltender Controversy Rages On
Since Dec. 1, 2020, 53 goaltenders have suited up for their respective clubs at least six times. Of those players, Ville Husso ranks first in save percentage (SV%) (.946), and second in goals-against average (GAA) (1.94). Unfortunately, to find the team’s starting goaltender, Jordan Binnington, the search is far from the top of the list. Among the group, Binnington ranks 50th with a .878 SV%, and 53rd with the highest GAA (4.44) of any goaltender listed.
The 2022 stretch of his 2021-22 campaign has yet to show Binnington any favors. In five games, he has allowed fewer than three goals in a game only once and allowed five or more in three games. Now in his first year of his recently signed six-year, $36 million contract, the organization needs to hope the 28-year-old can find his groove once more.
2 Storylines: Flames (20-12-6)
Calgary’s Offense is on Fire
Over the last two games, the Flames have scored 13 straight goals and have shut out their opponents since Tyler Bozak put the Blues up 1-0 at the 5:10 mark of the first period Monday night. The team has outshot their opposition 110-44, including a franchise record-setting 62 shots on goal in their 6-0 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets. In their last five games, the Flames are averaging 4.40 goals per game, while allowing only 2.20 goals against per game.
Led by St. Louis native Matthew Tkachuk‘s two goals and seven points, there have been a total of 15 players tallying at least one point over the last two games. On the back end, starting goaltender Markstrom has been all but perfect in his last two games, stopping all 43 of 44 shots against the team in that timeframe, amassing a .977 SV% and 0.50 GAA. While the team is currently in fourth place in the Pacific Division with 46 points, their .605 points percentage indicates they are the second-best team in the division.
Tkachuk & Gaudreau are the NHL’s New Dynamic Duo… For Now
Since Jan. 1, 2022, the Flames have boasted two of the most high-powered forwards in all of hockey in Johnny Gaudreau and Tkachuk. Over their last nine games, the two have combined for 11 goals and 36 points. In that timespan, only one team can boast a higher-ranked duo — the Colorado Avalanche with their forwards Mikko Rantanen and Nathan MacKinnon who have combined for 14 goals and 38 points.
The two currently rank as the two highest-paid forwards in the Flames organization, both set to become free agents after this season. While Tkachuk (24) will be considered a restricted free agent, the rumors have swirled around his future with the organization given his age and next contract could end up costing the franchise to invest an amount that exceeds $10 million per season. The organization will have some tough decisions to make at the trade deadline and in the offseason as they currently have only nine skaters with contracts extended beyond the 2021-22 season and several players looking to cash in on their next contract.
Players to Watch
St. Louis: Brayden Schenn — Always a top candidate to count on in rebound games. Schenn has four goals and six points in his last five games.
Flames: Matthew Tkachuk — He’s back home in St. Louis and on a six-game point streak, totaling six goals and 15 points.
Projected Line Combinations
St. Louis Blues
|Left Wing||Center||Right Wing|
|Ivan Barbashev||Ryan O’Reilly||Pavel Buchnevich|
|Jordan Kyrou||Robert Thomas||Vladimir Tarasenko|
|Brandon Saad||Brayden Schenn||David Perron|
|Klim Kostin||Tyler Bozak||Oskar Sundqvist|
|Left Defense||Right Defense|
|Niko Mikkola||Colton Parayko|
|Torey Krug||Justin Faulk|
|Marco Scandella||Robert Bortuzzo|
|Left Wing||Center||Right Wing|
|Johnny Gaudreau||Elias Lindholm||Matthew Tkachuk|
|Andrew Mangiapane||Mikael Backlund||Blake Coleman|
|Milan Lucic||Sean Monahan||Dillon Dube|
|Trevor Lewis||Adam Ruzicka||Brett Ritchie|
|Left Defense||Right Defense|
|Noah Hanifan||Rasmus Andersson|
|Oliver Kylington||Chris Tanev|
|Nikita Zadorov||Erik Gudbranson|
Blues’ Next Game: Saturday, Jan. 29 vs Winnipeg Jets (2 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.