The St. Louis Blues are starting to get their 2022-23 season back on track. They’ve won four straight, including road wins against the Vegas Golden Knights and Colorado Avalanche. There are multiple reasons why the Blues have found their game, but scoring more goals might be the biggest reason. Outside of that, it’s been nice to see Jordan Binnington find his way. He’s been in the net in all four wins and was fantastic against the Golden Knights and Avalanche, specifically.
Blues head coach Craig Berube tried to have Jordan Kyrou and Ryan O’Reilly on the same line to start the season. That didn’t work whatsoever; it led to the slowest start of O’Reilly’s career. However, since changing the lines around, both Kyrou and O’Reilly have found their games. Getting these two players back on track is a huge factor in the Blues’ recent success.
Kyrou Is Back to His Scoring Ways
When the Blues started the season 3-8-0, Kyrou had just four points and a plus/minus of minus-17. Those four points came in three different games and he had seven games in that span with zero points and a negative plus/minus. It was a brutal stretch for Kyrou in every sense of the word. His struggles with the puck and in the defensive zone were well-documented. After signing an eight-year extension with an annual average value (AAV) of $8.125 million, the critics were louder during that stretch. That extension won’t kick in until next season, so Kyrou turning his season around has always been essential for the Blues.
Part of Kyrou’s struggles had to do with bad puck luck and a clear lack of confidence. He was always a bizarre line fit with O’Reilly and Brandon Saad, but it was definitely worth a shot to start the season. His speed and skill are meant to be used in the offensive zone, but that isn’t always the case with two solid defensive forwards like O’Reilly and Saad with him. I wouldn’t have blamed Berube if he had benched Kyrou for a game to get him a reset, but he elected against that and switched him to a new line.
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His game has ramped back up with Brayden Schenn and Ivan Barbashev, but I don’t think that’s the biggest factor for his turnaround. While Schenn and Barbashev have been solid, Kyrou’s luck is turning around and he looks like his 2021-22 self again. Patience and speed are key elements of his game, and both of those attributes have returned in the last four games. He has three goals and an assist in the last four games with 12 shots on goal in that span. He’s scored two power-play goals as well, and I’d argue that his power-play goal against the San Jose Sharks was a turning point for him. It was a terrific pass by Pavel Buchnevich into a one-timer shot by Kyrou that he hadn’t been converting on all season. To see that one go into the back of the net has clearly boosted his confidence.
O’Reilly Has Found His Two-Way Game
I credit O’Reilly’s turnaround over the past four games to a new line and a realization of who he is. He’s a simple two-way player that relies on stick-checking and a high hockey IQ. He was pressing hard and trying to do too much in the first 11 games. On top of his ugly play, he wasn’t producing anything offensively. He had zero assists in the first 12 games. Before the Blues’ four-game winning streak, he had 2 goals and was a minus-11. It’s so rare to see that minus number from O’Reilly, as he’s been a plus-70 in 287 games with the Blues prior to this season. While the plus/minus stat isn’t the most important, it’s telling when it looks that bad.
The Blues need a lot more from O’Reilly outside of offensive production. He’s the captain and leader, but he’s also supposed to be their best two-way forward as well. When he was down during the first 11 games, the rest of the team was down as well. A considerable part of his resurgence in the last four games has been the addition of a healthy Saad and Josh Leivo to the top line. They work together well, and it’s been great to see Leivo get back to contributing in the NHL. He has three assists in the last four games and a plus-1 overall. Getting Saad back and healthy again is a major factor as well, as he’s scored three goals in the last four games. This line is contributing at a high level in all three zones.
There is no doubt that Kyrou and O’Reilly play major roles on this team. The Blues are much worse if they aren’t producing or playing well. I would keep them on their current lines and ride that as long as possible. If things happen to go south again, I would expect an O’Reilly trade. However, if the Blues continue to win and get back into the playoff conversation, part of it will be due to the contributions of these two. They need maximum production from O’Reilly and Kyrou or they will be outside of the playoff conversation.
Ethan Carter has been writing at The Hockey Writers for over three years now. He also co-hosts The Blue Note Podcast for the Bleav Network, which covers the Blues and the NHL multiple times per week.