Blues Stock Up, Stock Down: Binnington, Defense, Kyrou, & More

Welcome to this week’s edition of the St. Louis Blues’ Stock Up, Stock Down, a weekly column detailing the ups and downs of the team’s roster from the week that was.

After the St. Louis Blues got off to a perfect 3-0-0 start, the team has suddenly found itself reeling in the midst of a five-game losing streak and now sit at 3-5-0. Having now played eight games, they can no longer fall back on the argument that the rest of the league had been playing more games than them, a sentiment that was common within the first week of the season. This team is struggling mightily, and after getting embarrassed by the Los Angeles Kings at home, 5-1, the Blues have more questions than answers right now.

Stock Up

Jordan Binnington

Although his numbers don’t look great at the moment, goaltender Jordan Binnington‘s play has been one of the few bright spots for the Blues so far in 2022-23. He’s currently 3-3-0 with a .882 save percentage (SV%) and a goals-against average (GAA) of 3.28, but those numbers don’t reflect the whole story.

Jordan Binnington St. Louis Blues
Jordan Binnington, St. Louis Blues (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Up until the last two losses, Binnington had only given up seven goals on 110 total shots, good for a nearly-elite level SV% of .936. In the team’s last two losses, he surrendered 11 goals on 43 total shots and dropped his SV% to .882. A vast majority of these goals are the direct result of a defense playing too loose in front of him, even redirecting a few shots into their own net. While he would like a handful of these goals back, he’s hardly been to blame for this team’s lack of early-season success.

Justin Faulk

Although he is a part of a struggling defensive unit for the Blues, Justin Faulk‘s individual play has been one of the few bright spots for this team. He’s currently tied for the team lead in goals (three), second in assists (six), first in points (nine), tied for first in shots (26), second in blocks (14), and second in average time on ice (22:56). He’s also registered three points (all assists) while quarterbacking one of the power-play units — he registered seven points all of last season while on the power play (one goal, six assists). He’s one of the few Blues who has been elevating his game (at least offensively) so far through eight games.

Related: Blues’ Slow Start Not All on Berube’s Shoulders

Latest News & Highlights

Fourth Line

The fourth line, generally comprised of Alexey Toropchenko, Noel Acciari, and Nathan Walker, has been the Blues’ most consistent forward line throughout the beginning of the season. They haven’t combined for much scoring (zero points when all on the same line), but they have combined to allow zero goals as a three-man unit (Dobber’s Frozen Tools). They are the line that head coach Craig Berube relies on to bring the energy night in and night out. General manager Doug Armstrong had this to say in regard to their play:

Nathan Walker St. Louis Blues
Nathan Walker, St. Louis Blues (Photo by Rick Ulreich/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

“If you have to pick a positive out of the first 10% of the season, I have been impressed with our fourth line. I think they come in, they give us energy.”

Doug Armstrong (from ‘Four things the Blues must do to break out of their slump,’, Nov. 2, 2022)

With lineup shuffling already underway, the pieces to this line are going to get moved around to try to provide a spark to the rest of the offense, while others are going to be “demoted” from the top six to the bottom six to accommodate.

Stock Down

Team Defense

It was too difficult for me to pick just one or two defensemen to highlight here, so they’re going to get lumped together. As a unit, the defense has been terribly inconsistent and has allowed far too many easy chances to the opposing offense. When it comes to the front of the net, they’re often leaving the goaltender out to dry by not competing around and below the net and not using their physicality near the crease to eliminate rebounds and second chances. Faulk had this to say following the team’s 5-1 loss to the Kings:

“It’s kind of a piss-poor effort from us the last couple games. We have leads, we’re down one today going into the second period and just kind of lay an egg. There’s no reason for it. The other team’s trying to win and if you can give them an inch, they can tell and obviously Montreal saw it the other night. They saw we sat back and didn’t want to play a hard game and they took it over. L.A. did the same thing here.”

Justin Faulk (from ‘Take five: Blues hear the boos and question their own effort after a 5-1 loss to the Kings,
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Nov. 1, 2022)

In the midst of this five-game losing streak, the Blues have been outscored 25-8. If the Blues are to turn their season around, it starts with the defense and improving play in their own zone. If goalies Binnington and Thomas Greiss are constantly left on an island like they have been during this current losing streak, the organization is going to have to reconsider the composition of this roster.

Related: 3 Blues Anxious to Put October Behind Them

Jordan Kyrou

Jordan Kyrou might be the Blues’ most disappointing player in 2022-23. After being given an eight-year, $65 million contract extension this summer, he’s done very little so far to prove his worthiness of such a deal. Through eight games, he’s recorded three goals, zero assists, and has a plus/minus of a team-low minus-13. His effort seems to wane, not just game to game or period to period, but shift to shift.

Jordan Kyrou St. Louis Blues
Jordan Kyrou, St. Louis Blues (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

In a 3-on-0 against the Kings, Kyrou made a play that is a microcosm of his season to date. He entered the offensive zone on the left wing, Ryan O’Reilly in the middle, and Brayden Schenn on the right wing. Rather than make a pass to either of his teammates or even take the shot on his own, Kyrou opted to stop moving his feet, hold the puck, and glide close enough to goaltender Johnathan Quick that he was able to just poke check the puck and eliminate the prime scoring chance.

Kyrou knows that he’s being depended on by this team for offense — he leads this team in shots with 26 (tied with Faulk). He’s definitely taking enough shooting chances with the puck, however he’s getting very little in terms of results. If he is unable to find his scoring touch sooner rather than later, his extension, which doesn’t kick in until next year, is already going to be fairly questioned.

Ryan O’Reilly

The other forward drawing the most ire and head scratching right now is captain Ryan O’Reilly. His stat line thus far is scary enough to be its own Halloween costume: eight games, one goal, zero assists, plus/minus of minus-11, and a 5.3 shooting percentage (S%). His main issue could be stemming from the little chemistry that has developed between him and his linemates. David Perron was his most common line partner since the Stanley Cup run. With him out of the building, replacing him for now is Kyrou. With those two combined on the top line this season, they’ve recorded four goals, zero assists, and a plus/minus of minus-24.

Ryan O'Reilly St. Louis Blues
Ryan O’Reilly, St. Louis Blues (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

His other winger, Brandon Saad, has missed the last five games with an undisclosed upper-body injury and no timetable has been given for a return. With the top line needing a jolt of some sort, Berube is moving fourth-line center Noel Acciari and his physical, nose-for-the-puck playstyle to the top line, along with a similar player in Brayden Schenn. The hope is that these three can develop some sort of chemistry with each other to get the team going in the right direction once more.

Through eight games, this team has gone from looking like a contender at 3-0-0 to a team that is fully lost, unmotivated, and punchless at 3-5-0. The silver lining, at least for now, is that we are only 10% into the season. There’s still plenty of hockey left to play and time for this team to right the ship. The Blues have a tough stretch of games coming up to get right, starting with the New York Islanders on Nov. 3.

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