The St. Louis Blues met their divisional opponent, the Minnesota Wild for the first time this season on Saturday night to close out 2022 and a three-game homestand. Last night’s game was the 23rd time they have played on New Year’s Eve, one that provided an opportunity to close their gap in the standings from five to three points. However, after a few fumbled plays and opting for the additional pass rather than shooting, the Blues buried themselves further in the standings as they near the halfway point of the season. With 37 games in the books, the time to capture points from divisional opponents is nearing a critical point.
Defensemen Taking Control of the Offense for the Blues
What feels like it may be a wash, rinse, and repeat statement, Calle Rosen made his presence known in last night’s game against the Wild. After being re-inserted into the lineup due to the injury to defenseman Torey Krug, he has made the most of his opportunity not only with the Blues but in the NHL as well. Throughout his career in the NHL, he had three goals in 38 games coming into the 2022-23 season. He now has five in 20 games this season, including one in each of his last three.
Defenseman Robert Bortuzzo scored his first goal and point of the season 5:02 into the second period to tie the game 2-2. Known more for his physical, defensive style of play, the 33-year-old recorded the 19th goal of his NHL career and first since Nov 14, 2021, against the Edmonton Oilers.
Tarasenko Injury Causes Concern
After missing Thursday’s (Dec. 29) game against the Chicago Blackhawks due to illness, forward Vladimir Tarasenko exited last night’s game playing only 4:13 after blocking a shot with his right hand. Fans will need to await further updates to his status as head coach Craig Berube only said after the game that he was out with an upper-body injury.
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The injury to Tarasenko could have multiple repercussions, should the injury be significant. With the team currently struggling to put wins together and define who they are as a team, there have been trade rumors swirling with his pending unrestricted free agency. An injury to the Russian forward who previously requested a trade before the start of the 2021-22 season could miss his remaining window to be dealt before the March 3 trade deadline. On the other hand, it could provide an opportunity for forward Jake Neighbours to return to the NHL. Now tied for sixth in points with the Springfield Thunderbirds, he has made a substantial impact on the team collecting 14 points in 19 games and registering game-winning goals in three straight games.
Second Period Woes Return
As tradition seems to follow, the Blues continued their second period struggles in their game against the Wild. Before the game, they had been outscored 53-41, but only outshot 399-392. The inability to convert has proven to be detrimental to the team as their opposition has been able to capitalize on opportunities provided to them, while the Blues have not. Last night’s game did not prove to be an exception to the rule as they allowed two goals, both by Ryan Hartman, on fumbled pucks by goaltender Jordan Binnington. The first goal came only 1:40 into the second period and the second merely 12 seconds after Bortuzzo scored the game-tying goal. The Wild outshot the home team 14-5.
With the calendar turning to 2023, the Blues have reached a point where they need to capture points in nearly every single game moving forward. Hitting the road, they will begin a four-game road trip against the Maple Leafs on Jan. 3 at 6 pm CST. The Blues recently came off an overtime loss to them on Dec. 27 losing 5-4.