The St. Louis Blues and Winnipeg Jets met for the second time this season in a Thursday night matchup. Due to injury, the Blues were without forward Pavel Buchnevich and defenseman Torey Krug for the second straight game as the team looked to even its season record against Winnipeg at one game a piece.
Here are four takeaways from the Blues’ loss to their Central Division foe.
Blues Goaltending Is Not to Fully Blame
The Blues opted to roll forward with veteran goaltender Thomas Greiss for the second straight game on Thursday, as they looked to string together consecutive victories for the first time since their eight-game winning streak in November. Heading into the game, Greiss had a season record of 3-3 with a 3.63 goals against average (GAA) and a .906 save percentage (SV%). The decision to start the 37-year-old came with a bit of controversy as goaltender Jordan Binnington has struggled to put any consistency together in his game, while his emotions have begun to get the best of him, boiling over to on-ice antics. Starting Greiss offered Binnington the opportunity to reset before their game on Saturday against the Colorado Avalanche.
As the horn sounded on the Blues’ 15th loss of the season, the performance of not only Greiss but the team as a whole seemed to be questioned. The veteran goaltender kept his team alive throughout the first period surrendering one goal on 10 shots, but only faced nine additional shots through the second and third periods. The third-period goal by Pierre-Luc Dubois is one that he will want back and reflects the overall narrative of the team’s performance last night.
Blues’ Defense & Special Teams Continue to Sputter
The Blues’ defense and special teams continue to be a consistent sore spot this season. Though the team only took one penalty, they failed to kill off their only chance to improve a below-average, less-than-mediocre penalty-killing unit. To date, they have the worst penalty-killing unit in the NHL, with a 63.8% success rate. If this were not shocking enough, the third-period goal by Dubois marked the ninth straight game that the Blues have allowed four or more goals. Once known for their stingy defense and puck possession has now become one of their worst attributes. They are now allowing three goals per game (22nd in the NHL), 29.9 shots on goal per game (27th), and have a 49.7% success rate on faceoffs, good enough for 18th in the NHL.
Thomas & O’Reilly Are Bright Spots
Forwards Robert Thomas and Ryan O’Reilly continue to be bright spots for the organization. With Thomas’ second-period goal, he now has goals in back-to-back games and 13 points in his last 11 games.
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After a slow start, the Blues’ captain has started to come alive with six points in his last seven games. In last night’s game, O’Reilly nearly had a repeat goal in the same diving rebound manner that he scored against the New York Islanders on Dec. 6. He has experienced some struggles offensively this season, unlike any he has seen in his career. With the weight of his pending unrestricted free agency, and his team struggling to string together consistent wins and performances, he is shouldering the responsibility and the gravity of his team’s position within not only the Central Division but within the league as a whole.
Fans’ Frustration Boiling Over
After the 5-2 loss, frustration from a fan was expressed as a jersey was tossed onto the ice, an event that may be the first of its kind at the Enterprise Center. Now that the organization has won a championship, expectations are higher than ever to continue its winning ways. However, as underlying statistics and metrics are proving that to be easier said than done, fans are expressing their displeasure by shedding their memorabilia for the team they love.
The Blues organization and its fans have always been one of higher standard and class that has worn its heart on its sleeve, but never publically abandoned the team. The frustration shown could cause a ripple effect from other fans if the Blues do not address their struggles.
- Blues head coach Craig Berube: “If everybody doesn’t come to the rink ready to really compete and move your feet and do things right and be detailed and attentive, we’re not going to go anywhere. That’s the bottom line. If they don’t come to the rink and think about the team and put the team first, we’re not going anywhere and right now, I don’t see that happening.”
- Berube on what can be done with non-attentive players: “All we do is coach them, show them, talk about it, keep practicing, and keep working. What else can you do? We bench guys and stuff like that, here and there. That doesn’t change anything. There’s too many guys, you know, veteran guys, young guys. If they don’t come to the rink and think about the team, and put the team first, we’re not going anywhere. And right now I don’t see that happening.”
- Jets forward Dubois on halting the Blues’ late push: “I felt like at times we were kind of just trying to survive out there. That’s when they got the momentum back. Shift after shift, they come at you.”
The Blues will return to action on Sunday for a 2 pm CST matchup against the Avalanche. They are 1-0 against them this season after a 3-2 victory on Nov. 14 that saw Binnington stop 45 of 47 shots.
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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.