3 Takeaways From the Blues’ Loss to the Stars – 11/28/22

The St. Louis Blues and the Dallas Stars met for the first time this season on Monday night.

St. Louis Blues Takeaways
St. Louis Blues Takeaways (The Hockey Writers)

The Central Division-leading Stars came to St. Louis on a two-game losing streak and struggling with a 4-3-3 record in their last 10 games. On the other side, the hometown Blues returned home from their road trip, winning only one of their three games. Playing in their eighth game in 13 days, the Blues could not build off their momentum from the overtime victory against the Florida Panthers, suffering a 4-1 loss to the Stars.

Blues’ Depth a Bright Spot in Loss

The Blues recalled forward prospect Jake Neighbours, sending Nikita Alexandrov back to the Springfield Thunderbirds in a corresponding move. The transaction indicates the team needed a player with a higher offensive upside with Robert Thomas currently listed as day-to-day with a lower-body injury. After the morning practice, coach Craig Berube said of Thomas: “He’s a huge loss for sure. A guy that probably has the most puck possession on the team every night and has the puck a lot, does good things with it. Guys are going to have to dig in tonight and help out because with him out of the lineup, it’s a loss, but we’ve got enough guys to handle it and get the job done.” 

Related: Blues Weekly: Streaks Galore, Defense, Schenn & More

The Blues elected to dress 11 forwards and seven defensemen during the game with Neighbours rejoining the club and Nathan Walker and Calle Rosen both staying in the lineup for a second straight game.

Jake Neighbours

Rejoining the team, Neighbours answered the call well, despite not scoring. He recorded one takeaway and a shot on goal and blocked two shots in 11:44 of time on ice. While he is not a long-term solution to take the place of someone like Thomas, he does not look out of place in the NHL. He has struggled to produce offensively in his first 12 games scoring one goal in his season debut and being held off the scoresheet ever since. In his seven games with the Thunderbirds, he logged five assists and a minus-2 rating.

Nathan Walker

Forward Nathan Walker has struggled to find ice time, playing in only his fourth game of the month Monday night. The Australian has yet to find the offensive flair that offered him a career-high 30 games with the Blues last season. His fight in the second period was well-timed to reinvigorate his team and hope to spark the offense. However, with the Blues struggling to produce shots on goal, this game was the perfect opportunity to break out of his offensive slump dating back to April 17, 2022, against the Nashville Predators.

Calle Rosen

Despite only playing in 13 games, Calle Rosen has proven to be one of the Blues’ top defenders this season. He has not shown up on the scoresheet as often as he should, but is making plays in all areas of the ice, creating plays in the offensive zone, and preventing goals in the defensive. In the first period, Rosen was a direct influence, setting up the scoring chance by Pavel Buchnevich that was ultimately robbed by Scott Wedgewood. This season, he has logged five assists in 12 games.

Blues’ Special Teams Were a Mixed Bag

Heading into Monday night’s game, the Blues were 30th in the NHL with a 68.8% penalty kill, ahead of only the Vancouver Canucks and the Anaheim Ducks. As each team was unsuccessful on the power play, the Blues were fortunate to not allow a power play goal against a lethal Dallas power play unit that has been within the top five all season. On the flip side, the Blues have been a mess over the last two weeks, listed in the bottom third, and have allowed either a power play or short-handed goal in their past three games.

The Blues’ power play maintained pressure in the offensive zone during their second-period opportunity but managed to only record one shot on goal. The team has been below average on the man advantage in November at 21.6% before Monday’s game. The Stars entered the game with the number three overall penalty kill in the NHL at 83.2% and showed the Blues why they have been so good. Without Thomas anchoring the power play, Berube was forced to juggle his special teams. Forward Josh Leivo worked on his one-timer attempts, receiving passes from Ryan O’Reilly for roughly 10 minutes after their practice that morning, and was provided with a last-minute one-timer opportunity within the dying seconds of the power play.

Too Many Passes Doomed Blues

It is difficult to say that the Blues passed up on too many scoring opportunities when they tied the Stars with 24 shots a piece. They continued to pass on multiple grade-A chances throughout the game and were too passive, often looking for the fancy, highlight-reel goal. Rather than shooting directly on goal, they often elected for an extra one, two, or three passes, not taking the shooting opportunity presented to them.

After the game, Blues forward Brandon Saad said of the team passing up on shots: “For the most part, I thought we managed the game pretty well. But obviously, we need to create a little bit more action. Their goalie made some good saves that we could’ve found the back of the net with. But they capitalized and we didn’t tonight. I think we need to (shoot more). You don’t get too many Grade-As in this league. Anytime we get those chances, we could fire the puck a little bit more. Sometimes we try to be a little too cute, and against good checking teams you’re not going to get a lot of those.”

Brandon Saad St. Louis Blues
Brandon Saad, St. Louis Blues (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The Blues will return to action on Thursday when they host the Carolina Hurricanes. They have not played against them yet this season and went 0-2 last season being outscored 10-4. They will have two days off between games allowing for some much-needed rest before a big test against a team ranked in the top 10 in the NHL.

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