The St. Louis Blues finally got back in the win column last week. After a brutal start to the season, things are looking up a bit. Their record is still near the bottom of the standings, but they are figuring out how to end this rut.
No one expected the Blues to stay in the basement for long, and I’m not saying they are playoff contenders, but they are better than their record.
Blues Snap 8-Game Losing Streak
After two ugly road losses to the Boston Bruins and Philadelphia Flyers to push their losing streak to eight games, the Blues returned home and beat the San Jose Sharks. They blew three one-goal leads but prevailed with a 5-3 victory. The Sharks are an opponent that the Blues should handle easily but, of course, they made it harder than it had to be. A lot of the same defensive coverage issues popped up against San Jose, but they made up for it with their offense.
As for the unexpected victory against the Vegas Golden Knights, the Blues should be thanking goaltender Jordan Binnington. They played their most complete game since their win against the Edmonton Oilers on Oct. 22. However, the Golden Knights peppered tons of shots on net in the third period, paving the way for Binnington to make 22 saves in that period alone. Overall, he made 34 saves on 36 shots and had his best performance since the win in Edmonton.
The Blues have finally found players for Ryan O’Reilly, with Brandon Saad and Josh Leivo as his wingers. O’Reilly had a rough first period but responded in the final two with two points, including his first assist of the season. The Blues played the way that they needed to in Vegas, with a lot of forechecking and quality scoring chances. They must have some confidence after that win, and hopefully, it’s one that they can build on.
Neighbours to AHL, Alexandrov & Leivo to NHL
This was a tough call for general manager Doug Armstrong, but he had to shake up his roster. He sent Jake Neighbours down to the American Hockey League (AHL) and recalled both Nikita Alexandrov and Leivo. The Blues had high hopes for Neighbours coming into the season, but he hasn’t produced enough offensively. He’s shown flashes of his ability as a two-way power forward, but his game hasn’t matured enough to stay in the NHL. The good news is that he’s just 20 years old and should benefit from playing in the AHL for a good Springfield Thunderbirds team. He had one goal in 11 games and a minus-9 in St. Louis.
I think Neighbours will be back with the Blues at some point this season. As for Alexandrov and Leivo, they bring a lot to the team. Through two games, Alexandrov hasn’t scored a point, but his forechecking and puck work have been fantastic overall. As I mentioned, Leivo fits well with O’Reilly and Saad, and since returning to the NHL, he has had two assists in two games and is a plus-1. He has simplified his game, which works well on the veteran forward line. There is no doubt that head coach Craig Berube should keep the Saad-O’Reilly-Leivo line together.
Brown & Bortuzzo Placed on Injured Reserve
It’s been a tough season for Logan Brown, who is headed for injured reserve for the second time this season. He has an upper-body injury but is expected to recover sooner than later. However, when he makes his return, there may not be an open spot in the lineup. The emergence of Tyler Pitlick, Alexandrov, and Leivo could send him to the press box or waivers. He has not been as good as expected this season, but the injuries are a huge reason for that.
There is no real timetable for Robert Bortuzzo’s return. He has an upper-body injury that seemed to happen against the Flyers, as he was replaced by Calle Rosen in the next game. The pairing of Rosen and Niko Mikkola has been by far the Blues’ best in the past two games. If that pairing continues to play well, Bortuzzo could be a healthy scratch when he is healthy. These injuries aren’t major losses for the Blues, but Brown and Bortuzzo are quality depth players and could be needed in the later stages of the season.
Blues’ Week Ahead
- Monday: at Colorado Avalanche (8-4-1, 17 points), 8 PM
- Wednesday: at Chicago Blackhawks (6-5-3, 15 points), 6:30 PM
- Thursday: vs. Washington Capitals (7-8-2, 16 points), 7 PM
- Saturday: vs. Anaheim Ducks (4-10-1, 9 points), 7 PM
The Blues will play two divisional opponents for the first time this season, renewing their rivalry with the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday. The Colorado Avalanche are starting to find their game after a slow start with four straight wins. The Blackhawks are outperforming expectations this season with points in nine of 14 games, but they are likely to come back down to earth soon. The rest of the week consists of two home games and the start of a two-game series against the Anaheim Ducks in St. Louis. The Blues will find out who they are this week. If they can get three or four wins, they could find themselves back in contention for a playoff spot.