3 Takeaways from Blues’ 5-3 Win Over Predators

The St. Louis Blues met the Nashville Predators on Monday night. On an average night, the stakes would have been high: the Predators entered the game two points ahead of the Blues for second in the Central Division. But it was also the night the Blues retired legendary defenseman Chris Pronger’s number in a pregame ceremony, heightening the drama even more. After a rocky start, the Blues scored four unanswered goals en route to a 5-3 win. Here are three of the biggest takeaways from the victory.

1) Husso Needs More Starts

Make no mistake: there’s no goalie controversy in St. Louis. Though backup Ville Husso’s numbers are, on paper, significantly better than Jordan Binnington’s, he has done it in limited work against largely weaker competition. Plus, Binnington, who is just starting a six-year, $36-million contract extension, would have to perform a lot worse than he currently is to risk losing his job with so much money still on his deal. With all that said, after Monday night’s game, it’s hard to argue Husso doesn’t deserve more opportunities.

Ville Husso St. Louis Blues
Ville Husso, St. Louis Blues (Photo by Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images),

Husso has a strong goaltending pedigree, but his first season in St. Louis was less than stellar. Entering the 2021-22 campaign, many questioned whether he could take the next step and be a true NHL-quality backup, or whether the Blues might be looking for additional netminding at the trade deadline or in the offseason. But the Helsinki, Finland native has answered those questions confidently this season. He is now 6-2-1, with a .935 save percentage (SV%) and a 2.13 goals-against average (GAA). And facing his Finnish counterpart, recent All-Star selection Juuse Saros, he played one of his best games of the season.

Related: Ranking the NHL’s 32 Starting Goalies — 2021-22 Season

Husso finished with 32 saves on 35 shots against, recovering from allowing two early goals to carry his team back to a winning effort. Right now, the Blues’ defense is going through an identity crisis, and it left Husso vulnerable a few too many times. But he was up to the challenge and was arguably the biggest edge for the Blues in the game. He’s not overtaking Binnington anytime soon, but he’s playing too well to get just 20 starts this season. Binnington will need rest for the playoff push, anyway. There is no drawback to starting Husso more often, and he should be in line for more playing time in the near future.

2) Barbashev’s Breakout Season Continues

Entering the season, Russian utility forward Ivan Barbashev was already a fan favorite due to his likable demeanor and his versatile playstyle. But he is one of the Blues having a career-best performance so far this season. Whether he has found comradery with the abundance of Russian forwards in St. Louis, or he simply took a step in his offseason preparation, Barbashev has been a different player in 2021-22. And that strong performance continued on Monday with two impressive goals on a four-point night, probably his best performance of the season.

Barbashev tied and surpassed his previous career-high with his two goals against the Predators. He is currently on track for 32 goals in a full season. And while it isn’t reasonable to expect him to actually maintain that pace, he also isn’t showing any signs of slowing. Up or down the lineup, with virtually any linemates, he’s found success this season. It’s no wonder that his time on ice has jumped almost four minutes per game from previous seasons. Depth players like Barbashev were hugely important to the Blues’ 2019 Stanley Cup run, and he is an important part of the deepest St. Louis forward group in recent memory this season.

3) Pronger Where He Belongs

There’s no question that the Hockey Hall of Fame member and former Hart Trophy winner Pronger deserved to have his number 44 retired by the Blues. And had it not been for the COVID-19 pandemic, it would have happened sooner. But finally, the ceremony almost two years in the making took place on the ice at Enterprise Center before Monday’s game. Members of the Hockey Hall of Fame were on hand, along with the Presidents’ Trophy, the Hart Trophy, and the Norris Trophy, all of which Pronger won in one remarkable 1999-2000 season. Pronger gave a rousing speech, shotgunned a Bud Light, then watched his number immortalized exactly where it belongs.

Pronger’s legacy as one of the NHL’s greatest players is unimpeachable. And his time with the Blues was unforgettable. What better tribute could they have given him than winning a heated, smashmouth game against the division-rival Predators? He may be an advisor to the Florida Panthers in his post-playing career, but his on-ice legacy will always be synonymous with the Blues.

Break Before Seattle

The Blues now have a nice break before playing in Seattle for the first time when they meet the Kraken on Friday night. Hopefully, the three days off will give them adequate time to get fully healthy and off the COVID-19 list. the Blues have not had much luck keeping players out of protocol. But Monday’s strong effort showed what they could do at their best, even short-handed. They could be a nightmare at full strength against the Kraken.

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