The St. Louis Blues welcomed the Toronto Maple Leafs to town in their return from the Christmas break to kick off their three-game homestand. The former Norris Division rivals squared off in the Leafs’ lone appearance in St. Louis for the 2022-23 season.
After starting the season 16-16-2, the Blues hoped to start the break off on the right foot and come out rip-roaring and ready to go. While the home team continued to fight and claw their way from behind nearly the entire game, they managed to tie it early in the third period, and walk away with a point in an overtime loss.
Rosen Making Most of Opportunity
Former Maple Leaf Calle Rosen opened the scoring for the Blues 7:24 into the first period to tie the game 1-1 after an early goal by Justin Holl. Despite not seeing game action since Dec. 8, Rosen made his presence known immediately.
After the announcement was made that Blues defenseman Torey Krug would be sidelined due to injury and re-evaluated after six weeks, defenseman Tyler Tucker was recalled from the Springfield Thunderbirds. However, it was Rosen that was inserted into the lineup to take the place of the sixth blueliner for last night’s game. While he has not been known for his offensive abilities in the NHL, Rosen has begun to find a groove in St. Louis scoring his third goal and seventh point in 18 games this season. The battle to be in the lineup should be an interesting one to follow with Krug’s injury keeping him out until at least early February.
Penalty-Killing Strong in Loss
To put it simply, the Blues’ penalty kill has not been good this season. Coming into the game against the 21-7-6 Maple Leafs, the penalty killers had their work cut out for them with the 29th-ranked unit boasting a woeful 70.7 percent success rate. In last night’s game, it was tasked with preventing the league’s tenth-best power play unit which has converted 23.9 percent of the time.
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After the Blues went up three power-play chances to none, Toronto began to see the tables turn with back-to-back opportunities on the man advantage in the second period, both of which were successfully prevented. The penalty-killing unit managed to swap one scoring chance a piece on the Leafs’ first power play opportunity, and stop all three shots on the second.
Kyrou Makes an Impact in Return
It took him nearly the entire game to be rewarded for his offensive efforts, but the speedy forward was certainly giving fans their money’s worth creating “oohs”‘ and “ahhs”‘ with his plays with the puck during the game. Kyrou has not played since Dec. 19 in Vancouver where he scored three goals and four points in the team’s 5-1 victory over the Canucks, missing two games in the process.
His return helped to create some additional balance and offensive reinforcements to the lineup as head coach Craig Berube was able to juggle three of the team’s four forward lines ahead of last night’s game. To provide some “high-powered” offensive pressure against Toronto, Kyrou started the game paired alongside Robert Thomas and Vladimir Tarasenko. He ended the night with five shots on goal and 21:02 of time on ice.
Despite a strong offensive effort, Kyrou’s return was not all sunshine and rainbows. In overtime, it was the play by the forward, which can only be described as a tackle, that resulted in the penalty shot for Maple Leafs’ defenseman TJ Brodie. It was ultimately denied by Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington to preserve the 4-4 tie.
The Blues will return to action on Thursday at 7 pm CST to host the Chicago Blackhawks. The division rivals have played once this season with St. Louis taking the first of four meetings with a 5-2 victory. Blues forwards Ivan Barbashev, Ryan O’Reilly, and Kyrou each recorded a goal and an assist in the win, while Binnington stopped 25 of 27 shots on goal.