(Photo Credit: Graham Hughes / Canadian Press)
In the business world, when you work “bell to bell” it means that you have to be there from the very start all the way to the very end, from the very moment the store opens all the way up to the moment you lock the doors. The same applies to sports. Last night, the failure to work “bell to bell” was the undoing of the St. Louis Blues.
A goal by Max Domi just 49 seconds into the opening period and then a turnover in the defensive zone and a fluke goal by Brendan Gallagher with just 9 seconds remaining in the game cost the Blues any hope of a much-needed point.
The Blues traveled to Montreal, Quebec to face the Canadiens in Bell Centre on Wednesday for the first of three games north of the border. With a slow start in their first five games and a 1-2-2 record, the Blues needed a good road trip to right the ship and get things moving in a good direction.
The Canadiens, unlike recent years, have gotten off to a good start this season. They entered the game with a 3-1-1 mark, having beaten the Penguins twice and taking the high-powered Maple Leafs to overtime. St. Louis certainly realized that this would not be a “gimmie”, didn’t they?
The Blues got the puck into the offensive zone early and were on the attack. David Perron was hit in the face with something and left the ice while the team was in the offensive zone. Vladimir Tarasenko took his spot. The puck cycled up the half boards on the left side and Jay Bouwmeester pinched in to keep it in the zone. Artturi Lehkonen got to the puck and back-handed it to Domi, who found a gap and streaked up the ice with Tarasenko draped on his inside shoulder.
The other defender, Alex Pietrangelo was back and chose to play the other side, anticipating a pass across the ice. Tarasenko stayed on the inside of Domi, forcing him to keep the puck on his backhand. Jake Allen had a clear view of Domi but he was beaten through the 5-hole on the Domi backhander. 49 seconds in, it was 1-0.
Two minutes in, Pat Maroon tried to inspire his team by dropping the gloves with Jordie Benn but, the clock ticked down to the end of the period with Montreal hanging on to the 1-0 lead. The score didn’t seem to reflect any “new-found” inspiration. However, we appreciate Maroon’s willingness to stick up for his teammates.
The Blues had some chances, namely with a power play midway through the period, but only managed 3 shots on goal in the frame. Fox Sports Midwest had the shots at 9-3 in favor of the Canadiens. The NHL app said 10-3 and Jeremey Rutherford of The Athletic, tweeted 11-3. Whoever was right, it wasn’t a strong start for the Blues offensively.
In defenseman Joel Edmundson‘s post-game comments he said, “We thought it was going to come easy tonight.”
I don’t want to take his remarks out of context because I wasn’t there. We don’t know what all he said, but it seems that could be part of the problem with this team and the fan base as well. We had hoped that all of these moves in the offseason would equate to a better team, a better start. But tonight and the first 6 games are showing that it’s taking more time to find their chemistry and the right combinations to produce a winning formula.
St. Louis knotted the score at the 3:21 mark of the second period on a power-play goal by Vince Dunn. He was assisted by Tarasenko and Ryan O’Reilly. It was Dunn’s 2nd goal of the season. Dunn doesn’t have the 100 MPH slap shot, but he seems to be able to get the puck on the net more accurately and this one went in, aided by some important traffic in front of the net.
The Canadiens got a power-play of their own when Bouwmeester was called for hooking at the 6:25 mark. When the Blues failed to clear the puck, Montreal took back their lead on a goal by Mike Reilly.
During the period, both teams had some sustained offensive pressure and some scoring chances. Rookie Jordan Kyrou started on the first line tonight with O’Reilly and Tarasenko. His speed and skill are going to be fun to watch as he gets more and more acclimated to the NHL game. He had a few chances to score his first NHL goal including a shot that beat Montreal goaltender, Carey Price but hit the crossbar and bounced out instead of in.
The Blues got a power play 3 minutes into the third but couldn’t capitalize. However, they got another chance when O’Reilly drew a holding call due to his never-quit, always-hounding style of play.
At the 16:31 mark of the period Alexander Steen found Brayden Schenn, who buried it past a sliding Price to knot the score at 2-2. The Blues 9th power-play goal leads the NHL. After finishing the season next to last this past season, the power play is definitely improved.
It seemed like the team let out a big sigh of relief after this goal. They had managed to overcome a slow, sloppy start against a team that they expected to beat and at least now that it was tied, they could get it to overtime and at least earn a point, maybe even two. But, you have to play until the very end. A costly turnover in their defensive zone by Colton Parayko led to a bouncing puck in front of the net that Gallagher got his stick on and somehow managed to poke past Jake Allen with just 9 seconds left on the clock.
The loss was a heartbreaker. It’s hard to see your team lose like that. It just sucked all the collective wind out of the Blues team and Blues Nation. All you can say is, “Let’s move on and try to get better and turn this thing around. Tomorrow is another day.”
There were some bright spots. Ivan Barbashev has really shown marked improvement in his game. He has been energetic and played some smart hockey. He has really impressed me with his penalty kill minutes.
Another player that has been impressive on the PK has been Tyler Bozak. He’s proving to be a valuable player, not only at center but on special teams as well.
Ryan O’Reilly never seems to quit. I’ve noticed him being out of position on occasion but he is in the right spot more often than not and he looks like he has never given up on a puck battle yet this season.
The young defensive pairing of Vince Dunn and Jordan Schmaltz looked impressive. They are quick enough and they made good decisions with the puck. They both have some offense to their games too. Dunn was moved up with Pietrangelo several times while the Blues were chasing the lead.
Next up for the Blues is Toronto on Saturday night and Winnipeg on Monday. It doesn’t get any easier. Let’s go Blues!