It was a historic night at Enterprise Center as the St. Louis Blues and their fanbase watched as their first ever Stanley Cup Banner was hoisted into the rafters. (Photo courtesy: Dilip Vishwanat, Getty Images)
ST. LOUIS, MO – The opener may have been spoiled, but most of the attendees tonight probably didn’t mind.
The Stanley Cup Champions of 2019 took on the Stanley Cup Champions of 2018 as the St. Louis Blues (0-0-1) opened the hockey season against the Washington Capitals (1-0-0). In front of a jam-packed Enterprise Center and on national television, the Blues raised their first ever Stanley Cup banner to the rafters in an unforgettable ceremony. All of the current roster and head staff was present on the ice, and even Blues superfan and St. Louis icon Laila Anderson was in attendance for the most exciting home opener the city of St. Louis had ever hosted.
Afterwards, however, it was all back to business, as the 2018 champions were the first opponents to see the St. Louis Blues in regular season action. Having already traded preseason wins with Washington, St. Louis was hungry for more and got on the board early, thanks to an early goal from Sammy Blais. Later, we would see just how well the Justin Faulk trade paid off when he fed the captain Pietrangelo, who buried a powerplay goal. However, with goals from Alex Ovechkin, Dmitry Orlov and Jakub Vrana in overtime, the Capitals spoiled the St. Louis Blues’ home opener. St. Louis grabbed a point to start to season at 0-0-1, and face a familiar foe in the Dallas Stars at home on Saturday at 7pm.
The Blues got off to a start as energetic as the 19,260 fans watching the game and got on the board quick. After the first shift, David Perron perfectly fed Sammy Blais across ice to give St. Louis a 1-0 lead, just 53 seconds in.
A quick goal lead to a quick lead for the home crown, giving Sammy Blais, David Perron and Ryan O’Reilly their first points of the season. The assist by O’Reilly also became his 500th career point. The Capitals tried to shrug off the early deficit with their speed and physicality, and the Blues responded with defensive pressure and physicality of their own. The first penalty of the evening was charged to Washington, giving the Blues their first powerplay. St. Louis started with a couple of decent chances, but late in the powerplay, newcomer Justin Faulk fed Alex Pietrangelo on the left side, and a one-time blast from the captain beat Braden Holtby clean.
The powerplay goal doubled St. Louis’ lead 2-0, and Justin Faulk earned his first point under the Blue Note. The remainder of the period was solid for the Blues: smart backchecking, great defensive pressure, and keeping Washington’s chances away from the high-scoring areas. However, even the defense of the Blues couldn’t stop the Great 8: Alex Ovechkin handily worked his way past Jay Bouwmeester and wristed it perfectly past Jordan Binnington.
Ovechkin’s first of the season, assisted by Carlson and Eller, cut the Blues’ lead in half, 2-1 with less than five minutes in the first. Neither team found the back of the net for the rest of the period, and the Blues skated off with a one-goal lead after the opening 20. Defense was the name of the game through the first, with St. Louis outshooting Washington only 7-5 and being outhit 12-9.
The Blues came out in the second like they did in the first: foot on the gas. St. Louis had a flurry of chances in the opening shifts of the period, but Braden Holtby proved his elite skill between the Capitals’ pipes. Those saves helped Washington to start playing their style of hockey and they dominated through most of the second period. The Blues managed decent chances here and there, but a slashing minor on Tyler Bozak halfway through slowed them down. In the dying seconds of the powerplay, Dmitry Orlov one-timed a shot that knuckled off of Steen’s stick and found its way into the net.
The Capitals tied the lead with under 8 minutes to play in the second, and continued with a barrage of shots and attempts. However, St. Louis netminder Jordan Binnington proved his Cup-winning success was no fluke and made some marvelous stops of his own.
The physicality and forecheck of both the Blues and Capitals was a difference maker for the rest of the period, and even after a great shift by O’Reilly, Perron and Blais, St. Louis headed to the locker room tied two apiece. The Capitals put on a whopping 15 shots in the second to St. Louis’ 8 as the final 20 minutes of regulation came next.
The St. Louis Blues needed a spark to get back to their playstyle, but the Capitals consistent forecheck frustrated the Blues in their own zone. Lots of turnovers and missed chances by St. Louis lead to more opportunities for Washington to bury a go-ahead goal. Jordan Binnington, however, had other ideas, and stopped every shot he faced in the third. The Blues worked hard behind the net and down low, but Holtby proved just as focused in net for the Caps. The Blues put 7 shots on net to the Capitals 10 but neither team could find twine through the final period. The Capitals were now outshooting the Blues 30-22.
The overtime period was all Capitals as they pressed on from their second and third periods. The Blues nearly had a solid chance to end it, but miscommunication soon took the puck the other way. The Capitals put three shots on net to the Blues’ none before Jakub Vrana finally buried the OT winner. One of the best-looking players on the ice for the Capitals, Vrana worked the puck in himself and grabbed an open shooting lane, burying it past Binnington.
Less than three minutes into overtime, Vrana won the first game of the season for Washington, while St. Louis would have to leave with one point. Washington’s four shots on net brought their final total to 34. Holtby would earn his first win of the season, making 20 saves on 22 shots. Binnington played well in net, but eventually fell to 0-0-1 with the team, making 31 saves.
The Blues knew their game wasn’t satisfactory from the second period on. “We had good start to the game but just didn’t maintain it. It wasn’t good enough”, commented Ryan O’Reilly after the game. “It’s a good realization that we have to go back to work. We got a tough team in Dallas coming over here… we have to be more prepared and play a lot better than we did. We got a lot hockey left, we’ll respond.”
“You gotta manage the puck better. That’s the biggest thing I took away from our game tonight,” coach Berube said after the game. “To me, our whole game tonight; we weren’t aggressive enough. We didn’t play our game… Didn’t have our aggressive mindset.”
The Blues host Dallas on Saturday at 8pm ET at Enterprise Center, while the Capitals head to New York to face the Islanders. The next game can be found by visiting:
STL – FSMW, ESPN 101.1 FM, Fox Sports GO, NHL.com
DAL – FSSW, KTCK 1310 AM, Fox Sports GO, NHL.com
The Cardinals will head to Atlanta to face the Braves in game 1 of the NLDS on Thursday on TBS.
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