MONTREAL, QC – OCTOBER 12: Brett Kulak #17 of the Montreal Canadiens skates with the puck under pressure from Jaden Schwartz #17 of the St Louis Blues in the NHL game at the Bell Centre on October 12, 2019 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. (Photo by Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images) View Slideshow Here
All good things must come to an end, and that’s what happened to the Blues 3-game winning streak Saturday night in Montreal. The Blues were playing catch up all evening and eventually fell to the Montreal Canadiens 6-3 for their first regulation loss on the young season.
The Canadiens led 2-1 after the first and then tied it up at 3-3 late in the second before adding 3 more goals in the third to seal the win.
Montreal moves to 2-1-2 on the season, while St. Louis falls to 3-1-1.
The Blues managed to tie the game twice on goals by Brayden Schenn, who scored in his 4th consecutive game, and Sammy Blais, who’s nifty backhander from the goal line on a near-impossible angle beat Carey Price over his left shoulder. Vince Dunn gave the Blues their only lead of the game when his powerplay goal made the score 3-2 a little over midway through the second.
The lead was short-lived, however as Montreal’s Phillip Danault tied the score at 3-3 with just 4:25 left in the second period.
The third period was all Habs as they outshot the Blues 16-10 in the frame. In fact, they outshot St. Louis in every period putting up 38 shots on goal to the Blues’ 29.
St. Louis has fought back in every game this season, but tonight there just wasn’t enough fight in them to get the result they needed.
Montreal looked faster, hungrier, and sharper than their opponents in nearly every facet of the game.
Montreal executed their game plan well and made it difficult for the Blues to clear their zone. It looked like they were loading up on the strong side and pinching as the Blues tried to clear the puck, making it difficult to break free from the d-zone and mount an attack. It took St. Louis a little while to adjust.
The Blues were whistled for five penalties in the game and although their style of play is normally physical, it wasn’t physicality that led to penalties. Several of tonight’s infractions were forced by the Canadiens’ speed. Hooking on Schenn in the first, two interference calls in the second on Sammy Blais and Jay Bouwmeester, and a tripping call on Colton Parayko in the third that led to a penalty shot were all attempts to slow down the Canadiens.
Tomas Tatar scored first for Montreal at the 12:59 mark before Brayden Schenn tied things up five minutes later with his 4th goal of the year.
Schenn, having signed a new contract about a week ago for an eight-year, $56 million deal seems determined to prove his worth. He looks sharp and his shot seems crisp. When he gets an opening, he’s been burying the puck in the back of the net. His goal tonight from the high slot was in and out of the net so fast that most people didn’t know whether it was a goal or not. The red light was on, however, and it was definitely a goal.
— St. Louis Blues (@StLouisBlues) October 12, 2019
Montreal got another one less than a minute later when Jonathan Drouin wristed one past Jordan Binnington. Drouin was defended by Alex Pietrangelo, who could have screened Binnington a bit. Nonetheless, the first period ended 2-1.
The Canadiens are a fast bunch and they mounted quite a bit of pressure with their speed. Wave after wave they carried the puck into the Blues end and put shots on goal. They looked hungry and played relentlessly. The middle period kind of turned into a shootout. Teams were up and down the ice and the Blues fell into the Canadiens’ style of play and didn’t get to their own game of forechecking and puck control. Yet, there was a point where it looked like the Blues might just take control of the game.
Quebec native, Sammy Blais, who was said to have had two busloads of friends and family at the game, scored a goal just a minute into the second frame to tie the game at two apiece. Watch the highlight and tell me how many guys could do this.
— St. Louis Blues (@StLouisBlues) October 13, 2019
As I stated earlier, the Blues gave Montreal plenty of power-play chances. Yet the penalty kill continued to click as they killed off all four in this one and have killed 10 of 11 on the young season for a 90.9% success rate.
On the other side of things, Vince Dunn added a power-play goal for the Blues to give them their only lead of the game. His goal made it 3-2 with 7:10 left in the middle period.
— St. Louis Blues (@StLouisBlues) October 13, 2019
The rest of the way it was all Montreal. They tied the game again shortly after Dunn’s goal and scored four unanswered goals for the final of 6-3.
Brayden Schenn told reporters after the game, “Yeah, we weren’t very good tonight. We couldn’t get to our game. We couldn’t get the forecheck game going, and didn’t sustain a whole lot of o-zone pressure and turned the puck over a lot.”
That pretty much summed it up. The other factor seemed to be Montreal’s speed. They transitioned well, and the Blues had trouble countering their attack.
This should be a bit of a wake-up to everyone that speed is not the way this team is going to win games. They’ve got to get the puck in deep, possess it and wear down their opponents. The Blues’ grinding style of hockey will tire the legs of those faster skaters, and that’s how they will have to play to beat teams like Montreal and others who are faster.
Look for a couple of changes in the lineup for Monday’s game. We have yet to see Mackenzie MacEachern, who is a big body and can play with some physicality. I look for him to get the nod in place of Robby Fabbri or Zach Sanford.
Craig Berube is known for making the right moves and I expect he’s contemplating a couple of them before this road trip ends.
The Blues play a rare midday game on Monday in New York against the Islanders. It’s Columbus Day, so I guess the NHL thinks everyone is off work and can watch the game. Well, Mr. Bettman, most of us have to work. It seems like a dumb move to me. Oh well, that’s why we have DVRs. Right?
The game starts at Noon Central time on Monday. Watch and listen in the normal places.