Blues Strong Start Leads to Sixth Straight Win

The puck is loose as Anze Kopitar (11) and Joakim Ryan (6) struggle to help their goaltender Jonathan Quick against the pressure from St. Louis Blues Oskar Sundqvist and David Perron. (Harry How/Getty Images)

CONDENSED REPORT

Thanks to a strong first period, the Blues got their sixth straight win last night heading into the Christmas break. This time the victims were the Los Angeles Kings.

St. Louis got two goals from Brayden Schenn (16,17), who now has matched his last season’s goal total. Vince Dunn (6), and Jaden Schwartz (11) added goals all in the first period, as the Blues jumped out to a 4-0 lead with 7:39 remaining in the period.

Los Angeles added a power-play goal in the closing minutes of the period to make it 4-1, and that is how the game ended as neither team could find any offense for the remainder of the game.

Jordan Binnington made his return to the net after some much-needed rest. Thanks to the strong play of Jake Allen, Craig Berube was able to give Binnington a week off. The move led to speculation that something might be ailing the younger Binnington, but he had started 26 of the Blues 37 games.

He looked sharp. Although he wasn’t tested early, he stopped 29 of 30 LA shots and backstopped the penalty kill unit to hold the Kings to just 1 of 5 on their power play.

FIRST PERIOD

In the first five minutes, Jonathan Quick was giving up rebound after rebound and didn’t look to be on top of his game. The pressure was all coming from St. Louis in the early going and on their sixth shot on goal Brayden Schenn opened the scoring from the high slot with his 16th goal of the season.

Moments later, Jordan Kyrou used his speed to get behind the LA defense and drew a hooking penalty on his way to the net.

The Blues only needed seven seconds with the man advantage to take a 2-0 lead. What at first looked like a goal by Alex Pietrangelo was later credited to Jaden Schwartz on the tip-in. Sound familiar?

Blues Found a Chink in the Armor of the Kings

The Kings’ defense looked a lot like cardboard cutouts as Vince Dunn skated around the net and into the slot just a little over halfway through the period and put another one past Quick and it was 3-0.

The Kings were whistled for another penalty at the 11:55 mark and the Blues answered with another goal from Schenn to give the Blues a 4-0 lead just 27 seconds later.

LA got on the board with a power-play goal of their own when Alex Iafallo tipped and redirected a Drew Doughty shot from the point late in the period. Jordan Binnington was also screened on the play and had no chance to stop the shot.

St. Louis dominated play in the opening frame outshooting the Kings 15-7.

SECOND PERIOD

Not much to talk about in the second period. No goals. Kings outshot the Blues 8-7. Jon Hamm showed up in the Fox Sports Midwest booth for a visit. That’s the highlight.

THIRD PERIOD

LA reversed the shots on goal statistic from the first period and outshot St. Louis 15-6 in the final frame. Binnington proved to be up to the test and stopped every shot they could muster. After a poor first period, Jonathan Quick settled in and stopped everything in the final 40 minutes as well.

If you managed to stay awake through the first period, then you saw all you needed to see. 4-1 was the final.

FINAL THOUGHTS

The Blues are now 24-8-6 heading into the Christmas break. They sit atop the Western Conference with 54 points, 5 clear of Colorado. Considering all of the injuries they’ve suffered, you’ve got to be pretty happy with where this team is at.

Think about it, Alexander Steen missed 16 games. Sammy Blais has missed 18 games. Vladimir Tarasenko has only played in 10 games. Ten games. Carl Gunnarsson has been out with injuries. Zach Sanford is hurt. Oskar Sundqvist missed a few games. And yet, they are the best team in the West.

Look at the depth. Troy Brouwer, Jordan Kyrou, Nathan Walker, Klim Kostin, Austin Poganski, etc. and the list goes on. Where are you going to put Blais when he comes back? How does Brouwer get back in the lineup? Sanford? Wow! This team doesn’t just have a little depth. This team is Challenger Deep.

Kyrou is skating with Schenn and Schwartz. His speed is causing problems for the opponents as evidenced in the penalty he drew in the first period. He’s got the kind of speed that can get behind the defense and create good quality scoring chances. It will be tough to imagine him not being a part of this team for the rest of this season.

GOALTENDING

The goaltending tandem is playing as well as any in the league. Their combined save percentage is .924 and goals against average is 2.33.  One could argue that Halak and Rask in Boston, or Khudobin and Bishop in Dallas need to be in that discussion, and they do. But, that’s pretty good company for Jake and Jordan to be in.

This team sits in a good spot as they near the halfway point of the season. There’s a lot of hockey left. Anything can happen. But right now, the view from the top is pretty good.

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