I could have sworn the St. Louis Blues were going to be good this season. I wasn’t alone: they were a popular pick to not only make the playoffs, but to be a potential Cup contender in the West.
At forward, they made a great trade to add Ryan O’Reilly, brought in some other solid pieces in Tyler Bozak, David Perron, and Patrick Maroon in free agency, and still have Vladimir Tarasenko, Brayden Schenn, and Jaden Schwartz. On defence, they’re anchored by Alex Pietrangelo and Colton Parayko.
As for in net, between Jake Allen and Chad Johnson, they should have at least one decent goaltender, right?
Instead of rocketing to the top of the Central Division, however, the Blues have been an utter disaster. They have been incredibly inconsistent, they’re struggling to score goals, and they give up goals in bunches. As a result, they’ve sunk down to 13th in the Western Conference and 29th in the NHL.
Statistically speaking, the Blues actually aren’t that different from the Canucks, who have given up a similar number of goals and have a nearly identical corsi percentage — at 5-on-5, they take and give up about the same number of shot attempts. The Canucks have two things, however, that the Blues don’t: Brock Boeser and Elias Pettersson.
The Canucks’ two young stars treated the fragile Blues like careless airport baggage handlers, sending them home with plenty of dents, scratches, and broken pieces. Some of them probably ended up in Newark by mistake.
I saw a dominant performance by Pettersson and Boeser when I watched this game.
- In what should have been a clear sign that things were going to go their way in this game, the Canucks opened the scoring before they even had their first shot on goal. Sure, technically the scorekeepers had to award the Canucks a shot on goal when the puck went in the net, but it should hardly count as a shot when the puck goes off the boards, off the goaltender’s pad, and in.
- Brock Boeser got credit for the goal and I suppose he does deserve credit for firing the puck hard enough to bounce off the boards with enough power to come back in front of the net. At the very least, Elias Pettersson deserved his assist for picking off the puck behind the Blues net (after a solid Josh Leivo forecheck) and finding Boeser out front with a slick backhand pass. If that’s not an illustration of “make your own luck,” I’m not sure what is.
- The Canucks have struggled on the penalty kill for most of the season, but have now gone two games without giving up a power play goal, mainly because they’ve stayed out of the penalty box. They came up with a big kill in the first period, though, when Erik Gudbranson took a double minor for high-sticking. They defended the one-goal lead for four minutes by keeping the Blues from getting set up, with several of the 200-foot clears Travis Green has been demanding. The Blues’ best (and really, only) chance came off a failed clear, however by Markus Granlund. That’s exactly the type of sloppy puck management that has hurt them on the kill.
- Immediately after the successful kill, Pettersson gave the Canucks a 2-0 lead. Troy Stecher cut off Oskar Sundqvist in the neutral zone and swept the puck off his stick to Pettersson, who did the rest, weaving over the blue line and cutting to the high slot while the four Blues players around him pantomimed playing defence. You could almost believe they really didn’t want Pettersson to score. Jay Bouwmeester got his stick out to prevent Pettersson’s shot, but instead sent it sailing over Jake Allen’s left pad.
- Jacob Markstrom wasn’t too busy in the Canucks net — the Blues managed just 23 shots on goal — but he came up big when he had to. One of his best saves came on a Vladimir Tarasenko one-timer and it led to another team-up between Pettersson and Boeser. Ben Hutton poked the rebound out of danger and Boeser took advantage of an over-aggressive Joel Edmundson to create a 2-on-1. Pettersson snuck a pass under Parayko’s stick and Boeser ripped a wrist shot past Allen to make it 3-0.
Okay, so Brock Boeser definitely planned this one, and it's 3-0 Canucks. pic.twitter.com/t1bzoFpHDy— J.D. Blitzen (@JDylanBurke) December 9, 2018
- That was the end of Jake Allen’s afternoon, as the Canucks chased a goaltender for the second time in as many games. It took them five games prior to that to score 11 goals, but now have 11 goals in their last two games. When things go well for this team, they go really, really well.
- Markstrom had to be sharp to start the second period, as the Blues pushed hard. They out-shot the Canucks 7-2 in the first half of the period, but Markstrom turned them all aside, including a fantastic chance for Rob Thomas, who smoothly moved around Erik Gudbranson and bent his way towards the net. The missed opportunity had Thomas feeling unwell. It’s a mad season for him and the Blues.
- Goaltending is definitely the Blues’ biggest problem. If that wasn’t already clear, it became crystallized when Chad Johnson faced a low, slow shot from the boards by Antoine Roussel and sent the rebound right onto the top of the crease, where Bo Horvat made like Marc Kennedy and swept it in.
Antoine Roussel puts the puck on net and Bo Horvat is there to pot the rebound. It's now 4-0 Canucks over the Blues in the 2nd period. pic.twitter.com/sUzdJZkLac— J.D. Blitzen (@JDylanBurke) December 9, 2018
- Even when Brock Boeser fanned on shots in this game he created offence. The Canucks’ fifth goal started with a whiff from Boeser. Brayden Schenn took the puck, but immediately regifted it like a scented candle to Erik Gudbranson, whose long shot from the point took a fortuitous bounce to Pettersson. The sweet Swede didn’t even think of shooting, but immediately sent a pass backdoor to Nikolay Goldobin, who had just stepped on the ice, and he tapped the puck in the open net.
- You could tell Pettersson wasn’t expected Goldobin to be there, but instead the right-handed Josh Leivo, as the pass was in Goldobin’s skates, but he was able to adjust to the pass. Leivo played on the left wing with Pettersson and Boeser, finished a plus-four, but somehow didn’t get a single point as his linemates combined for eight of them. That’s not a slight against Leivo, it’s just amazing that the puck didn’t even hit his skate for an assist at some point with the way the puck was bouncing the Canucks’ way.
- One break did go the Blues way, quite literally. Rob Bortuzzo, who sounds like an Asylum-produced ripoff of Todd Bertuzzi, broke his stick on an attempted one-timer. As Markstrom reacted to the initial non-shot, Jordan Kyrou jumped on the loose puck and fired it home for his first NHL goal. The sight of one of their promising young prospects scoring a goal gave the Blues fans a little life in the arena
- Forty seconds later, the Canucks took that life right back. Another bounce went the Canucks’ way when Boeser’s point shot hit Edmundson’s knee in front and beat Johnson. Leivo was the guy battling two Blues players in front of the net, but didn’t get a point on the goal. So, in lieu of a point, we’ll give him a “Way to go!” sticker.
Brock's offence is....Flowing pic.twitter.com/SWHRfufOS0— Wyatt Arndt (@TheStanchion) December 9, 2018
- That was Pettersson’s fifth point of the game, making this his second five-point game of the season. To make it even more impressive, all five of his points were primary points, as each of his four assists were on the pass directly leading to a goal. That brings Pettersson up to 15 goals and 30 points in in 26 games and an 11-point lead in the rookie scoring race.
- The only other Canuck to ever have two five-point games in a season was Alexander Mogilny in 1995-96. No Canuck has ever had three five-point games in one season: your move, Pettersson.
- Pettersson’s rookie excellence has made the Canucks’ struggles this season pretty palatable for Canucks fans; not so for Blues fans, who erupted in St. Louis boos immediately after the final horn sounded. Unlike the Canucks, who were expected to be bad as they continue to rebuild, the Blues were supposed to be loading up for a long playoff run. Heck, the Buffalo Sabres have their 2019 first round pick from the O’Reilly trade, although it’s top-ten protected: the Sabres will get the 2020 pick if it’s in the top ten. That’s not a protection the Blues were expecting to need.
Tarasenko: “I apologize to all our fans. We can’t play at home like this. I don’t know how to fix it. We work on it but it doesn’t work for now.”— Jeremy Rutherford (@jprutherford) December 9, 2018
Steen: “Right now we’re not committed enough to what we want to accomplish”
Schenn: “We’re a fragile group. It comes with losing”