Blues Lose first Pre-season Game 5-2
This was Preseason hockey at its finest. The line-up was unknown till the last minute (kind of). They flew into Columbus that morning, no morning skate, and an AHL/Junior heavy roster. St. Louis was lucky the score was not greater. But to say that, you can also say they held their own.
While Pre-seasons games in and of themselves are hard to break down because wins and losses are not as important. Most coaches look at one or two things as focus points. We do that here. Instead of looking at the final score, let’s look at five individual areas that either are set or might just need a little work.
Number 5: Time to make a Good or Bad Impression.
The St Louis Blues, for the most part, took non-rostered and junior layers to let them make an impression. That they did. Some much better than others. James Neal, on a PTO, has dazzled in his two pre-season games with the Blues. While not on the score sheet in this game, he was all over the ice. Neal led the team with five shots and had 3 hits while on the ice for 16 minutes and 35 seconds, fourth among forwards.
On the “we chocked” side of the coin, goalie Joel Hoffer and forward Klim Kostin will need a do-over. Hoffer allowed three goals on 18 shots. More on this later. Kostin, who spent all of last season winning the championship in the KHL, was penalized in the first period for cross-checking. We know Kostin for his aggressiveness, but he has a tendency to take bad trips to the sin bin. Both the team and his fans would like to see him spend less time in the box.
Number 4: Shoot the Puck
In the first two preseason games, the Blues were light on shots in the first two periods of game one against the Minnesota Wild; the Note took 11 shots and 16 in the first two periods against the Dallas Stars. Blues’ head coach Craig Berube addressed the lack of shots in game one.
“We started to attack more, shoot more pucks on net.” Berube said at a post-game press conference.”In the first two periods I didn’t think that we had that kind of mentality.”
In game 3, against the Blue Jackets, the Note took 26 shots. one less than the first two periods of games one and two combined. Berube, a defensive-minded coach, has said in the past that the blues style was to wear teams down in the first two periods and take their shots in the third.
While the team was down after both the first and second periods, this was due more to the standout play of Blue Jacket starting goalie Daniil Tarasov and not the lack of Hitting. The Blues out-hit the Jackets 20-6 in the game. The poor play of our number three takeaway had a lot to do with the loss.
Number 3: Hofer’s poor play continues.
The Blues have knighted Joel Hofer, the goalie of the future. Both Blues and TNT Analyst Darren Pang and Blues radio color commentator Joe Vitale have said nothing but good things about Hoffer. During the Prospect Tournament’s first game, Hoffer let in some highly questionable goals.
Against the Blue Jackets, he did the same thing.
Boone Jenner the Jacket forward had an amazing stick handling backhand shot that found the back of the net. The shot might have surprised Hofer a bit, as it was created off a bad turnover in the neutral zone that allowed Bone to enter the Blues zones nearly uncontested.
Hofer was pulled midway through the second period after letting in a soft goal against Liam Foudy. Foudy a 21 y/o with 26 games of NHL experience and no goals and 5 assists, beat Hofer five-hole, again off a turnover.
Soooo saucy y'all 🥫 pic.twitter.com/Ndahqf3zw8
— Columbus Blue Jackets (@BlueJacketsNHL) September 30, 2021
Blues prospect, Colton Ellis and 27 y/o journeymen Charlie Lindgren could pass him up on the depth chart.
2. Are the special team really special?
Prior to last season, St. Louis was one of the better special team, teams. In 2021 the Blues finished with a 77.8 Pk %. The lowest the team had finished since 1988-89 when they complied a 76.7%. Through 3 preseason games, St. Louis is 5/7 for 71.4%.
The sample size is small, however, assistant coach Jim Montgomery has moved from the press box to the bench and will handle the Penalty Kill. With an emphasis being placed on special teams, improvement needs to be seen. Both Neal and Michael Frolik, both on PTOs, have experience and are known as special team experts.
The Power Play also has not shined through yet this postseason. Netting two goals in six attempts. Newly acquired Pavel Buchnevich and Jake Wallman in the last game have the power-play goals. Again it is a small sample size so the percentage of 33.3 looks better than it really is.
1. Who Will Make the cut and will the real Blues stand up.
Dakota Joshua wants to make this team! He used the Jackets game as a chance to show it. He had some fisticuffs with Jackets Tristan Mullins in the first.
He is not the only one. Jake Neighbors and Scott Perunovich have put their best skate forward during training camp.
The question now becomes who has earned it and is there room for them. Joshua could bring the toughness the Blues have been missing since they did not resign Pat Marron is 2019-20. Neal could be that solid veteran voice this locker room may be missing since former captain Alex Pietrangelo signed in Vegas.
St. Louis next faces the Chicago Blackhawks in a modified Home and Home. They will be in the United Center on Friday and play a “home” game in Independence MO on Saturday. This could be the last chance for the prospects to make the impression they want, and for the veterans to show just how close to game-ready they are.
Till Next time Hockey fans,
I am Bleeding Blue wit ya.
Guy “Hawaii Blues Fan” Bensing