Game 6 Preview. Blues vs Stars
As we enter Game six of the preseason. The St Louis Blues traveled to Dallas to take on the Stars. With just three preseason games remaining, this is the last chance for some players to make an impression and for others to solidify their spot on the team.
Both Jake Neighbors and Scott Perunovich have been turning heads during training camp. The two rookies are looking to crack the roster during the season. The Blues will use a veteran-laden lineup tonight against the southern team.
“Dallas will have a good lineup, too. It’s getting near the end,” Blues Head Coach Craig Berube said. “Teams will be playing a lot of their players like we are tonight. I’m looking to see how the combinations look and the chemistry and things like that, also our team game – the structure side of it.”
The teams met at Enterprise Center in St. Louis on Sept. 27, where Dallas jumped out to a 1-0 lead before newly acquired Pavel Buchnevich tied the game in the second period. Sam Anas, who they assigned to Springfield, won the game for the Blues with a goal 1:43 into overtime.
St. Louis is 3-2-0 going into the sixth game. While the record in the preseason doesn’t amount too much, how the team plays and what individuals can do will be looked upon with a concerning eye.
Below is a projected lineup for the game based on Tuesday’s morning skate. From NHL.com.
Niko Mikkola – Scott Perunovich
To help you watch the game just a bit better, here we preview the matchup and five things to look out for tonight.
1. The offense must click tonight
Through five games, St. Louis scored 17 goals for a 3.4 GPA. While this number looks good, it is mainly been against softer rosters. Some big names have yet to get on the score sheet, including O’Reilly, Parayko, and Perron.
Perron and O’Reilly were one and two in the points last season, respectively. Parayko was injured much of last season is looking to bounce back in 2021-22. In order for the Blues to be successful, these three players need to get on the score sheet in a positive manner.
In the first two games, the Blues were averaging 12 shots through the first two periods. While that number has gotten better in the last game against Chicago, they were only able to light the lamp once. The team shooting percentage of 10.1 needs to continue against better lineups.
2. It is all about the Defense in Big “D”
I’ve been monitoring a couple of Facebook groups, and in one, in particular, the defense or lack thereof has been talked about a lot. There have been a couple of posts about goaltending and, more specifically, about Binnington.
In each post when Binnington’s stats are mentioned, the next thing you see is “the defense really let him down” or “his numbers or more a reflection of the defense.” We will talk more about Binnington later, but some of this has merit.
Through five games, the team’s GAA is 3.14. The team has allowed 16 goals on 137 shots for a save percentage of .883. The 27.4 shots per game, while not bad, could be much better.
The additions of Saad and Buchnevich should help shore up the defense and limit some shots. One piece that has been surprising, has been Tarasenko. In the first game against Chicago, he was for checking and using his stick to remove passing lanes and still the puck.
Being on a line with Thomas and Saad should give him more opportunities to play two-way hockey.
3 Will the real Binnington please stand up.
Tonight will be the first night that the goalie plays the entire game. During preseason, when you are only playing a part of the game, your mentality changes. While playing Dallas, who could be considered a playoff team, Binnington needs to be Binnington.
Last season, Binnington had a 2.65 GAA which was 24th amongst goalies with a minimum of 17 games played. He also did not have a shut-outgr last season after getting five shutouts in his first 30 games.
Should the defense and Binnington find their grove, this could be a great game to watch.
4. Will the youngsters shine?
Neighbors, Joshua, Brown, Kostin, Perunovich, and, to some extent, Mikkola get their possibly last chance to shine tonight. The question is, will they? With the exception of neighbors and Mikkola the others should start in the AHL
Neighbors, who is 19, is ineligible for the AHL. It will not turn 20 until March 29, 2022. He can play nine games in the NHL and not loose a season of eligibility. He most likely will make the team and get to play those 9 games before being sent to his junior team.
The issue with sending him to the juniors is that he might not gain any experience playing amongst boys.
Mikkola, on the other hand, could be the seventh defenseman and while he has a much better upside than Jake Wallman, he needs more playing time with the big club. A good showing tonight could move him up the ranks and onto the bottom two pairing.
5. It is a 60 minute hockey game.
This has been something that has plagued the Blues for more than a year or two. They either start out really hot the first period or two and then collapse in the third. Or even worse but, flat-footed in the first and second and then play like wildfire in the third only to come up short.
The blues need to play a solid 60 minutes of hockey they need to be solid in all aspects offense, defense, special teams, and most importantly the neutral zone.
Too many times they catch the blues flat-footed in the offensive zone or they enter into the offensive zone along the boards and the defending team is ready for them quashing the rush. St. Louis needs to mix it up. Find better entries into the offensive zone and most importantly, make sure that passes through the neutral zone or to a player who is moving north and not standing still.
It is Show and Tell Time
One of my favorite parts of elementary school was show and tell. You never knew what someone was going to bring in, you just never knew how interesting or how dull it was.
Tonight, is the same thing, will be interesting and have the type of offense that the Blues will need to win the central division? Or will they be dull, on their heels, and trying to crawl out from behind? I look forward to seeing what the answers will be, and I hope you’ll join me on the pregame show, the BlueNote Fan Report.
Till Next time Hockey fans,
I am Bleeding Blue wit ya.
Guy “Hawaii Blues Fan” Bensing