Blues Double up Oilers with a complete win.
After an extended break, which saw ten days between games for the St. Louis Blues, the Edmonton Oilers and their number one power play invaded the Big E. It would take a complete effort from all aspects of the team to foil the Oiler’s start to their five-game road trip.
That effort got a slap in the face just before puck drop when it was announced that Pavel Buchnevich would be the second member of the vaunted Spetsnaz line to miss the game. They removed him for a Non-Covid related issue. He joined Ivan Barbashev in the infirmary. Barbashev had a positive Covid test on Dec 23rd.
The silver lining? Robert Thomas and Jordan Kyrou would be returning to the line-up joining the leader of the special forces assault team Vladimir Tarasenko. Tarasenko did just that. Netting a goal and three points, he led what we could describe as the best game the Blues have played all season.
The month of December had been a tumultuous one for the Note. Injuries, Covid, and cap Issues mounted for the team. Call-ups switch lines and a 29-year-old journeyman goalie later and the note finished the month with a 5-2-2 record for 12 points and a .666 points percentage.
Tarasenko and his line-mates combined to be all three stars, three goals, and seven points.
The Edmonton Oilers came into the matchup on a two-game winning streak after losing five straight. The Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl led team was poised to beat the Blues for a second time this season after handing the Blues a devastating last-minute loss 5-4 in November.
Normally after a long lay-off, defense and goaltending are the keys to a win. The Oilers’ net-minder Mike Smith was seeing only his fourth game in action this season after suffering an injury on October 19th. St. Louis’ number one goaltender Jordan Binnington was getting just his second start of the month after a positive Covid test kept him out of action.
Scoring first and holding that led into the second was going to be a priority for both teams. Edmonton had been 0-10-0 when trailing after the first period and 10-0-0 when scoring first and leading after the first 20 minutes. The Blues were 8-4-1 when scoring first and 7-1-2 when leading after one.
Tarasenko and the make-shift line kept the Oilers’ dismal losing when giving up the first goal streak alive. Just over four minutes into the contest, Kyrou pushed the puck into the zone, just on-sides, and both Tarasenko and Thomas got in front of the defense and Smith. After a quick game of catch, Tarasenko fed Thomas for a tap-in open net goal that left the oilers reeling for most of the contest.
— St. Louis Blues (@StLouisBlues) December 30, 2021
The helper extended Tarasenko’s point streak to four games. He was not done either. One minute and 56 seconds later Tarasenko, upon receiving the puck from behind the net from Torey Krug, sent a perfect outlet pass to a streaking Kyrou in the neutral zone. Using his speed and slick mitts, Kyrou slipped past the Edmonton defender and, gliding in one-on-one buried the Blues’ third shot of the game to give the boys a 2-0 lead.
— St. Louis Blues (@StLouisBlues) December 30, 2021
McDavid and Draisaitl fought back. Draisaitl cut the deficit in half with a brilliant shot that flew past Binnington. The German superstar pick up a drop pass at the blueline and move to the center of the ice where he fired a laser beam into the back of the net on just the sixth shot taken by Wayne Gretzky‘s first team. The league-leading and 50th point for Draisaitl let the teams enter the first break 2-1 Blues.
There was a collective groan from the arena as the Blues had yet again given up a two-goal lead for what seems like the ten-millionth time.
— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) December 30, 2021
Binnington, who was coming of a loss to the Winnipeg Jets in his first start back, channeled his inner Grant Fuhr and locked down the net from that point on. Stopping 26 of 28 shots, including three by the best power-play unit in the game. The Blues have turned away 19 of 20 Power Play attempts since allowing a third-period PP goal to the Tampa Bay Lightning on December 2nd.
Tied at two, the Tara-Senk-Show took over and with an almost undescribable move buried the eventual game-winner, his fourth this season and second in the last three games. His third point of the game gives him 32 for the season, putting him at a pace to be a point per game player.
The reinvention of Tarasenko has many in the fan base, thinking he could be taking some hardware home at the end of the season. Like the Blues’ second Selke winner maybe, or in a reach, their third Hart trophy recipient.
The Oilers have the best Power Play unit in the game; the Blues are third. Brandon Saad showed everyone why just .16 seconds into the third period. The first unit of Krug, Tarasenko, Saad, David Perron, and Capitan Ryan O’Reilly did not waste time. All five players touched the puck as Tarasenko sent a tape to tape to Perron, who moved it to O’Reilly for the one-timer. Saad was there to take out the garbage and a 4-2 lead.
The Blues enter 2022 leading the Western Conference in Points, as they will face the second-place Minnesota Wild in the Discover Winter Classic at Target Field in Minneapolis on New Year’s Day at 7 PM EST. This will be the first Winter Classic to feature the top two teams in a conference by points.
Till next time hockey fans,
Guy “Hawaii Hockey Fan” Bensing