Sunday, October 31, 2021

Blues' 1-0 win over hapless Blackhawks proves NHL isn't an easy league

Krug scores, Binnington nets shutout in game Blues had 
to have, found a way to earn the bottom line: two points

ST. LOUIS -- It doesn't matter how you win them sometimes, just so as long as you win.

That's the bottom line.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues goalie Jordan Binnington (50) extends his legs to keep the puck out
of the net off the stick of Chicago's Brandon Hagel (38) on Saturday.

The Blues came into their Central Division rivalry with the Chicago Blackhawks confident with five wins in six games out of the gates, while their rivals to the North were on the brink of futility.

The Hawks were winless in their first eight games, the Blues won five of six. Naturally, the Blues win going away right?

Well, in the words of Lee Corso from ESPN's College Gameday: Not So Fast My Friend.

Yes, the Blues did win, but it was anything but easy, winning 1-0 Saturday night on a power-play goal by Torey Krug in the third period and the 25-save effort by Jordan Binnington.

They did improve to 6-1-0 on the season, while the Blackhawks, who have been hit with an influx of turmoil this past week stemming from the sexual allegations surrounding a video coach from the 2009-10 season and Black Aces prospect Kyle Beach, did set a franchise record with their ninth straight game to begin a season without a win (0-7-2).

The Blues outshot the Blackhawks 37-25 for the game and peppered Hawks goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, who made a number of quality saves throughout the contest to keep the Blackhawks in it and on the verge of possibly their first win, and who better to get it against than their most bitter rivals?

"I mean, Fleury’s playing well, I thought both teams played really well tonight," Blues coach Craig Berube said. "I said to you guys, it's always a challenge against Chicago. They're a competitive team against us."

They sure were on Saturday.

Chicago, which got blown out 6-3 at Carolina on Friday, would have loved nothing more than to get their first win of the season against the Blues and in their barn. Of course, they would have preferred to do this much sooner, but doing it against St. Louis would have really sent the spoils throughout the Gateway City, and given the Hawks the last laugh.

At least for one night.

But instead, the Blues, who have back-to-back shutouts over the Blackhawks the past two meetings and carry a 131:44 shutout streak against them, gutted out claimed what's most important here: two points.

"Obviously it was important for us to get this win tonight," Krug said. "'Binner' played a heck of a game and guys showed up and played pretty well defensively. We had to reward them on the power play and it was good."

Berube warned during the morning skate that this one wouldn't be easy, and for the most part, if not for Fleury, it wasn't easy. 

"It always has been since I've been here," Berube said. "You play Chicago and it's always a tough game. Fleury was really good tonight. Made a lot of big saves and when we need 'Binner' to make one, he made it."

Let's dissect this goalie matchup.

Fleury, the reigning Vezina Trophy winner last season with Vegas before unceremoniously being traded to the Blackhawks in the off-season, came in with a whopping 5.75 goals-against average and an .839 save percentage. Not exactly Vezina-worthy numbers. That's not even NHL backup worthy numbers. That's not even I-belong-in-the-AHL-worthy numbers.

But Fleury made a number of clutch and at times, dazzling saves. From getting to his right to thwarting Marco Scandella to kicking out Jordan Kyrou's effort also in the first period, to almost turning one of his own plays into a blunder but saved that potential mistake by robbing Ivan Barbashev and then Kyle Clifford in tight in the second period, Fleury was finally solved in the third period by none other than Krug, who scored when his thread-the-needle pass to Robert Thomas down low on the doorstep caromed off Blackhawks defenseman Seth Jones' stick and through Fleury's wickets at 7:25 of the third period.

"Sometimes you've got to get lucky to beat a good goaltender like that," Krug said. "He was seeing the puck, he did a great job of keeping his team in it. We just couldn't get too many by him. I was lucky to squeak one in and the power-play showed up and helped the team win.
"... I didn't like the way the power play ... we were just kind of passing the puck around and not getting anything at the net. ... I had to throw it there at the net and make a play."

It was all Binnington and the Blues would need. His best save of the night came when he kicked out the right pad to deny Diminik Kubalik on a breakaway just 1:28 into the second period.

"At that point in the game, Fleury was making some big saves," Binnington said. "We were kind of putting the pressure on them. He’s a goal scorer, coming down. Good shooter. Kind of just came out and challenged and played it. And stopped it. So it was good."

What helped Binnington most in his 25-save effort was not a ton of traffic around him throughout this game. The Blues did a solid job of sealing off the crease and slot area in front of their netminder.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Dakota Joshua (54) and the Blues had a hard time solving Blackhawks
goalie Marc-Andre Fleury (29) on Saturday night at Enterprise Center.

"Absolutely, yeah. I think certain teams are stronger at it," Binnington said. "Tonight I think we did a great job. Even penalty kill, seeing pucks, and 200-foot clears. 

"It’s good hockey right now we’re playing. It was a good homestand. And it’s time to get back on the road and keep winning."

Krug said after the morning skate that anybody can beat anyone in the NHL, and that was none more evident than on this night. Can't take anybody for granted, and the Blues don't feel like they did.

"I don't think we took them lightly," winger David Perron said. "We had a lot of shots, we drove the play for the most part and there are going to be nights like this where you find a way to get a few early, maybe it opens up the game and you end up scoring a lot of goals. Other nights, we have to find a way to win 1-0. I really liked how we stayed with our game for most of the night. We didn't give up that much, a couple chances at the end to kind of scare us there with a few seconds left, but for the most part, pretty good.

"It's not an easy league."

No comments:

Post a Comment