Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Berube sticks with Binnington, goalie rewards coach with clutch performance

Fluky goals could have been enough by defending Cup champ Lightning 
to put Blues away, they rally from them to pull out improbable 4-3 shootout win

ST. LOUIS -- When the flukiest of goals that got past him, it was only natural for Jordan Binnington to give a quick glance to the bench after composing himself.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues goalie Jordan Binnington (right) makes a save during a 4-3 shootout
win over the Tampa Bay Lightning.

After all, when Erik Cernak's rim around of a puck following a face-off after a goal of all things that gave the Tampa Bay Lightning a 2-0 lead at the time, took a crazy bounce and found its way off Binnington's right leg and through him to give the Lightning a 3-0 lead and two goals allowed in five seconds, the natural reaction from the Blues bench would have been to get Binnington out, his fault or not.

"He’s our guy. We know that," Blues coach Craig Berube said of Binnington, who rebounded from the horrific start to the game and bounced back in a big way to help the Blues rally to a 4-3 shootout win. 

"There was no reason to pull him other than the momentum swing maybe for our team," Berube added. "But I didn’t want to take him out for that purpose. I didn’t feel that that was the right move. I can’t fault him on the goals, so I’m not going to pull him."

And regardless what restless fans may have thought at the time, even at one point giving Binnington a Bronx cheer after a harmless dump-in on goal, Binnington rewarded not only his team but his coach for the vote of confidence. 

The Tampa third goal came on their ninth shot. Tampa's remaining 24 shots in the game would not get past Binnington, who made several key stops, including what appeared to be a sure wraparound goal by Boris Katchouk in the second period and three saves in overtime when the Blues had to kill off a 4-on-3 shorthanded situation.

"It's part of life of being a goaltender," Binnington said. "It's not always going to go your way. The funny thing was I felt good and we were down 3-0 pretty quick. I just stayed with it and the mission was to try to give the team a chance to win and I think I did that. We really stepped up."

What was strange about the game was the Blues (12-7-3) fell behind 3-0 but really weren't playing poorly in doing so against the two-time defending Stanley Cup champs.

The first goal, scored by Anthony Cirelli, came off a puck that bounded high into the air, then it gets swatted down into the crease where a mad scramble ensued before being poked in at 2:02 of the first period.

Then the five goals in five seconds, a Lightning record, came when Corey Perry's power-play goal came at 5:24 on a one-timer that caromed off Cirelli, hit the post, fell back into a fortuitous spot for Perry, who was there to backhand the loose puck in for a 2-0 lead.

Then came the really crazy.

The Lightning would win the ensuing face-off, Ross Colton would get the puck back to Cernak. All the Lightning defenseman was doing was throwing it around the glass, but the puck hit a stanchion and took a crazy carom towards Binnington, who never located the puck and it squirted through after he finally located it too late.

"I was kind of trying to track it around the glass and I heard it hit the stanchion and I kind of didn't see it," Binnington said. "It's the first time that's happened to me. I get it now. 

"The boys really stepped it up and turned it around to a victory. That stuff's going to happen. It's good to see people stepping up for each other throughout the game."

That's all the Blues could do at that point.

"Yeah, that's just a bad bounce," Blues captain Ryan O'Reilly said. "You've got to give Binner credit for that. That's a tough one. There's nothing you can do, it’s just a bad bounce. And to shut the door like he did, he made some key saves, especially in the final second period. … That’s his win tonight. He deserved that one.

"The coaching staff was positive with us, had a good message of just sticking with it and build it up and knowing that there's a lot of game left. That's exactly what we did. I thought everyone did a good job of not being fazed. It's not what we wanted, but it's a long game. And we built it back up and some big plays by guys. That's what happens sometimes. Those are the hands that are dealt to you and you've got to find a way to win and tonight we did."

But Binnington, who improved to 5-0-0 against the Lightning in his career, was the one that had to rebound more than any other skater. It was up to him to pick the torch back up and carry it, which he did as soon as Berube chose not to pull him.

"The mindset was to stay in the fight and obviously I wanted to be there for the boys and be there for the coaches and just play hard and give the team a chance to win," Binnington said. "I'm happy that it came around tonight."

And when the players saw Binnington was giving them a chance, they rode the momentum of their No. 1 goalie.

"I think everyone's got confidence in 'Binner' and I think 'Chief', it was a great play," O'Reilly said. "We know what 'Binner' is like and the game he played after the bad bounces was just incredible. And that's tough to do. That's tough to do when things aren’t going your way, but he came in and won us that game tonight. I was very impressed by him."

O'Reilly started the rally scoring 3:15 of the second period off former Blues goalie Brian Elliott to make it a 3-1 game, and Logan Brown, the hometown kid playing in his first game with the Blues, snapped a wrister home from the left circle at 6:15 to make it 3-2 and the momentum shifted big time.

"Yeah, first goal was big," Binnington said. "Got people into it. The mindset was just chip away one shift at a time, one play at a time. 

"I think (Niko) Mikkola's hit at the end of the first period kind of gave us some energy and got the crowd into it a little bit on our side. I think that's a moment that would pop into my head."

And Ivan Barbashev completed the comeback with a power-play goal 1:11 into the third, and the game was on a level playing ground again at 3-3.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
The Blues didn't pull goalie Jordan Binnington (50) after they fell behind
3-0 to Ross Colton and the Tampa Bay Lightning. Binnington would go on
to stop Colton in the shootout and earn a 4-3 win.

But when the Blues killed the Lightning power play in overtime, with Binnington making three quality saves, including one on Alex Barre-Boulet, the momentum swung back for the shootout, and Binnington was perfect there, making saves on Perry and Ross Colton to end it after Victor Hedman hit the post on Tampa Bay's first shootout attempt.

O'Reilly's goal in the shootout was enough for the Blues to win it.

"We had resiliency tonight for sure," Berube said. "Came out in the second and played a real good period, got us back in the game. And then that big power play goal in the third. Really good penalty kill obviously in the third, too, and in overtime. Those are big things. Special teams did a good job. 

"I thought 'Binner' did a hell of a job. It’s tough. A couple of their goals are a little bit lucky. But that happens. I thought our guys stuck with it and ended up coming out with a victory."

(11-30-21) Lightning-Blues Gameday Lineup

ST. LOUIS -- The Blues thought they had an arrangement where they'd be able to play 12 forwards and six defenseman, and a full, healthy lineup.

Then the injury bug hit and now, COVID-19 protocols came calling again. This, on top of recent injuries to David Perron (upper body), James Neal (undisclosed) and Klim Kostin (upper body) that had them scrambling to make recalls.

Now, Tyler Bozak is the latest to be placed in COVID protocol, which the Blues did on Tuesday, meaning the veteran center will miss today's 7 p.m. game (ESPN+, HULU, 101.1-FM) against the Tampa Bay Lightning (12-5-3).

Bozak becomes the seventh Blue this season to get hit by the COVID-19 protocol list, joining Brandon Saad, Ryan O'Reilly, Kyle Clifford, Ville Husso, Torey Krug and Niko Mikkola.

"It's tough," Blues coach Craig Berube said. "We lose a player. I'm sure it's obviously tough on Tyler Bozak too. ... It's throughout the league and it's going to be part of the every day in the NHL."

"It's just the reality of pro sports these days," forward Brayden Schenn said. "Obviously the injury part has always kind of been there, but the COVID part, you never know when it's going to sneak up on you. You kind of can do things around the room to try and help your case and not get COVID at the same time. You can't control it. Hopefully 'Bozie' is OK. As far as I know, he's at the rink and stuff. He's fine and hopefully just the 10 days and we'll have him back sometime soon."

It means with the Blues already having to scramble to manage the salary cap ceiling with recent recalls of Dakota Joshua and Logan Brown, who makes his Blues debut tonight, to fill voids by Neal and Kostin, who were recently placed on long-term injured reserve, they'll have to go with 11 forwards and seven defensemen again tonight as they did Saturday in a 6-3 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

"It doesn't complicate things up front," Berube said. "We have forwards that want to play, handle the minutes and stuff like that, so that's not a problem. It gets complicated on the back end with juggling seven D for sure. Mike does a good job with it. It is what it is. You've got to deal with it and that's what we'll do.

"I do believe that (the forwards benefit from it). They're going out there. I rotate different guys in there and I go by what I'm seeing and the line combinations and stuff like that. Forwards are always jumping in there for an extra shift, which they love."

It means veteran defenseman Marco Scandella, who appeared to be headed towards healthy scratch status prior to the Bozak news, will be in as the seventh defenseman tonight.

- - -

Speaking of Schenn, he talked for the first time since the upper-body injury that sidelined him for 20 days (missed a total of nine games) after initially injuring himself Oct. 30 against the Chicago Blackhawks. He played the next game and first period Nov. 4 in San Jose before departing before returning to the lineup Nov. 24 at Detroit.

"It's good. It's taken time," Schenn said. "It's not easy missing three weeks and not even practicing with the guys because they're playing so much hockey, so you're jumping right back into it. It's just timing and legs and still continue to battle. Just going to continue to focus on the little things and getting better game by game myself personally.

"I'm still dealing with it, so I'm not going to speak to it. No need for anyone else knowing about it."

The Blues sent Schenn home from that West Coast trip in California and there was some concern initially the injury could be long term but that wasn't the case.

"It definitely always could have been worse," Schenn said. "It was one of those things where it was just a freak play. First guy goes back and (Alex) DeBrincat's stick got caught in my skate and really nothing you can do about it. The worst part about it was sliding into fresh ice into the boards. I kind of turned last second. It definitely could have been worse. Still missing time there and still going to continue to battle here and try and help the guys win hockey games."

But with Schenn admitting he's not completely over the injury, one had to wonder how the team reacted when he fought Jake McCabe last Friday in Chicago following the hit that sent Perron out of the game.

"Injury aside, if I'm in the game, I can do a few things like that," Schenn said. "Obviously with 'DP' going down, he's been a guy that's been a great player for us for the past three or four years here, a guy that really lays it on the line for us. It's just part of my job to stick up for teammates. It doesn't have to be me all the time. In that instance it was and 'DP', I've enjoyed playing with him, and I'm sure he'd do the same for me if he wasn't happy with the hit. Hopefully he's back here soon and we definitely miss him in our lineup."

Schenn has been in a few scraps in his time, and with brother Luke Schenn in the league and dad Jeff, a firefighter back home in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, there's always some banter going on between the Schenns in these cases.

"I don't see me, my dad or my brother as feisty people or kind of on edge," Schenn said. "That's not the way we are. It just kind of comes out when we play hockey. It's just kind of our DNA that we've done, me and my brother have done since we've been 16 years old. Not much critiquing. Luke's a lefty. he's a lot bigger and stronger than me. He's fought a lot of tougher guys than I have. Usually a good job or good fight and sometimes you are going to get beat and still, it's still a good job or good fight because realistically, it's never fun getting in a fight. It's just part of it."

- - -

Forward Oskar Sundqvist will play in his eighth game since returning from ACL surgery and surgeries on both hips. He has two assists in seven games and will continue to be called upon to take on bigger roles and play more minutes each time he takes the ice.

"I wouldn't say it's 100 percent back yet," Sundqvist said. "I still think I'm over-skating a couple of situations and stuff like that, kind of rushing into it instead of taking it slow and maybe reading a play and stuff like that. Almost like I'm a little too eager to get into situations and the puck goes back the other way. Just need to find that to be a little bit more calmer in some situations and not over-skating it, but other than that, it feels pretty good. 

"I haven't played in a while. We kind of got new systems here and there in some areas of the game. That's where you practice it, during preseason and training camp and (I) missed that. Trying to look at all the videos we have about it, it's not the same. You have to be out there and practicing it and feel it to get into it. I knew that was going to take a while to get into. Basically a whole new PK system too, but it feels like it's coming and just need to keep working at those details."

Sundqvist said the hips will be the things to continue to keep an eye on, with soreness to be expected after conferring with doctors.

"After back to back (games), it's pretty sore," Sundqvist said. "I talked to the doctor in New York about it too and he said it's going to be feeling sore for almost six months after I'll be back. It's going to take a while still and the soreness still is going to be there for almost this whole season. I'm not worried about it, but when it feels good, it feels really good. Hopefully we can keep managing them and make them feel good."

- - -

Tonight marks a matchup of the past two Stanley Cup champions, with the Blues winning in 2019 and the Lightning as two-time defending champs.

The Blues were used to being the standard as defending champs and getting everyone's best shot each time they took the ice. Now the Lightning are in those shoes, and the Blues want to get back to being that standard.

"I think all the teams are looking at what the winning teams are doing, the previous Stanley Cup champions," Sundqvist said. "Obviously you can't copy everything because you don't have the same players as the other teams, but try to kind of modify it a little bit and see what they're doing to be successful. Obviously we've been looking a little bit at Tampa and what they're doing. Ever since I've been here, Tampa games have been really fun. It's been a lot of fast pace out there. It's going to be really fun (tonight) too.

"It's obviously impressive. They have a really good team over there and they've figured it out after struggling the previous years before that with the playoffs. When they figured it out after they win that first one, they just kept rolling on that one and understand what they had to do to win hockey games and win championships. They know what to do; I think we know what to do too. I think it's going to be interesting to see (tonight)."

"They've been a really goods team for a long time; we all know that," Berube said. "They never won before (recently). They got to the finals against Chicago the one year (2015), but they always had a great nucleus of the core, the goalie, the defensemen, Kucherov, Stamkos, Point now. Same coach, Coop's been a coach there for quite some time and has done a great job. His team is really consistent year in year out, they're right there all the time. It's not easy to win in this league. You get beat, but they definitely put it together the last two years. They're a heck of a hockey team, so it's a good challenge for us. We've got them back to back coming up here, home and away. Our guys, we're looking forward to it, we're excited."

Saad won with the Blackhawks in 2015 against the Lightning and knows the feeling.

"Being a part of winning teams, it's always you're going to get the teams' best night," Saad said. "Even when the Blues won, we remember playing them thinking we want to give them a good hockey game and you want to bring your best every night. Especially playing the (two-time) defending Cup champs, you want to bring your 'A' game. It's important games for us. Obviously for them, they're going to get every team's best, which makes the grind even tougher. It's definitely a measuring stick for us."

- - -

* The Blues have won the past four matchups with the Lightning, who they will face again Thursday in Tampa before back to back matchups with the Florida Panthers, giving the Blues an all-Florida look the next four games.

* Goalie Jordan Binnington, who gets the start tonight, is 4-0-0 with a 1.72 goals-against average and .945 save percentage with one shutout in his career against the Lightning.

* Center Robert Thomas has 12 points (one goal, 11 assists) the past 10 games.

* Winger Pavel Buchnevich has 13 points (seven goals, six assists) the past 11 games, including six points (four goals, two assists) in a three-game point streak.

- - -

The Blues' projected lineup:

Brayden Schenn-Ryan O'Reilly-Jordan Kyrou 

Pavel Buchnevich-Robert Thomas-Vladimir Tarasenko

Brandon Saad-Oskar Sundqvist-Ivan Barbashev

Dakota Joshua-Logan Brown

Torey Krug-Justin Faulk

Niko Mikkola-Colton Parayko

Scott Perunovich-Robert Bortuzzo

Marco Scandella

Jordan Binnington will start in goal; Ville Husso will be the backup.

The healthy scratch is Jake Walman. David Perron (upper body), James Neal (undisclosed) and Klim Kostin (upper body) are out. Tyler Bozak is in COVID-19 protocol.

- - -

The Lightning's projected lineup:

Ondrej Palat-Steven Stamkos-Alex Barre-Boulet

Alex Killorn-Anthony Cirelli-Gabriel Fortier

Pat Maroon-Pierre-Edouard Bellemare-Corey Perry

Boris Katchouk-Ross Colton-Taylor Raddysh

Victor Hedman-Jan Rutta

Ryan McDonagh-Zach Bogosian

Mikhail Sergachev-Erik Cernak

Brian Elliott will start in goal; Andrei Vasilevskiy will be the backup. 

Healthy scratches include Cal Foote and Sean Day. Brayden Point (upper body), Nikita Kucherov (lower body), Mathieu Joseph (undisclosed) and Gemel Smith (lower body) are out.

Monday, November 29, 2021


Perron returns to rink, not skating however, doubtful for Tuesday; 
Brown to make Blues debut; Scandella could be a healthy scratch

ST. LOUIS -- The good news for David Perron is that he was at the rink Monday.

The bad news for David Perron is he didn't practice, which means he is doubtful for Tuesday's heavyweight matchup against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Perron, who was injured in the first period of a 3-2 overtime loss against the Chicago Blackhawks after he was hit by Blackhawks defenseman Jake McCabe, hitting his head on the plexiglass behind him. 

"He came in today, did some light workout stuff, but that's where he's at right now," Blues coach Craig Berube said. "Nobody knows, right? The only person that knows is the person himself. We'll see what happens with that."

Perron, who has 18 points (seven goals, 11 assists) in 20 games, skated off on his own but left the ice and did not return; he also missed Saturday's 6-3 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Perron, who has a history of concussions and/or concussion-like symptoms, is officially day to day but the fact he's around the rink already and doing things is a good sign this one may not be as serious as previous ones.

"Yeah, right now," Berube said. "I really don't talk to him day to day and ask him how he is because if that was me and I were to be in his shoes, that would be irritating. I let him do his thing, I talk to Ray Barile, the trainer, he gives reports on him and I more or less talk to David, just small talk, right?"

The Blues have the luxury of filling the need of a top-six forward on the wing with Perron out. Natural center Brayden Schenn has done this before, moving to the wing out of necessity, and did so again Saturday moving up and playing with Ryan O'Reilly and Jordan Kyrou.

"With Perron out and stuff, that changes things a little bit," Berube said. "O'Reilly and Schenn have played together before and they've done well. I want to keep using 'Sunny' as much as I can in the middle of the ice. I think it's easier for him right now with his injuries and things like that; they're not injured anymore, but just coming (back). He is good down the middle, he does a good job of defensive side of things and stuff like that. But I've got options with Schenn and we'll just see how it goes. I like that line, (Oskar) Sundqvist, (Ivan) Barbashev and (Brandon) Saad. When guys come back, I'll have to move guys around again, but I do like that line."

Sundqvist has two assists in seven games since returning from ACL surgery and surgeries to both hips, but Berube finds it more beneficial to keep Sundqvist down the middle rather than on the wing, which he's also done in the past.

"He can kind of stay on the move a little more, be more in the middle of the ice, but him and 'Barby' are kind of a hybrid, they take draws on whatever side," Berube said. "It's kind of a good luxury to have, two centermen that can take draws and both play center."

* Brown to make Blues debut -- St. Louisan Logan Brown appears set to make his Blues debut on Tuesday.

Brown, 23, recalled from the Springfield Thunderbirds of the American Hockey League on Sunday after the Blues put Klim Kostin (upper-body) on long-term injured reserve, skated on a line with Tyler Bozak and Dakota Joshua.

Brown, the 11th pick in the 2016 NHL Draft who was acquired from the Ottawa Senators along with a 2022 conditional pick for Zach Sanford on Sept. 25, put up 17 points (six goals, 11 assists) in 19 games in Springfield.

Brown was sent to the AHL out of camp, and Berube cited that he wanted to see Brown gain his confidence back and it appears he has.

"He looked more confident to me," Berube said. "He looked stronger than he did at training camp, he looked quicker, more direct with the puck. It was good stuff. He's played really well down there. I'm looking forward to seeing him.

"... I don't know if you tell him how you want him to play, I think you let the kid play the way he's capable of playing, but you've got to play the system and how we want to play more than anything. He's a big body. We like to forecheck, get on the forecheck, use your big body. He's got good hands, he's always had good hands and use your ability when you get the puck in the offensive zone to get to the net and things like that. A big body like that, you shoukd be at the net a lot, rebounds and things like that. He has the capability of scoring in those situations because of his hands."

* Scandella to sit? -- Based on line rushes and defensive pairings Monday at practice, veteran defenseman Marco Scandella could be on the outside looking in.

Scandella was paired with Jake Walman as the extra d-pairing in practice with Niko Mikkola and Colton Parayko skating as one pair, Torey Krug and Justin Faulk as another and Scott Perunovich and Robert Bortuzzo as the third d-pairing.

The 31-year-old Scandella has four assists in 21 games this season but no points in the past 15 games and is a minus-5 in that stretch.

"That's a decision I'll make tomorrow," Berube said. "It's possible."

Sunday, November 28, 2021

Berube lights into Blues; they respond accordingly in 6-3 win over Blue Jackets

Coach didn't like what he saw in the first period, let his voice be known; players 
get message; Buchnevich, Barbashev, Tarasenko, Thomas lead way offensively

ST. LOUIS -- The horn just blew on the first period Saturday between the Blues and Columbus Blue Jackets and Craig Berube was seething.

The Blues' coach wouldn't discuss his exact words to his team, which trailed 1-0 at the time, but let's just say there were likely a few expletives thrown in there.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Pavel Buchnevich (89) gets a shot off on Columbus goalie Joonas Korpisalo
in the Blues' 6-3 win over the Blue Jackets Saturday. 

"It was pretty simple," Blues forward Ivan Barbashev said. "Just turnovers, not skating enough. It was a really simple message. But some players had to say something and we did turn around."

Let's just say the message got through loud and clear.

The Blues, who were finishing up a grueling part of their schedule playing their 12th game in 21 days, made the most of the remaining 40 minutes. They played with a purpose, and those Grade A chances they'd been getting lately that hadn't gone into the net, went in Saturday, with Pavel Buchnevich and Barbashev leading the way scoring goals, and Vladimir Tarasenko throwing in three helpers for the 'Russian Express' in a 6-3 win over the Blue Jackets at Enterprise Center.

The Blues (11-7-3) had just returned home after a tough 3-2 overtime loss in Chicago against the Blackhawks 24 hours earlier, a game in which they coughed up a 2-0 first-period lead and to make matters worse, lost David Perron in the game to a likely concussion.

But the manner in which the Blues lost, not burying scoring opportunities and making the inopportune mistakes, is what's been a trend the past 15 games, making that franchise record five-game winning streak to begin the season a distant memory.

But that trend continued in the first period. The Blues were obviously not skating. They were turning pucks over, they were not moving it out of the zone, Columbus was all over them with little resistance and two minor penalties didn't sit well with the coaching staff. So Berube had one of his moments where he needed to be heard.

And loudly too.

"Well, we needed something," the coach said. "In the first period, we got clearly outskated. Coming out, this game at home, we can't start like that.

"... We took two penalties, no reason for it. Ended up scoring on one of them. We got outskated in the first period. That's what it really boils down to."

Berube had his say, and the players did the rest, with their voices and their actions.

"Yeah, we had conversations with players and with Chief," Tarasenko said. "We can’t start like this, especially at home. Last few games, like, we lose one, win one. We should be more consistent. And that’s what we were talking about. Like especially at home, we have to start harder. I think we played well last two periods and found a way to win a game."

It started fast and furiously in the second, and the onslaught was precise.

Buchnevich, who had two goals and an assist giving him 13 points (six goals, seven assists) the past 11 games, scored 58 seconds into the second to tie the game and Barbashev scored 58 seconds later at 1:56 to give the Blues a 2-1 lead.

They never looked back from there.

"I think it was huge for us to get those two quick goals, especially in the first five minutes," Barbashev said. "That's what we've been told, to have a really good start in the second period. And yeah, it looks like since then, we did turn the game around."

Jordan Kyrou continued the second-period onslaught with a breakaway goal, set up by a sweet feathery feed from Ryan O'Reilly, to make it 3-1, a period in which the blues peppered Columbus goalie Joonas Korpisalo, who kept the game within striking distance with several quality saves, with 17 shots.

"Yeah, we had a ton of them in the second and we didn't get much out of it, but that's the style of hockey we're capable of playing," Berube said. "... It was a great second and third period. We're a dangerous team if we want to play that way."

The game got a little dicey when Adam Boqvist, Columbus' young and talented offensive blue liner acquired in a trade from the Blackhawks for Seth Jones, scored a power-play goal to cut the lead to 3-2. 

That was the moment in which the Blues in recent weeks have crumbled and given up leads, and precious points, in the third period, when they couldn't put a game away. This time, they continued to press instead of sitting back and allowing the opposition to attack with momentum.

Justin Faulk scored from the slot off a sweet feed from Robert Thomas, and Buchnevich and Barbashev each netted a goal to put the game well out of reach.

Which begs the question of why can't this Blues version show up more often? And more often on a more consistent basis?

"I think the challenge is we see it a lot, but it's not consistently for 60 minutes enough," Berube said. "It's hard to play perfect hockey for 60 minutes, but it's not hard to work and compete for 60 minutes, and if you work and compete for 60 minutes, you're going to get good results most times. The work and the compete have to be there for 60 minutes. Now, mistakes happen. Decision-making sometimes you make the wrong decision at times and you might get burnt by it or whatever, but the work and the compete, if they're there, we'll be fine."

The Blues finished this grueling stretch of games 4-6-2. Not exactly what they wanted or needed, but there were stretches of play, like the final 40 minutes, that shows just how good they can be, even with players missing (Perron, James Neal and Klim Kostin) from the lineup.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues defenseman Niko Mikkola (left) lays a hit on Columbus forward
Gustav Nyquist during action Saturday at Enterprise Center.

"We've been having a tough time last couple games, we didn't play great, I think it was time to turn around things and play simple, hard, and that's what we did in the second and it looks like the game turned around and it was good to win the game," Barbashev said. "Yeah, it's been tough. For sure. It's been tough, but I think if we will keep playing the same way the next few games, it'll be really nice."

Not just the next few games, but the each time out. It would make this group tough to beat.
"Like I said the consistency is like the biggest question for us," Tarasenko said. "We need to obviously win more games but play better, play full 60 minutes. That’s what we’re talking about working on."

A day of rest on Sunday, followed by a practice day on Monday, something the Blues haven't had since the start of November, getting two days off between games, will help kickstart the next tough stretch of games against Floridian teams Tampa Bay and Florida.

"Well, we need it, the guys need a day off and then we need a good practice and then we got Tampa," Berube said.

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

(11-24-21) Blues-Red Wings Gameday Lineup

A full and healthy lineup.

In late November, that sounds almost like a dream, but for the Blues (10-6-2), who open a two-game Thanksgiving trip today at 6:30 p.m. against the Detroit Red Wings (8-9-3), they will have a full lineup of players at their disposal with the return of center Brayden Schenn, who missed nine games with an upper-body injury.

Schenn, who coach Craig Berube said lobbied to play in Monday's 5-2 win against Vegas at home, was originally injured Oct. 30 against the Chicago Blackhawks but was able to play in the next game and period before departing after the first period in San Jose Nov. 4.

"Really good to see him back," Berube said. "He pushed even last game too, but we held him out. He's good to go. Listen, he's a very good player for us, two-way player. We know that. He can provide offense for us, but he plays a hard game and does a lot of things for us. We're excited to have him back."

Schenn will center a line with Jordan Kyrou and Brandon Saad.

"He's obviously an important player for us," right wing David Perron said of Schenn, who has six points (three goals, three assists) in nine games. "He brings a lot of that physicality as well that we definitely need to have every single night. It's great to have. He's another guy that can score a lot of goals for us too. We're pretty deep right now. You can tell in our lines with him back."

Defenseman Torey Krug added, "I've said time and time again he's an emotional leader for us. We miss his physicality, his scoring touch. He does everything for us, so he's a jack of all trades. To have him back in the lineup, it's a big step for our group and for our consistency down the middle. Our team got better today by putting him in the lineup. It's a great player obviously for us."

The Blues have two guys that have been dinged up, including defenseman Robert Bortuzzo, who missed Monday's game but was on the ice for an optional skate Tuesday, and forward James Neal, who Berube said will get a maintenance day Wednesday and not play.

"More maintenance but he kind of aggravated himself a little bit so I told him to just get off," Berube said of Neal, who skated during Wednesday's morning skate.

But having all their players basically good to go at a moment's notice serves well for the team as it looks to wrap up a challenging November with their 10th game in 18 days.

"It's a balanced lineup," Berube said. "We moved some guys around because we had to with Schenn back. It's fine. It's good. I think it's always healthy and I think it's always good to have moving parts in your lineup and doesn't get stale that way. It's just more balance with 'Schenner' back down the middle of the ice, we're pretty strong in my opinion. That's a good position to be deep in."

"It's not something we worry too much about," Perron said. "We just go about our business, but definitely when you get everyone in there, it's something we can build here. We look to come out solid against Detroit tonight and put in a full 60 minutes. You want to have every single guy available and everyone can get going, do their thing out there and it's great."

- - -

Speaking of Perron, he enters Wednesday's game with no goals in his past 13 but does have nine assists, including five in the past three games.

Perron scored six goals in five games to begin the season but hasn't been able to find the net since scoring an empty-netter against the Los Angeles Kings in a 3-0 win Oct. 25.

Perron does have 28 shots on goal in the past 13 games, including four each in the past two games.

"I have for sure. At times, I haven't shot it well, at times the puck's rolling right in front of the pass when it's coming to me, at times the goalie's made a great save," Perron said. "I think I had a tap-in in Dallas coming my way when Jordan passed me the puck and the guy lifted my stick last second. Those are the moments that happen. It's going to happen. Throughout the year, 82 games, we haven't done that in three years really. It's quite different just the travel, everything that goes with it. I've just got to stay with it."

- - -

It's a homecoming for Krug, who was born and grew up in nearby Livonia, Mich., roughly 20 miles west-northwest of Detroit.

"Twenty-five minutes," Krug said. "We were able to last night have a Thanksgiving dinner. My first time in a long time. To see my nieces and nephews, my brothers, my parents, it was great.

"We did the whole spread. Nice to get mom's cooking again."

Krug grew up a Red Wings fan.

"Yeah, I sure did," he said. "The teams I grew up watching were great. Obviously a few Stanley Cups sprinkled in there. A lot of talented hockey players, Hall of Famers. It was a very easy time to be a Red Wings fan. Always enjoy coming back here.

"(Nicklas) Lidstrom was an easy guy for me being a defenseman, (Steve) Yzerman and his leadership style was something I admired as well and (Pavel) Datsyuk's creativity, those are the three guys out of many, many."

Krug would go on to play college hockey at Michigan State before being undrafted but signed as a free agent with the Boston Bruins March 25, 2012. 

And although the family grew up with Red Wings ties, there will be Krug fans in the stands at Little Caesar's Arena tonight.

"Always Torey Krug jerseys," Krug said. "Very loyal friends and family. There's a lot of familiar faces. It's always a fun one for me to come back and see some familiar faces in the crowd."

- - -

Speaking of homecoming's, it's not a homecoming for Robby Fabbri, but the former Blues first round pick will finally get to face his former teammates for the first time since he was traded to Detroit Nov. 8, 2019 for Jacob de la Rose.

The Red Wings were supposed to visit St. Louis March 31, 2020 but when the season was canceled due to COVID-19 on March 12, that homecoming never materialized, and since it was a season last year of only divisional games, the Blues and Red Wings never faced off.

"It's going to be my first time playing them since getting traded," Fabbri said in a Zoom call to Detroit reporters Tuesday. "It's definitely going to be different. It'll be nice to see a bunch of them for dinner tonight and catch up with them. I'm very excited. I had this one circled early in the year.

"I think we were going to St. Louis in a week or two when the season got canceled and then last year we weren't playing them. 

"Long overdue. ... They've changed quite a bit there, but they're still a good group that I was with for the majority of my time, so it will be nice to see them."

Fabbri, who was the 21st pick in the 2014 NHL Draft, was part of the Blues' Stanley Cup-winning squad in 2019 but never got on track quite like he would have wanted to after missing a season and a half because of a torn ACL twice in his left knee.

"That's not something you'll ever forget, right," Fabbri said of winning the Cup. "It's something that we'll share together as a team and as a group that was there when we won. Old news, but that's something that's not easy to forget."

There are many Blues players still on the roster that played with Fabbri and got together with him for dinner Tuesday.

"He's doing well," Perron said. "I think he enjoys it here. It's a big season for him, and I also think putting finally past those injuries that he had with us, he can look to build his game from there and it was great to see him last night when some of us had dinner with him."

Fabbri had 73 points (32 goals, 41 assists) in 164 regular-season games with the Blues and 16 points (five goals, 11 assists) in 30 playoff games. Since joining the Red Wings, he has 57 points (27 goals, 30 assists) in 102 regular-season games in two-plus seasons.

"You always want the best for your players that move on," Berube said. "Things happen in the game. It's a business, but we always wish him well and it's good to see 'Fabbs' playing and doing well."

- - -

The Blues are looking to win consecutive games for the first time since winning five in a row to open the season.

Consistency has been the greatest challenge the past 13 games, with the team going 5-6-2 in those games, but there's been some games where points were left on the table.

They want to try and follow up a solid performance from Monday's 5-2 win against the Golden Knights.

"If everyone could do it, there would be a lot of teams collecting a lot of points throughout the season and schedule," Krug said. "That's the secret. We've got to find a way to bottle it up and use it as long as you can and more so than not, I think if you're happy with the style of hockey that you're playing, you're going to end up collecting points and winning hockey games. Even the ones you lose, you can feel good about the way that you played. I think the consistency factor will help us collect points and we obviously have to start doing that because this time of year, they're hard to get because teams are trying to win."

Are the Blues happy with the style of hockey they're playing? It depends, according to Krug.

"Yes and no," he said. "There's a little bit of a natural maturation process where we have some guys stepping up and playing more minutes this year and in big roles. This team has to learn how to win in multiple different ways. A couple of those games here in the past, they were there for us for the taking and we didn't get the job done, but we have to grow and continue to develop and this team has to learn how to win. So yes and no to your question."

- - -

Tonight's matchup will be the first between the Blues and Red Wings since a 5-4 Blues win in overtime Oct. 27, 2019 when Perron scored the OT winner.

"They're a Stanley Cup team, they're a Stanley Cup coaching staff and they've earned that credibility and that confidence," Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said on a Zoom call Tuesday. "They've got a real good roster still. Obviously, some pieces have moved in and out but the pieces they've moved in are really good pieces.

"They're a really good team, we know that. There's certainly challenges in playing any of these teams you haven't played in a long time. This is a little different because I don't think their style has changed since the last time we played them. It's the same coach. It's a real similar preparation. We know what we're going to get (tonight). It's going to be a matter of who goes out and executes better."

- - -

The Blues' projected lineup:

Ivan Barbashev-Ryan O'Reilly-David Perron

Brandon Saad-Brayden Schenn-Jordan Kyrou

Pavel Buchnevich-Robert Thomas-Vladimir Tarasenko

Klim Kostin-Tyler Bozak-Oskar Sundqvist

Marco Scandella-Colton Parayko

Torey Krug-Justin Faulk

Niko Mikkola-Scott Perunovich

Ville Husso will start in goal; Jordan Binnington will be the backup. 

Healthy scratches include Jake Walman and Robert Bortuzzo. James Neal is day to day with an undisclosed injury. 

- - -

The Red Wings' projected lineup:

Tyler Bertuzzi-Dylan Larkin-Lucas Raymond

Robby Fabbri-Pius Suter-Filip Zadina

Vladeslav Namestnikov-Michael Rasmussen-Adam Erne

Givani Smith-Joe Veleno-Sam Gagner

Jordan Oesterle-Moritz Seider

Nick Leddy-Filip Hronek

Dan Renouf-Gustav Lindstrom

Alex Nedeljkovic is projected to start in goal; Thomas Greiss would be the backup.

The healthy scratch is Carter RowneyTroy Stecher (wrist), Mitchell Stephens (lower body) and Marc Staal (illness) are out. Danny DeKeyser was placed in COVID-19 protocol before the game.

Monday, November 22, 2021

This time, Blues don't allow Golden Knights to walk over them in 5-2 win

Falling behind 2-0 early usually recipe for disaster against rush team 
that thrives off puck possession; Blues reverse trend, lock down game

ST. LOUIS -- It felt like a snowball was about to mount into an avalanche.

The Vegas Golden Knights thrive off these things, and the Blues, who had won just one of their previous six games, were vulnerable to another defeat.

Not this time.
(St. Louis Blues/Scott Rovak)
Ryan O'Reilly (right) got the Blues going against Shea Theodore and the
Vegas Golden Knights with the first of five unanswered goals.

Vegas has been known to pounce when they get the momentum on the Blues, and they use their siege to put teams on their heels.

"They put you on your heels as much as any team in the league I think," Blues coach Craig Berube said. "Probably them and Colorado for me because we play them a lot, see them a lot. They come at you all the time in waves. You've got to be on your toes, you've got to check well and you've got to manage the puck against them."

The Blues didn't do any of it early, and fell in a two-goal hole less than seven minutes in. 

Uh, oh. 

But this time things turned, and not for the worse. The Blues scored five unanswered in a 5-2 win on Monday at Enterprise Center, keeping with their recent theme of play well, play poorly, play well. That's hot the three recent games went and even stretches of the games prior to the past three.

At 10-6-2, the Blues have played some good hockey this season, but they've also played some wonky games as well. Thanks to their franchise-record five-game winning streak to start the season, they're where they are but in the past 13, they're just 5-6-2, which doesn't sound great.

However you look at it, they sit just one point off first place in the Central Division and in a good spot ... as long as they can string some good games in a row together.

"You just can’t get complacent," said Blues center Tyler Bozak, who scored his first of the season to tie the game 2-2 in the first period. "I think you've got to keep working hard. You've got to keep focusing on the little things out there that make us successful working as a team, playing well defensively. Sometimes when you win a few games in a row, it starts to seem like it’s getting easy and you try things that you normally wouldn’t or try to make plays that you know you shouldn’t because things have been going well. That’s something we've got to get away from."

The Blues, who received goals from Ryan O'Reilly, Bozak, Justin Faulk, Brandon Saad and Niko MIkkola Monday, feel as if they know what they have. They have a hard-working team with no superstars, or game-breakers, that have to work in unison to get results.

"Some of those (recent) losses, I thought we played pretty well, but you make a mistake at the wrong time and I talked about timely saves, they're important," Blues coach Craig Berube said. "Those things are really important. I thought three of the games were right there for us, whether we go into overtime or we win the game and we made a mistake and we ended up losing the game. I think that we've got work to do, we've got to keep improving. I think we can still be more consistent with what we're doing with our game and stay on it and stay on it and keep pushing like the third period tonight. I would have liked to come out and really made a push right away in the third period. That's what I thought we should have done, we didn't do it and we let them kind of push us. So there's still things we need to improve on."

The Blues fell behind 1-0 just 36 seconds into this one on a Chandler Stephenson goal, then were down 2-0 when Reilly Smith converted a breakaway.

The natives were restless early, but the Blues got on the hunt. That's who they are. They hounded pucks, they crowded the crease in front of Vegas goalie Robin Lehner, they worked for loose pucks, created offense by working the zone and not feeding Vegas' strength: its transition.

"We just kept playing. The start of the game, it was what it was," Berube said. "I think the first goal is just a shot, but the second goal, Kruger's getting pushed against the boards by their bench and couldn't recover. Kind of a funny play and they get a breakaway. One of the forwards should have backed him up and recognized that and they didn't. We just talked on the bench. I thought O'Reilly did a great job of keeping guys motivated and keep working. We ended up coming back and guys did a nice job."

Bozak said, "Not the start we were looking for obviously, but at that point in the game you know there’s lots of time left. Some big goals to get the lead and then I thought we played well the rest of the way."

Goals weren't ones that would be dialed up on ESPN's Top 10 plays of the day, but they were effective.

Take for instance O'Reilly's first in 10 games and first in nine since returning from COVID-19 protocol. Colton Parayko works the puck behind the net to David Perron, who does what he does best: protect the puck as he curled around and up near the top of the zone before pinpointing a pass to O'Reilly, who beat Lehner from a sharp angle off the netminder's skate and in.

O'Reilly needed it. The Blues needed it. It was 2-1. Game on.

Fall down 3-0, and in all likelihood, it's goodnight Gracie.

"Sometimes it's just a bounce," said Faulk, who netted his 100th in the NHL, the first defenseman from the 2010 draft class to do so. "It's not the started we wanted, obviously. I think everybody knows that. We had to find a way to get some rhythm and start to feel good about our game. With O'Ry's goal there, I think that kind of jump-started us and got us going. 'DP' made a great play, a strong play, before that. Those are two big players in our lineup, they know how to step up and they got us going there."

They sure did.

Perron may not be scoring right now, going 13 straight without a goal, but he has nine assists in that span, including five in the last three.

"I thought O'Reilly and Perron, they've played really well against Vegas over the last few years," Berube said. "And again tonight, I thought they were good again."

It started a frenzy of three goals in 2:15, with Bozak converting a rebound of Klim Kostin's redirect from the slot after Faulk fed him from the right point that tied the game. And Faulk, who stripped Nicolas Roy of the puck in the Blues' zone and jaunted off on a breakaway, wired a wrister into the top netting for a 3-2 lead, one the Blues would lock down.

There would be no late-goal back-breaks on this night. 

"That's how we play a system," Faulk said. "When guys do what they did there, I had to poke it away and get the puck. I wasn't expecting a breakaway by any means. I looked to my left and just saw a Blue jersey and realized I had some space. So, I was able to go out there and have some fun, I guess."

Saad stayed hot, scoring his fourth in three games, in the second period by doing what he does best, go to the net and win loose pucks, to make it 4-2, and Mikkola, playing in just his third game of the season and first since returning from COVID-19 protocol, scored off a pretty wrister from the left circle. 

Game. Set. Match.
(St. Louis Blues/Scott Rovak)
Blues defenseman Scott Perunovich (left) races for a puck ahead of Vegas
forward Jonas Rondbjerg on Monday at Enterprise Center.

Despite allowing the Golden Knights to possess the puck and zone time in the third, the Blues did a nice job of locking the game down after getting the lead in the first.

The Blues dictate the game when they lock things down defensively. It's still a work in progress, but it was good enough Monday.

"Since I’ve been here at least, that’s how I felt," Bozak said. "Whenever we play as a five-man unit and we’re tight-checking and creating turnovers and breaking out together and our 'D' are up in the play and making good breakout passes, that’s kind of when we have our best games and limit the chances against and create more chances for."

It'll be interesting to see if they can continue it Wednesday in Detroit against the Red Wings, then come out of the Thanksgiving break for an afternoon tilt in Chicago Friday.