Blues 3, Wild 1 – Recap and Thoughts

Blues 3, Wild 1
Thoughts from the Game

Breakdown of the game, as well as thoughts about various performances on the ice.

*Note* – All pictures can be clicked on to see their full size. Sorry for the poor quality, I’m no photographer.

I was lucky enough to secure a pair of tickets to tonight’s preseason opener against the Wild. OK, maybe lucky isn’t the right word … I found two tickets on StubHub for a whopping $3 each, and ran with it. After a service fee of a few bucks and a delivery fee of $4 (They were e-mailed…that’s some big ass postage for an e-mail) I ended up with two tickets for $20 – not too shabby. Hungering for some NHL action, my hockey-loving girlfriend (I found a good one) and I ventured down to Scottrade. Here are some various observations and notes from the ice last night.

One thing to keep in mind is that this is preseason, and that the game on Tuesday was their first action against an opponent they can actually hit in quite a long time – a much different atmosphere than practice/training camps. Also, a lot of new players mixed with players recovering from injury leads to a lot of rust to work through. That being said, take all these observations with a grain of salt as you can’t really make any sound season-long assessments in the preseason, especially since the game against the Wild last night was mostly against a group of minor leaguers.

Below is a brief recap, period by period, followed by a few observations I made on a few players and on the game in general.

Before the Game

We made our way to our seats in the Mezz, and this being our first preseason game, we weren’t too sure what to expect in terms of crowd size and etc. No lowering of the lights, spotlights, or images shot on to the ice, just a very basic presentation of the game at hand which in a lot of ways was pretty refreshing. Another unique item was that this game was neither televised or broadcasted, which made me wonder how they would handle the usual stoppages for TV timeouts (had them anyway so the ice could be worked on a bit by the kids that bring out the shovels/trash cans). Following a short intro as to who was starting, as well as a nice video of last year’s highlights, the action was finally underway.

First Period

The puck dropped and quickly it was evident just how early in the season it was. The Blues controlled possession in front of Mason, and quickly rattled off a few shots. At the 4:25 mark, the Blues notched their first goal with Paul Kariya wristing a loose puck about five feet outside of the crease short-side. Great to see Kariya get on the scoreboard, even if it was a result of some shotty and frankly sloppy Minnesota defending. Brad Boyes and Brendan Bell picked up the assists. I had barely sat down when Chris Porter made it 2-0 at 4:55 with the help of Derek Armstrong and Aaron Palushaj. It appeared obvious the Wild had brought mainly minor-leaguers, as despite the Blues  struggling to make tape-to-tape passes, they found themselves up two.

Then the game took a turn. Whether the Wild’s players were hoping to make an impact on their coach, or whether the Blues/Wild were tired of sitting around all summer with no one to pummel, the game took on a much more physical nature. Cue Cam Janssen. Boy did I miss him at the tail end of last year. With roughly five to go in the period, Janssen got into his first scrap of the year (one in which I think he got in two, maybe three shots before it ended), which earned him a five minute major as well as a misconduct which was definitely not deserved. The logic on the call was hard to decipher, but we will get to that later. Less than three minutes later it was Derek Armstrong’s turn to throw down. The gloves came off, but it was more of an entanglement than a fight as it was tough to tell if any punches found their mark.

End of the first period, bring on the concessions. $7 for a souvenier soda? Ugh. Wait, what’s that you say? Unlimited refills? Just bring back your cup? Wow.

Maybe I missed this last year, but the unlimited refills for a large $7 soda is one nice concession feature. They also have a “bottomless” popcorn bucket, which I sadly did not investigate.

Second Period

After the quick two goals in the first, I assumed we were in for a high scoring affair. This was not to be the case, as the only high numbers were the PIMs being dished out to both sides. Some quick notes on period number two:

  • Ben Bishop came on to relieve Chris Mason roughly midway through the second period. Mason stopped all the shots he faced, and made a few very solid saves, but for the most part went untested.
  • With penalties being given out like they were going out of style, the Blues found themselves on the short end of a full two minute five on three penalty kill. It wasn’t pretty, but they managed to kill it off thanks in most part to the play of Bishop, who made save after save.
  • The scariest moment of the night: David Backes crashed into a Wild player in a knee-to-knee collision. Backes remained down on the ice before literally crawling back to the bench before being helped up by a few players on the bench. I know I was not the only one holding my breath, but a collective sigh of relief rushed out of the Scottrade Center as Backes made his way down the tunnel on his own power. Oh, and Backes received a two minute tripping penalty on the play. Tough to explain that one so I’m not even going to try. Thankfully, Backes is not only OK, but he returned to the ice later on in the game. One has to think if it was anything remotely bothersome, Backes would sit out the rest of the game. My guess is he received one wicked dead leg.
  • While the game was extremely sloppy on both sides, and the teams seemed to want to cool the fans down by fanning on all their shots, a brief bit of magic that looked like it was straight out of the middle of the season came to fruition. Andy McDonald streaked down the left boards, held off the defender (The Wild players are going unnamed, because A. Who cares about the Wild and B. Most of these guys you probably have never heard of) and dished a great pass to the top of the crease to a crashing David Perron. Perron’s effort was brilliantly saved, and the word “robbed” comes to mind.

No scoring, end of period number two.

Third Period

A game that started off with a wave of scoring turned into a scrappy, physical affair. Minnesota struggled to get anything going until their rush of power-plays in the second, and came out firing in the third. Though the Blues were mostly killing off penalties for seemingly the entire second half of the game, they strung together some passes and began to look more comfortable on the ice with one another. Derek Armstrong continued his impressive performance, notching his first goal in a Blues jersey from point-blank range. The assists fell to Bell for his second, and Mike Weaver.

Cam Janssen found himself in yet another fight, earning by my estimated count a total of 30ish PIMs on the night.

The highlights of the period starred Ben Bishop and David Perron. Bishop made some fantastic saves and looked like a legitimate option in net, though we should not forget about who were firing the pucks on net. He moved will in the crease, flashed the leather several times, and made some great, quick pad saves. Very encouraging. Perron brought the crowd to his feet by tangling and eventually dropping the gloves. Yes, that’s right, Perron got into a fight. Perhaps fight isn’t the right word, as Perron clung to his opponent, not allowing any punches to be thrown, before wrestling down to the ice. Still, can’t say I expetced to see Perron take part in the physical nature of the game, let alone fight.

Unfortunately, the Wild broke the bid for a clean sheet, scoring with under a minute to go in the game. Mason was barely tested, but Bishop held up against numerous penalty kills and numerous chances on net and deserved better.

Scoring Summary:

4:25 Paul Kariya
Assist: Brad Boyes, Brendan Bell
4:55 Chris Porter
Assist: Derek Armstrong, Aaron Palushaj
No scoring this period
2:31 Derek Armstrong
Assist: Brendan Bell, Mike Weaver
19:03 Benoit Pouliot (power play)
Assist: James Sheppard, Danny Irmen

Various Player Impressions

Erik Johnson: I admit, I held my breath everytime he carried the puck. He seemed to move well, but he, as well as the entire Blues team, struggled to connect passes and form a solid attack on either five-on-five or with the man advantage. He launched a few heavy slappers, but few (if any) found their way past the first Wild defender. Late in the game, Johnson was tripped and crashed to the ice, which caused quite the uproar from the Blues faithful. Hard to tell whether it was an actual trip, or whether Johnson lost an edge, but still is tough on the nerves to see EJ take a tumble.

Paul Kariya: Still nimble on skates, especially when digging the puck out of a tight spot. Nice to see him score. Needed to shoot more, but this is true of all the Blues who opted for the pass before the shot more times than not.

Andy McDonald: Really came on in the third period, and started to show glimpses of his regular season self. Made some nifty moves late in the third, but overall was mostly quiet from what I saw.

Cam Janssen: I admit, I am a Cam Janssen fan. The way he plays the game and his work ethic (all with a smile on his face) is tough for me not to love. Janssen appeared a touch quicker on his skates and even made a few solid passes and one pretty nifty pass in the Wild’s zone. Seeing Janssen improve the other aspects of his game really helps his cause to remain with the team this season. Honestly, after seeing him last night, I would be sad to see him go as it appears he really is stepping up his game.

David Perron: The fight sure was a surprise. Robbed of what should have been a goal.

Ben Bishop: Outstanding play by Bishop. Countless great saves, and solid right off the bat when tested on the kill. Sad to see him lose goose egg with under a minute to go, but it is tough to see any flaws in his performance.

Darryl Sydor: Put in a nice performance. Gave the puck up in his own end once, and made a few rough passes, but that was the theme across both rosters last night.

Derek Armstrong: Wow. Nice debut for your new team Derek. Gordie Howe hat trick (goal, assist, fight) earned him the first star honors of the game. Certainly making a case to make the team.

Alex Pietrangelo: Neither seen nor heard, which might not be a bad thing. Though he contributed nothing to the offense, there were no major blunders on the defense side of things.

Penalty Kill: For the most part, the PK was brilliant. Sydor and Armstrong both saw time, and with a lot of help with Bishop, turned in a very, very positive performance.

Man Advantage: Struggled to set anything up and appeared rushed to find their groove. What do you expect when camp started just a few days before this game?

Random Thoughts

  • It’s great to have hockey back!
  • As many refills as you want on your large soda is one freakin’ sweet highlight.
  • Officiating sucked – maybe they were in preseason mode too. Hard to figure out why Janssen earned his first misconduct, and tough to tell what on earth was earning a call in the second/third.
  • Bishop was fantastic in net. He sure has a bright future ahead of him if he keeps playing as he did last night.
  • Yesterday was Mr. Checketts’ birthday. Checketts’ tossed some candy out to the crowd, further making himself a hero to the St. Louis scene.
  • Blues played a series of season in review pieces on the scoreboard, highlighting some of the best moments last year.
  • Overall, play was very sloppy and whiffs were abundant. Despite not finding success in the offense in the third, as a whole, the Blues forwards looked their best at the end of the game. Better passing, more awareness, etc.
  • Armstrong and Sydor both featured on the PK, and for the most part, both performed well. Sydor’s chances seem to be pretty decent on making the team simply because he has veteran experience on the ice.
  • Nice attendance for a preseason game. Though the #’s weren’t announced at the game, ESPN reports 10,582 for Tuesday’s game.

Blues Win!