St. Louis was in Buffalo tonight to face off against the Sabres. The Blues started the game in 3rd place in the Western Conference with a franchise tying 12 game point streak. Buffalo entered the game as the worst team in the NHL. Tonight we saw the return of Patrik Berlund and Jake Allen started in net tonight for the Blues. Allen would go on to win a shut out, but I get ahead of myself.
BOOOOORING. Seriously. Nothing happened. Probably the fastest period of St. Louis Blues hockey all season. Only took about 29 minutes to play. There were only 9 stoppages. In fact at one point they played for 10 minutes straight without stopping. At the end of the period the Sabres had out shot the Blues 7-6 but some of those shots came on a power play thanks to hooker Ian Cole. The Blues ended the first essentially dominating the Sabres in possession as you can see from this wonderful illustration from hockeystats.ca. They also won 9 out of 10 of their faceoffs.
Now this is where things start to get interesting. A Chris Stewart turnover leads to a two on one with Tarasenko and Statsny. Buffalo's defense gets in the way, which is probably why I can't show you a video of it, but it was a good attempt and provided a jolt of energy to this game. Blues continued dominating the Sabres in terms of possession with long periods of time in the Sabres zone with little stoppage in play. Rattie and Backes both had valiant breakaway attempts in the second.
But the Sabres finally wake up and realize where they were and started to play some hockey towards the end of the second. Our good friend Chris Stewart even had a couple of break away chances, but Allen has seen it all before. However, Cole earned his second hooking penalty of the night as Stewart blew by him. And the Blues went on the penalty kill after the second breakaway attempt by Stewart.
Blues easily killed off the penalty and with just under two minutes left in the 2nd, Jaskin scores the first goal of the game on a nifty wrap around after the Blues won the faceoff in the Sabres end. Jaskin's goal provided birthday boy Ty Rattie with his first ever, honest-to-God, real life NHL point. Congrats Mr. Rattie! What a way to celebrate your 22nd birthday!
Blues started to play a little sloppy and the Sabres managed to give Allen a workout in the final minutes of the 2nd, but it wasn't anything Jakey couldn't handle. And thus endeth the 2nd period.
Third period saw the most action this game. With all the talk pre-game from Nolan and Hitchcock about this being a physical match up, there was very little physicality to this game. A lot of skating. A lot of Blues dominating zone time in the Sabres end. No big hits. No big struggles in front of nets. As one Blues fan tweeted
I've seen pickup games with more action than Blues-Sabres— Curt Chaplin (@C_Chap2) February 6, 2015
But the third period proved to be a bit different. Sabres' players started playing like they wanted to be traded. Case in point, after a sloppy power play by the Blues, Brian Flynn was able to escape with a short handed break away attempt. But Allen didn't want to let down his idol Brodeur and robbed Flynn of his chance to be traded out of Buffalo.
Of course no Blues game would be complete without a 3 period goal by Tarasenko, and that is just what we got at 14:22 into the third.
Otherwise, one of the more interesting aspects to the third period was some of the line swapping that Hitchcock was doing behind the bench. Normally I cringe when I see him switch up lines. It is like he has some sort of slot machine behind the bench. He feeds it a puck, pulls the lever, and whichever players show up on the readout is what he plays. But tonight it was actually interesting to see him swapping Oshie and Tarasenko between the top two lines. It was fun getting to see Tarasenko play some first line minutes for a change. Sticktap to our good friend Art Lippo for pointing that out to us on Twitter tonight.
There is always that fear when the Blues play weaker teams, especially when one or both of the teams are riding a winning streak that they will play to the level of their opponent. But tonight the Blues pulled off another record breaking performance as they extended their point streak to 13 games breaking their old franchise record of 12 games. On to Columbus where the Blues will take on the Blue Jackets tomorrow night at 6pm CST. Hopefully Friday's game won't be as boring as this one.