Wednesday night was unkind to both St. Louis and Toronto, who each lost in unfavorable ways ahead of their match-up together Saturday night at Enterprise Center.
For the Blues, it was a game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, a team they beat 5-2 at home just last week. In addition to that, it was a game in which they could tie the longest road point streak in franchise history after going 8-0-2 in their past 10 away games.
Following a goal scored by Teddy Blueger on the Penguins’ first shot of the game just 39 seconds into the first period, the Blues had to play catchup the rest of the night. Two more Pittsburgh goals, a disallowed Blues goal due to goaltender interference and one shutout later by Tristan Jarry, and the Blues’ road point streak had come to an end.
St. Louis was due for a lackluster performance, but needless to say, it was disappointing.
While a loss is never enjoyable, things could be worse. For example, look at the Maple Leafs from Wednesday night. Since taking over as head coach of the Leafs on Nov. 20, Sheldon Keefe and the Leafs had gone 4-2-0 going into Wednesday’s match-up against the Colorado Avalanche and hoped to get back on track after a 6-1 loss on Tuesday in Philadelphia.
Things were fine going into the third period; shots were even at 23 and the game was tied at one – There was hope. With 15:16 left in regulation, J.T. Compher is called for interference against John Tavares and the Leafs were about to go on the power-play with a chance to take a lead, this was it.
Then Valeri Nichushkin made it 2-1 on a breakaway. For the Avalanche... Shorthanded.
That basically sums this one up – Joonas Donskoi went on to score into the empty net for Colorado and Philipp Grubauer notched 38 saves as the Avalanche beat the Leafs 3-1 at Scotiabank Arena. Keefe fell to 4-3-0 as head coach of the Leafs and lost back-to-back games for the first time under the new coach.
This brings us up to Saturday night’s match-up between St. Louis and Toronto, a game that both teams could use to get back on track.
The Blues are 5-0-0 in their last five match-ups against the Leafs, this includes a 3-2 victory in Toronto on Oct. 7 in which Jordan Binnington made 32 saves. Despite Jake Allen’s great road play this season, I’d still expect Binnington to get the start in net Saturday.
Injuries are the biggest difference between the two, as a healthy Toronto team will come to St. Louis and face off against a continuously banged up Blues team.
Wednesday night’s game against the Penguins might have offered a glimpse of what this Blues team looks like whenever injuries do get the best of the them, but I do not predict this being the case against Toronto.
With this being the second match-up between the Blues and Leafs this season, I expect another close game like the first one. The Blues want to continue their great play against the Leafs, put Wednesday night’s shutout behind them and get two points on a current non-playoff team – A loss would not be ideal, but again, it could be worse (re: the Leafs).
Toronto will come out fast and with some fire, the Blues cannot allow themselves to have another slow start and play catch-up all game like they did in Pittsburgh. After Toronto dropped consecutive games for the first time under Keefe, they surely want to avoid making it three losses in a row.
Although Blues still stand clear at the top of the Western Conference, they need to get back in the win column, but I feel that this game has more pressure on the Leafs to do so. Our neighbors north of the border will be watching, too, as this game will be broadcasted on Sportsnet’s Hockey Night in Canada.
A fair amount of pressure on one side, the desire to put a shutout behind them on another and a game that has the potential for a great atmosphere. This one should be fun.