The Blues’ loss to the Carolina Hurricanes last night was certainly a learning experience for Joel Hofer. The young goaltender, called up while Ville Husso remains on the Covid-19 protocol list, looked good but also seemed to struggle to catch up to the speed of the Canes. The late loss to the Eastern Conference’s best team makes it easy to overlook the goals from Pavel Buchnevich and Vladimir Tarasenko, both of which were impressive. The Blues have scoring punch, but even more so than before, it looks like having players out is starting to wear on them, and it’s causing them to slip in the standings. The Blues are now in fourth place in an incredibly stacked Central Division. Going into Saturday’s game they were in first.
Making the team’s issues even more clear is that the Blues have been playing some very difficult opponents of late, and rolling into town for the second end of a back to back are the Edmonton Oilers. The Oilers, who the Blues haven’t seen in St. Louis in nearly two years, lead the Pacific Division with a 10-3-0 record. If having to have Hofer in net last night shows how valuable Ville Husso is, the fact that the Blues keep having to play without Torey Krug is going to be very evident tonight.
The Blues’ defense has become porous without Krug, and the pairing of Marco Scandella and Colton Parayko has been rough. Last night wasn’t a strong game for the defense, but tonight could potentially be a bloodbath if Binnington doesn’t stand on his head. The Oilers are a beatable team despite their offense - look at Friday night’s 3-2 loss to the Buffalo Sabres. They lead the shots 35-23 and got handed just their third loss of the season. Two of their three losses have come on this road trip, and the Blues could add another one, but it’s going to take some defensive awareness and goaltending skills to keep Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl off of the scoresheet. Draisaitl has seven goals and 4 assists in just his last five games alone (he has 14 goals and 14 assists on the season), and McDavid has nine goals and 16 assists. Not to be overlooked, Ryan Nugent Hopkins may not have any goals yet, but his 17 assists puts him third on the team in scoring. Make the game hard for him, and you make it hard on the other Oilers.