The St. Louis Blues opened up their 2020-21 season with a two-game set against the Colorado Avalanche. They split the series with an opening night 4-1 win on Wednesday, and an 8-0 blowout loss on Friday night.
Here are a few takeaways from the two opening games of the season for the Blues.
1. Robert Thomas Is Good
The man I picked to lead the club in points got off to a good start with two assists in the opening night game, playing on the second line with Oskar Sundqvist and Jaden Schwartz.
Robert Thomas came to play on Wednesday night, as it was right before the game when the club announced that Mike Hoffman could not play due to work visa issues.
So Thomas ended up playing with Sundqvist instead of Hoffman, and Sundqvist had two goals in this game – Thomas got a primary assist on one of them and made a slick one-handed pass to help create the other.
In the second game, everybody on the Blues struggled, and it was noticeable on the power play that Thomas needs to use his shot more. He is an excellent passer, but he has a sneaky good shot too.
Either way, the opening night performance from Thomas was an encouraging sign that he’s ready to take another huge step this season and develop into a star.
2. The Chemistry Will Get Better
This is a team that lost multiple key players from the last two seasons and has three new players in the lineup. You have to be patient with chemistry – they had a camp that was less than two weeks long. You have to give it time.
Hoffman arrived in camp as a pure goalscorer from the Florida Panthers, who doesn’t fit into the Blues’ system and has not played in this type of system throughout his career.
We saw on the top power-play unit in the second game that it is going to take time for both Hoffman and Torey Krug to gain chemistry with the other three players on the unit, they didn’t generate anything with the top unit Friday.
Kyle Clifford scored a goal in his Blues’ debut and was a great fit for this team, with him playing in a similar system to the one with the Los Angeles Kings. He’s a great fit with Sundqvist and Ivan Barbashev.
We did see head coach Craig Berube throw Hoffman on a line with Tyler Bozak and Jordan Kyrou towards the end of the blowout loss. It will be interesting to see how Berube adjusts the game plan with all of these new, dynamic pieces.
3. Special Teams Units Need Work
Not only did the Blues’ special teams unit perform poorly over the course of these two games, but they also took 11 penalties in two games, which just can’t happen, and it especially can’t happen against a team like the Avalanche.
The penalty kill was solid in the first game, surrendering one goal on four power plays for the Avalanche. In the second game, they struggled mightily, especially with Robert Bortuzzo getting hit in the head with no penalty and missing the rest of the game.
On Friday, the Blues gave up six power-play goals in seven tries – that was the first time they have ever given up six. That beat the record of them giving up five power-play goals to the Philadelphia Flyers on Dec. 30, 2003.
The power play has struggled in both games, with zero goals on six opportunities. The chemistry has not been there, and they aren’t generating many shots. Hoffman and Krug are key pieces to the top unit and I think they will get it going soon enough.
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This stretch reminds me of the playoffs last season where the second power-play unit was flat out better than the first. Thomas, Vince Dunn, Colton Parayko, Tyler Bozak and Jaden Schwartz have looked better than the first unit and have clearly generated more chances.
Don’t hit the panic button just yet, Blues fans. The team is 1-1-0 after two games against a rival team that many consider to be the favorite to win the Stanley Cup.
They have a couple of off days and a chance to bounce back when they play their home opener with the San Jose Sharks. This team will only get better.