DALLAS — Two victories, two games for the Blues. They are disappointed that these points won’t be counted when the real thing starts in mid-October.
The Blues were sharp Monday, scoring, checking and goaltending in a 4-0 win over the Dallas Stars in front of 10,023 people at American Airlines Arena.
This was 16th preseason game for the Blues, but it was an excellent performance by all ages.
Josh Leivo scored two goals, Logan Brown and Will Bitten each scoring one. Colten Ellis and Thomas Greiss, both St. Louis goalies, stopped 32 Dallas shots.
This was Dallas’ preseason opener. Dallas played mostly prospects, but also had a few heavyweights like Joe Pavelski, Roope Hintz, and Jamie Benn. Esa Lindell played defense and Jake Oettinger and Anton Khudobin were in goal.
Visitors suffered a lower-body injury from Martin Frk, a hard-shooting Martin Frk. This was the only negative aspect of the night. He didn’t play in the third period.
Points for Brownie (and Leivo).
Brown scored four goals in 39 games last season with the Blues. He has scored three goals in his first two preseason games. Brown, who scored two goals in Saturday’s win over Arizona (5-4), said that he had spent much of the offseason improving his shot and his offense. It’s paying off so far.
With 6:47 remaining in the first period, Monday’s opening period, the Blues were leading 1-0 thanks to his shot from the left corner. The play was assisted by Leivo and Tyson Galloway, a defenseman prospect.
Brown gave Leivo a cross-ice help in the closing minutes of the first period. Leivo, as usual, shot from the left circle and Brown scored Brown’s goal. It was both Brown’s goal and Leivo’s assist in the period.
They were also among the four Blues that participated in the preseason opener against the Coyotes in Wichita (Kan.). Both Frk and Landon Sim played in both of these games.
Leivo, 29 years old, is a veteran of 214 NHL playoff games in nine seasons with Carolina, Vancouver, Calgary, and Toronto. In mid-July Doug Armstrong signed four forwards to improve depth in the bottom six, particularly in the fourth line.
Leivo scored 14 goals during the 2018-19 season. However, his career was halted by a fractured right kneecap. He played in seven games last season for Carolina, but he spent most of his time with the Hurricanes’ AHL affiliate, the Chicago Wolves.
Leivo scored 22 goals in 54 regular season games for the Wolves. He had also contributed 14 goals and 15 assists to the Wolves’ playoffs win. Leivo was awarded the Butterfield Trophy for MVP of the Calder Cup playoffs. This included a Wolves series win over the Blues affiliate, the Springfield Thunderbirds.
Leivo continued to play in the second period, scoring from the goal line to make it 3-0. Marc-Andre Gaudet, an 18 year old, made a clever pass that put Leivo in front.
Greiss was lovely
Greiss, like Jordan Binnington on Saturday’s preseason opener against Arizona, played only the first period of goal Monday against the Stars. Greiss, like Binnington in Arizona’s preseason opener, was sharp in Dallas.
He probably had more difficult shots against the Stars against Arizona than Binnington, and he stopped all 10, before giving way for Ellis to prospect Ellis in the final two periods.
Greiss, 36 is being called upon to provide quality support work for Binnington. Consider Monday a good start, but not more.
Three minutes into the game, Greiss had stopped Riley Damiani in the near slot with his first shot. He saved a glove on Logan Stankoven’s blistering shot near the left circle four minutes later. With 11:57 remaining in the period, he turned Marian Studenic out of the slot.
Ellis was kept busy by Dallas’s second period performance. He kept Dallas off the boards in the second period with nine saves. One of those was on Wyatt Johnston’s shot, and Johnston literally in his lap. It was a confidence booster for Ellis who allowed six goals in one-half periods against Columbus, and three goals against Dallas in the NHL Prospect Tournament, Traverse City, Mich.
There are no big guns yet
Berube uses the early exhibition games to primarily look at younger players as well as those who are competing for roster spots. Seven of the eight-game preseason schedule’s eight games have already elapsed and seven of the Blues’ 20-goal scorers last season are still not playing.
No Ryan O’Reilly, Jordan Kyrou, or Pavel Buchnevich have been reported so far. The same goes for Brayden Schenn and Vladimir Tarasenko, as well as Robert Thomas.
Three of the six defense-focused top players are still not playing, including Justin Faulk, Robert Bortuzzo and Nick Leddy.
They might make their preseason debuts Tuesday night in Chicago when the Blues face off against the Blackhawks at 7:30 p.m.
Maybe Berube has a plan to save them early flights and get them on Thursday against Columbus in the Blues home preseason opener.