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Hochman: Blues goalie Husso not sharp in first start, but his team didn't do much to help him

Hochman: Blues goalie Husso not sharp in first start, but his team didn't do much to help him

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St. Louis Blues vs. Los Angeles Kings

Los Angeles Kings left winger Carl Grundstrom (91) scores on Blues goaltender Ville Husso in the first period of a game at  Enterprise Center in St. Louis on Sunday, Jan. 24, 2021. (Cheyenne Boone, cboone@post-dispatch.com)

At the end of the second period Sunday, the Blues finally did something right. Numerous skaters went right to goalie Ville Husso to tap his pads, energize and apologize.

Not sure what’s the Finnish translation of “hung out to dry,” but that’s what the Blues did to their rookie goalie, as the Blues trailed 5-1 after two.

We’ve all been waiting to see what the Blues have in Husso — and, well, we’re still waiting. A glance at the box score might make you think he stinks, but only two, possibly three of the five goals he allowed were the fault of the goalie. The final score was 6-3, Kings over the Blues, with the sixth goal an empty-netter.

“It was an opportunity for us to show (Husso) that we’re going to have his back and play hard for him and give him some confidence — and we didn’t,” Blues captain Ryan O’Reilly said. “We made hard it hard on him and hard on each other and that can’t happen. He’s a big part of this team and it’s not his fault at all. It’s completely on myself and a few other guys — we have to find ways to provide our best game in front of him.”

But at least Husso got out there — the first start of his National Hockey League career. Sunday was supposed to be a chance for Husso to ease his way into the mix. Second game of a back-to-back, following a Blues victory against a team that’s struggled in recent seasons. Instead, it was a harsh reminder of what this league is — one with the best players on the planet. Every team has some talent, every team has the ability to pounce, every team can turn a game upside down if a goalie isn’t ready and a defense isn’t crisp.

It is imperative that Husso — Jordan Binnington’s backup — is relevant this season. The backup goalie in hockey is not like the backup quarterback in football. Two seasons ago, the Blues made an entire Stanley Cup run with one goalie. But the reality of the modern NHL is that teams often utilize two goalies, even during playoff runs. If anything, the Blues have 10 back-to-backs on the schedule this season (nine now). They need their No. 2 to play like a No. 1 a lot.

“It’s his first game, I’m not going to comment on it too much,” a contrite coach Craig Berube said.

The first goal Husso allowed was because of a mistake he made. Husso didn’t seal the left post as tight as he could’ve — or, should’ve. The puck bounced off teammate Colton Parayko’s skate and the Kings’ Alex Iafallo was all over it for the close-range goal.

Maybe if Husso stops that one, it’s a different game? We’ll never know.

The second goal — Husso shouldn’t have been in the situation to begin with. Vince Dunn couldn’t contain Carl Grundstrom, who made Dunn look dumb with a fancy move. Maybe Husso could’ve saved the shot, but it was a blistering wrister past his left shoulder.

So it was 2-1 after one period. And after two periods, it was, well, it was terrible. It was 5-1.

Dunn somehow was even worse in that period. He did poorly on the third Kings goal, a backhander that would’ve been tough for anyone to save.

The fourth goal Husso allowed? He probably wants that one back. Adrian Kempe drilled it through traffic and past him. At that point, with 11:38 left in the second, the Blues were outshot 22-7.

In that second period, the Blues looked as if they were outgunned, outmanned, outnumbered, outplanned. So much to fix — the penalties, the defense, the urgency, the everything.

Now, the fifth goal was out of Husso’s control. Lias Andersson popped out of the box and the Blues defensemen didn’t communicate thoroughly, and the guy had a breakaway. Can’t happen.

Husso has been hyped as a goalie who is calm, collected and technically sound. O’Reilly has gushed about his work ethic at practice.

“You can see he’s getting better,” O’Reilly said.

Husso did make one infamous appearance earlier this season. It was the second game, and Colorado’s avalanche of offense overwhelmed Binnington. The Blues were down, 4-0, and their defense was offensive. To start the third period, coach Craig Berube gave Binnington a reprieve and put in Husso, but he could’ve put in Hasek and it wouldn’t have mattered. The Blues played sloppy hockey and Husso allowed four goals on 14 shots.

So far in his career, the standout image of Ville Husso, to me, was at OB Clark’s the day after the Blues won the Cup.

It was a euphoric scene of sun-splashed and trashed Blues fans, standing in the parking lot of the Brentwood bar and screaming at the balcony like something from Bourbon Street. A few Blues and VIPs hovered above, be it O’Reilly (and the Conn Smythe trophy in tow) or Alexander Steen or some tall guy who oddly still was wearing a suit.

He stood out for not being known. It was, of course, Husso, who had gone along for the ride as the third goalie on the Cup run. And seeing him, and then thinking about Binnington, it was like — man, he could’ve been the man! Husso was ahead of Binnington on the Blues’ depth chart, before an injury kept Husso out and allowed Binnington to work his way up and onto the big club. Binnington became Binnington, and Husso was just a “what-if” in a suit.

Now, finally, he’s a St. Louis Blue. And he needs the St. Louis Blues to play better in front of him.

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