Ville Husso’s first two appearances in the NHL have not gone according to plan. In four periods of play, he has given up nine goals and currently sports a 7.03 goals against average with an .813 save percentage. These astronomical numbers aside, Husso has not been helped by the play in front of him.
When the Blues play at peak performance, they make the most exciting teams in the league look dull. They are disciplined defensively, don’t miss assignments, and stay out of the penalty box. They’ve committed all three of those team errors in abundance to begin this season, and what is typically a goalie-friendly environment has become an unenviable situation for Husso to begin his career.
The shaky start to Husso’s career is not solely his teammates’ fault. His stats are abysmal, and he has yet to find any comfortability in net; however, I believe Husso cannot be judged accurately until the Blues are playing the way Craig Berube knows his team can play.
Husso’s debut in the NHL was a trial by fire. After two periods in a game where the Blues were already down 4-0, he replaced Jordan Binnington and immediately was tasked with fending off a lethal Colorado Avalanche power play. Nazem Kadri scored one minute and 13 seconds into Husso’s career, and he would give up three more goals before the final horn mercifully sounded.
It was a game in which the Blues showed minimal effort. Captain Ryan O’Reilly blasted the Blues’ performance, and the team showed an unusual lack of discipline — which has been a troubling trend this season — by taking eight penalties in the game. It was abundantly clear that Husso was left out to dry in his debut.
The Avalanche have an offense that no goalie would like to face in their debut. It was a poor performance all around and seemed to be a wake-up call that wouldn’t be repeated. St. Louis fans and the Blues themselves were hoping that Husso’s next appearance, which would turn out to be his first start, would bring a turn of events.
Jan. 25 offered a new opportunity for Husso. The Blues were set to square off against the Los Angeles Kings for the second time in as many nights. The team was looking for its first back-to-back sweep of the season, as they were just coming off a solid performance the night before in a 4-2 victory. The opponent was less dangerous offensively, and it was an ideal scenario for Husso to make his first career start.
Unfortunately, the same problems that plagued the Blues in their blowout loss to the Avalanche reared their ugly heads again. St. Louis gave up 35 shots to a typically nonthreatening Kings offense that only mustered 23 shots the night before. The Blues also took five penalties in the game, which ironically offered one of the only bright spots of the game as Husso and the penalty kill was able to fend off four out of the five Kings’ power-play opportunities.
I realize he has played just two games, but you’re not breaking in a youngster on a fringe playoff team. This is a Stanley Cup contender, and it’s a shortened season.
Jeremy Rutherford from ‘Mike Hoffman’s slow start, Ville Husso concerns and more: Blues mailbag,’ The Athletic, 01/29/2021).
Again, a fair portion of the blame for the 6-3 loss to the Kings that night belonged to Husso. In my opinion, three of the five goals he gave up (the sixth was a Drew Doughty empty-net goal) were savable opportunities.
Husso’s first start of his career, like his first appearance before it, had not gone to plan, but his teammates failed to support him for the second time with a vintage Blues defensive effort.
Looking Toward Anaheim
St. Louis is coming off an overtime victory against the Vegas Golden Knights in what should have been a back-to-back. The second game was canceled due to COVID-19 concerns, but those issues lay with Vegas rather than the Blues. Now, the team is setting its sights toward a two-game set against the Anaheim Ducks.
The stakes are the same. It’s a back-to-back series in two nights against a weaker opponent in the division. Husso will most likely get another chance to start and can create some positive headlines for himself. The Blues owe it to him to give an all-around team effort. If they limit the Ducks in chances, stay out of the box, and play defensively sound hockey, we can truly see how talented Husso is at 25 years old.
In a 56-game season, it’s easy to hit the panic button and jump to early conclusions. Husso has been as bad to start this season as the rest of his team has been inconsistent. The Blues as a whole and Husso individually need to find a groove, and Anaheim might just be the perfect opponent against whom they can find some consistency.