Halak Performs Well, Blues Still Stumble
There's been plenty of blame placed on Jaroslav Halak in recent weeks. A lot of it has been deserved yet other times, like tonight's loss against the Minnesota Wild, the blame deserves to go elsewhere. In what was arguably his best performance in 2011-12, Halak was left out to dry as the cast of characters around him did him no favors. While Halak made quite a few big and timely saves, his teammates (the defenseman in particular) continuously turned the puck over, failed to clear the zone and allowed more than a few odd man rushes that costed the Blues two important points. Jaroslav Halak deserves better. Following tonight's loss, Halak's record on the year falls to 1-6-0. While he didn't capture the desired result, Halak did everything he could to get the Blues a needed victory. He turned away 24 of 26 shots and kept one of his best save percentages (.923% ) that we have seen from him this year. For once, Halak was the bright spot in a St. Louis Blues hockey game. However, as he shined, the rest of the team looked pretty pitiful. Aside from one power play that saw the Blues fire numerous pucks at the net, there were very few clear scoring chances. Josh Harding of Minnesota stood tall but the Blues did little to take him out of his comfort zone. The box score will say the Blues generated 31 shots but few of those are what I'd label "quality shots" or shots that are from a high percentage area on the ice. The exception is of course Jamie Langenbrunner's first goal of the year and first as a member of the Blues which brought the game within one with two minutes to go. Other than that, the St. Louis offense was mostly contained and silenced by a rather resilient Minnesota defense. The other theme of tonight was the turnover. Turnover, turnover, turnover. Rinse and repeat. The worst aspect of this chronic issue the Blues have in turning the puck over is where they are turning it over - within their own zone. Simply inexcusable, especially at the NHL level. It's simply amazing just how many poor passes the Blues can string together in a night, tonight possibly being the best example. Finally, a theme that's been reoccurring since last season - hustle and determination. Outside of a late spark as the third period ticked down and a pretty solid first period, this game saw the Blues play another lopsided game. The team lost its cool as the second period expired causing a rare and funny sight of six players literally causing the penalty box to overflow. What this team needs to realize is that fire and determination does not mean they need to drop the gloves or get into an altercation. It means they need to play smarter, race to every loose puck, finish each check and ramp their overall game up a notch (or five). Honestly, it's getting beyond frustrating for fans that follow this team from game to game. There is no reason why this squad shouldn't be able to go out and play hard hockey each and every night. It's not an issue of talent, it's an issue of desire and the Blues currently play like a team that has no desire. With the talent that this roster has the Blues should be playing better than their 6-7-0 record. It's clear that Davis Payne is doing all he can to try and get the Blues rolling, but even by mixing lines and throwing out four forwards couldn't get the Blues out of their funk. The question has to be asked - how much time does Payne have left? Whether it's his fault or not, he will be the first man to go if there aren't answers found soon. We've all got to assume that the day where that decision needs to be made is coming sooner than later.