Hockey is a game of individual moments, most of which only take a second or two, that culminate in a full 60 minutes. For the Blues there were two specific moments that caused their demise in a tough 2-1 loss against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday night. First, the Blues allowed Columbus to notch a goal literally as the first period expired. Second, the Blues were on the losing side of a review that caused their last gasp goal to be disallowed.
We'll cover these in reverse order.
The Blues appeared to have scored a late equalizer when the puck wound up in the Columbus net with just a handful of seconds left in the third period. However, upon viewing several replays it appeared David Perron used his hand to push the puck past goaltender Steve Mason and into the net. On the ice the play was ruled a goal. Upon review the officials reversed their decision.
The big issue here is according to rule the war room in Toronto must have indisputable evidence to reverse the call of the officials on the ice. Did you see any indisputable evidence? I didn't. I do believe they got the call right but I struggle to see where the indisputable evidence comes from. It looked like Perron was the guilty party, but with all the flying bodies, sticks and various equipment it's tough to be definitive. Still, I think the call made was the correct one though I do believe it was made violating the NHL's policy on reversing calls. I digress.
While the final play will receive all of the attention from fans it's important to remember that the Blues shouldn't have let things get to that point in the first place. Columbus had better hustle, muscle and intensity for a bulk of the game. The Blues struggled to find any flow or rhythm as Columbus continued to throw big hits along the boards.
Jaroslav Halak played very well, stopping numerous chances including several that were taken from just outside his crease. The second goal that he allowed was hardly his fault as he made the initial save, made a very impressive second save from directly in front of his crease until Derek Dorsett came in and buried the loose puck. Where were the St. Louis defenseman and forwards? No one was present to help clear the loose puck or impede Dorsett, leaving Halak stranded.
As for the Blue Jackets first goal, that brings us back to the "game of moments" mentioned earlier. With a couple seconds on the clock, Columbus had a face-off deep in the St. Louis zone. Jeff Carter won it, Mark Letestu made a nifty pass off a wobbling puck to James Wisniewski who fired a twisting shot that clanked off the crossbar and in as time expired. Upon review, the puck literally crossed the line with less than 0.01 seconds on the clock. A matter of a few hundredths of second separated the Blues from entering the dressing room up 1-0 as opposed to being level 1-1. Bad luck, yes, but it proves an old lesson that you can't quit until the horn sounds.
The other big moment came earlier in the period, also through Wisniewski, who prevented Chris Stewart from scoring during a scramble in the Columbus crease.
Fans can point to the review all they want. They can point to the bad break of Wisniewski's shot slipping in just as time ran out. The fact of the matter is the Blues were mostly outplayed tonight. They let the 30th team in the NHL dictate the play and throw their weight around. At the same time the Blues failed to convert on the chances they did have - something we all know needs to improve.
Steve Mason played well for Columbus but the Blues really could have and should have done better. Mason has allowed 12 goals in his last three games and carried a GAA at 3.49 prior to tonight's game. He can be beat. Repeatedly.
The Blues also need to learn how to use the intensity they display at the Scottrade on the road. Same can be said for their composure. We saw a lopsided second period tonight and saw the Blues shy away from areas of the ice they normally swarm to. Columbus is a team that can be beaten and is a team that has the mental aspect of the game working against them. The Blue Jackets know they are bad and are used to losing. They are well aware of the rumors swirling about various players and the likelihood that they will need to overhaul their roster. The Blues should have used this to their advantage and piled on. The Blues needed to put their thumb down on an opponent that statistically and realistically they should have had no issue with.
Eventually, this team will need to learn these lessons or it will come back to haunt them. The Blues are in a prime position to make the playoffs - they just need to polish certain areas and improve in other areas, starting as soon as possible.