Things looked pretty promising for the St. Louis Blues out in Los Angeles. The Blues were enjoying a 4-1 lead in the second period and were playing some of the most physical, intense hockey we've seen from the team thus far. There was determination and drive across the lineup, something fans haven't seen in quite some time. Then the wheels fell off the wagon. That's being a bit too kind. Then the wheels fell off the wagon and the wagon fell off a cliff and exploded.
To be perfectly clear, it's not as if the Blues were playing perfect hockey in the first period and the first half of the second period. They actually made numerous mistakes and took a couple bad penalties. However, there was a will and a desire to win present in the lineup and it carried the Blues to what was at the time an impressive lead. The club was battling and fighting for every inch of ice and every loose puck.
Then something happened. Somewhere, a switch was flipped. At 13:38 of the second period, LA tallied their second goal to make it a 4-2 contest.
At the time, it seemed like a bit of a momentum killer. Still, you had to imagine that given how well the Blues had been playing, they'd be able to hold on to a two-goal lead. Add in a controversial boarding penalty on Roman Polak, and just like that LA had recaptured their momentum and the Blues were stumbling around, looking for answers to questions that hadn't even been asked yet.
The second intermission came and Blues fans still had plenty of reason to be optimistic. Overall, the team was playing well and still held a 4-2 lead. Sure, the momentum seemed to have pushed in LA's favor, but surely the team would regroup and come out flying in the third.
The third period was a disaster of epic proportions. Four goals were tallied in the third, three of which came within the period's opening six and a half minutes.
I'll briefly analyze each goal and point out what went wrong. This is "Analyzing a Loss" after all. Be warned - this won't be pretty.
Mike Richards: 4-3 STL
What the video fails to capture is that prior to this the Blues had a chance to exit their zone. Instead of the defense safely getting the puck out or making a smart pass, they tried to lug it out. Both Ian Cole and Kevin Shattenkirk are guilty here. Both men made a series of errors which led to Richards bringing the Kings to within one.
Now this is where things get interesting. After his defense completely abandoned him for LA's third goal, Jaroslav Halak seemed to have lost all confidence.
From that angle with no screen, this is an easy save for Halak. This is one of those instances where his head just wasn't in the game. He seemed shocked that a shot came from that angle, as evidenced by his extremely slow reaction time.
However, this was a team loss. Every single player made a mistake which helped LA's comeback.
Consider the Jeff Carter goal which gave LA a surprising 5-4 lead.
Notice something wrong here, aside from the puck going in the net? Look at how much space Jeff Carter has. Keep in mind this wasn't a power play. Both teams had five skaters. It's insane how much room Carter has to collect the puck, move forward, pick his spot and ultimately light the lamp.
The Blues left half of the ice open. It's rare you see someone have this much space without a power play. Chris Stewart is guilty of drifting over with the puck while numerous Blues are trapped on the right side of the ice.
There you have it. Three goals in just over six minutes and the loss was in the bag.
Brian Elliott came in to relieve Halak, but the damage was done. The Kings added a 6th goal, which like so many of their goals before, came due to an error by a St. Louis defenseman. Ian Cole fumbled the puck and LA capitalized.
So, what can we learn from this?
- This isn't the fault of the officials. I saw numerous fans claim the officials weren't helping the Blues but the fact is the Kings went 0-for-6 on the power play. All of the damage to the Blues happened because of mistakes they made, not the officials.
- The 3rd period was a nightmare. Blues managed just 3 shots to LA's 15.
- Despite scoring 4 goals, the Blues mustered just 14 shots.
- Brian Elliott was decent in relief. LA's sixth goal is tough to pin on him given how badly the defense was playing at that point.
- Jaroslav Halak was a mixed bag. He made some good saves, was hung out to dry and then made an enormous error.
- Credit to David Backes. The guy was cut and speared in the same shift, but kept on rolling, dishing out huge hits. His heart is definitely in the right spot. However, does it seem like he's focusing more on hitting and less on actually making plays? Feels that way.
It's time to make some changes. The Blues are now a .500 team (11-9-2). Despite their obvious skill, there's clearly some mental issues across the roster. This same group of players has quit on three coaches now, starting with Andy Murray, continuing with Davis Payne and now with Ken Hitchcock. At some point you have to hold the players responsible, not the man behind the bench.
If there's ever been a time to advocate the Blues breaking up their core group of players, now is the time.