The St. Louis Blues lost. Again. The Blues hung with the Los Angeles Kings through two periods and 17 minutes of the third before ultimately allowing a third goal which sealed the result. It wasn't until the Kings scored on an empty net that the Blues finally woke up and seemed to care about the result, a typical display that fans have become all too familiar with.
The Blues move to 17-14-2 on the year and to 8-7-1 at home.
Is it time to make a change? The Blues were held for quite a while after their loss to Edmonton and there was a private meeting with the leaders of the team. The term "buy-in" was brandished about. Well, another game, another loss. When is it time to realize the message is falling on deaf ears?
The Blues are now just +1 in goal differential, scoring 94 while allowing 93.
Andy McDonald was a (-4) on the night.
The Blues are now 6-7-1 against teams from the Pacific. Three of those losses were to the Kings.
Vladimir Tarasenko finally found the back of the net. The entire St. Louis offense has had a tough time finding twine, but Tarasenko has been robbed on four or five chances in his last four games. We're talking high quality opportunities that were robbed by an outstanding save. Nice to see him get one. He was due.
Tarasenko's second goal showed his immense hockey intelligence, lifting Rob Scuderi's stick before sliding the puck into the empty net. Very smart play.
Chris Stewart was a (-3) on the night.
Alexander Steen and Tarasenko each fired four shots. That's not counting the numerous Steen shots which flew wide.
Numerous times Bernie Federko referred to bad plays by the Blues as "an unfortunate break." Were there some? Yes, but good teams overcome the luck factor. The Blues had numerous errors that were self-inflicted that shouldn't be glossed over.
What's it going to take for David Perron to cut the offensive penalties out of his game?
LA's second goal was a perfect summary of what the Blues do wrong. Trevor Lewis beats the defenseman, Wade Redden, and wins a puck that should have been easily cleared aside. Lewis bats at it and the puck sneaks past Jaroslav Halak and his post. Momentum zapped. Was it a tricky bounce? Maybe, but the D has to do better on pucks like that. Halak has to do a better job of sealing his post. The Blues can't allow goals when it's 2-on-3 and a bad angle.
Blues played dangerously in the first period. They allowed one clean breakaway and one partial breakaway. All in all, they were lucky enter the dressing room level after 20 minutes.
@frozennotes seem like the only player that bought in is the one who speaks the least English— Michael Mitchell (@Mike_Mitchell72) March 29, 2013
I saw numerous Tweets from Blues fans that were upset the team didn't go out and get Jarome Iginla. There's just so many things wrong with that thought that I don't even know where to start. The most obvious might have been Iginla named four teams he'd go to and St. Louis wasn't one of them.
Alex Pietrangelo and Kevin Shattenkirk both assisted on Tarasenko's second goal. It was Pietrangelo's first point in six games and Shattenkirk's first point in nine games.
Patrik Berglund was demoted to the fourth line for an extended spell tonight. Puzzling move as other players seemed more deserving of a demotion (Perron).
Nelly attended tonight's game. Not sure if that means much to you, but there it is.
At the start of the year the Blues were widely praised for their ability to easily enter the opponent's zone. Now it seems as if the Blues have difficulty even crossing the red line, let alone crossing into the enemy's zone. It seems as if other teams have figured out the St. Louis strategy and are preventing it before it develops.
When was the last time T.J. Oshie "Oshied" someone? I know Rick Nash plays in the East now, but c'mon!
Speaking of Oshie, he's one of many St. Louis players that continually struggles to clear his own zone. Skip the flashy move or tricky pass, just get the puck out. It doesn't have to be pretty.
LA's third goal should be an example for the Blues. LA's intensity and determination led to a goal. That's what the Blues need to mimic and copy in order to produce a goal when they need one.
Work hard, never quit. That was the motto of the 2011-12 Blues. The 2013 motto? Work hard sometimes, quit often. That might be a bit wordy, but it's factual.
It's becoming increasingly obvious, at least to me, that while the buy-in, if it ever happens, might help cut down on the odd man chances against, the Blues are simply not fast enough or strong enough to deal with the tight forecheck of good Western teams. If they were quicker, they could dance around it. If they were stronger, they could bull through it. Right now, they're not either, and it's showing in their record.
On an odd aside to the above, I find myself expecting Columbus to surprise a lot of people when they move to the East as part of realignment. Sure, they're not the best at the West's style of play, but by definition, not everybody in the East can be the best at *their* style of play, either, and the advantages of a well-played Western style were certainly on display last night.
Where is that "next gear" that the good teams have, and why does it seem like the Blues never display it aside from the occasional game against bad/rebuilding/bottom-feeding teams?
Similarly, where is the emotion? Maybe the 90-91 Blues/Blackhawks shaped my view of what Blues hockey should be too much, but win or lose, there was energy. Excitement, even. And certainly punishment for opponents if they tried to camp in the crease. Aside from Polak, is any Blues D-man on the current roster even capable of punishing a net-front forward these days, physically?
Tarasenko was due, and is due some more. The kid's just a ball of skill and hockey sense, and as he grows into the league in the next couple of years, the Blues should have a legitimate scoring superstar on their hands, provided they can find somebody who can reliably get him the puck. I keep hearing people say the Blues need a legitimate sniper - Tarasenko will count, if he keeps it up, so will Stewart. What they really need in regards to offense is an Oates or St. Louis type who can make those seeing-eye passes to set them up. Watching them finish at that point would be a regular joy, instead of an occasional flash.
Backes is still due. Man, this guy is snakebit.
Berglund seems to be regressing to last year's play now, after a really solid start. If he would go back to the work he was putting in at the start of the season, he likely wouldn't have gotten the fourth line doghouse minutes that he did last night. That said, doghousing Berglund instead of Perron and the Offensive Zone Minor Penalty Parade? I have no explanation for that.
Regarding LA's third goal, it seems like, aside from on the power play, the Blues forwards aren't willing to go stand in front of the goalie to provide screens and bang away on close rebounds. Because of this, there are a lot of easy saves and easy zone exits for the opponents. How much of this has to do with the "third man high" defensive philosophy, I don't know, but there needs to be some of this, if the Blues want to score on plays other than Tarasenko coming off the wall or the occasional Stewart rocket from the circle.
Given the general quality of the upcoming competition, I have a mostly negative outlook on the Blues actually making the playoffs this season. Chicago three times, Detroit once, Nashville once, Vancouver once, Minnesota twice, and Columbus twice (who always seem to give the Blues a tough game, regardless of how doormattish their record would indicate they are in a given season). And then the nominally easier games against Phoenix, Dallas, two with Colorado, and Calgary. Call it 30 points remaining on the table.
Meanwhile, Nashville is two points back of the Blues, having played one more game. Dallas is three points back, with a game in hand. Edmonton is three points back, no games in hand either way. Phoenix and Columbus are both three points back, both having played one more game than the Blues.
Putting that into expectations, the Blues are currently capturing 54% of possible points, which would net them 52 by the end of the year. Meanwhile, Nashville is on pace for 48, Dallas for 49.5, Edmonton for 48, and Phoenix and Columbus for 46.5. For Nashville, Dallas, and Edmonton, it's enough that a two game swing, either positively for them, or negatively for the Blues, or a combination of both, puts them right in the thick of things. Phoenix and Columbus would need a three game swing instead. Frankly, none of that is impossible, particularly for Nashville and Dallas, if their #1 goalies get on a roll and steal a couple of games.
Comparatively, I'd say that the Blues chances of capturing 16-17 points (16.62 is 54% of their remaining possible) given their remaining schedule is actually fairly poor, given their recent play.
Last thought for the post: These are not the numbers I expected to be running for this season as it came down to the wire. Worrying about squeaking into the playoff picture at all is not what the expectations were for this team. Anybody can say what they want about the lockout-shortened season, the lack of a real preseason and training camp, the condensed schedule, and on and on, but frankly, every team is playing under those same conditions. There is no way to say it at this point other than this: The Blues have badly underperformed this year to date, and they haven't shown anything to lead me to believe that they're suddenly going to start *overperforming* to make up the difference as they get into the stretch run.
@miendiem Wow, this might be a record reply for you - and that's saying something!
I like your last paragraph the best. I've seen plenty of folks on Twitter going the "oh it's a shortened season" or "no training camp" route but as you said, everyone is under those conditions. We all know a Cup win in 2013 would be just as sweet as a Cup win during any normal season.
This mentality especially seems to come in when it comes to making changes. For Brian Elliott, I would hate to see a decision made on his small sample of games considering his remarkable 2011-12. When it comes to other guys, such as forwards that make up the core of this team and have for 5 or more years, a negative sample from 2013 mixed in with negative play from the past few years becomes pretty troubling. Eventually, you have to change the core if the core isn't winning you games or winning you a Cup. It's that simple.
@David Rogers Can't be a record, I didn't hit the character limit and have to start a reply to my own post. heheh I suppose it's my current record for the new site and for the season,though.
Agreed on Elliott. And Halak and Allen, for that matter. Yes, they could give us some more timely saves, but like I've said in the recent past, look at the actual quality of the shots on a lot of the goals they're giving up. Sure, there are their share of softies, but that happens to all goalies, and Elliott and Halak were probably due to regress a bit back towards their career averages after last year. But that doesn't wholly account for the way this team has maddeningly refused to backcheck, take position and the body on players crashing the crease, get the puck in deep rather than turning it over at the offensive blueline leading to 2-on-1's/3-on-2's/etc, and on and on.
Last year, this team played ferociously most nights. Time? Space? The opponents were lucky to have any of it, and so even though the team was offensively challenged for various reasons (injuries, down year for Stewart, Berglund's inconsistencies), they won those close games, because the odd man breaks against simply didn't happen with any real frequency. Meanwhile, this year, the offensive numbers are up, to the tune of about half a goal per game, but it's resulted in a porous defensive effort, and thus a lot of games that would've been wins or at least third points are becoming losses on the record this year.
Last night is a good example. The boys generally would've buckled down, stuffed LA at the defensive blueline, and taken the game to OT to guarantee a point. Certainly, LA is a good team, but in this shortened season, with points at so much of a premium, on home ice... I just don't understand how the team doesn't find the wherewithal to get the job done.
I don't think there's any question at this point that the time has come to break up the core that has put on this same random disappearing act under three different coaches now. They're my boys, of course, just because they wear the Bluenote, and in an emotional way, I don't really want to see any of them go. That said, if we could get a real playmaking center or two, and a big, physical LHD who's willing to pay the price to clear the crease against the league's best on a nightly basis, and that's going to take roster players to accomplish via trade? So be it.
@Hockeydad47 Thanks. Wish it was about a happier result.