Ducks Make Quacks out of the Blues – ANA 4, STL 3 (SO)

During the Blues game tonight, they aired a new commercial featuring some of their young players. They each stand in front of the camera and hold up signs with one word written on them, and show a quick clip that corresponds to that word. The four words they show are Exciting, Tough, Fast, and Entertaining. They got all of those right, but left off maybe the most important word a fan can use to describe the St. Louis Blues: FRUSTRATING!

For the 3rd time this year, the Blues gave up a 3-goal lead at home and lost to the Anaheim Ducks 4-3 in a shootout this Saturday. Even with some key injuries and a restructured blue line, the Ducks had no problem rallying and embarrassing the Blues on home ice.

The Blues looked to have plenty of jump and drive; it appeared that they really wanted to win this one. But several game-changing defensive mistakes, a huge disparity in SOG, and a deadly top line cost the Blues an easy two points.

The 1st period saw no goals, but plenty of chances for each side. The Blues continued to implement Coach Payne’s aggressive forechceck to great success, which kept the sustained pressure at an incredible level.  At one point the Blues imprisoned the Ducks in their own zone for a good 90 seconds, getting three different lines on and off the ice in the process.

With all that force on the Ducks, the Blues were bound to score first. Andy McDonald scored against his former team at 2:06 in the 2nd period, on a drop pass from David Perron. BJ Crombeen also added a 2nd period tally after outworking the Ducks’ defense. Crombeen was literally face down on the ice in the crease and shoveled a loose puck past Jonas Hiller to give the Blues a 2-goal lead.

The Ducks were in even hotter water when TJ Oshie scored a nice goal 4 minutes into the 3rd period. After Brad Boyes centered the puck from behind the net, Oshie calmly went forehand-backhand on Hiller to score his 10th of the year.

And that’s where the party died. Just two minutes after Oshie gave the Blues a 3-goal lead, Barret Jackman lost his footing at his own blue line, allowing Getzlaf and Niedermayer an easy 2-on-1 goal.

I remember thinking to myself, “Okay, there goes the shutout, but at least we’ve got a 2-goal lead in the 3rd, right?”

False. The Blues cannot be trusted to play at home with a lead. Bobby Ryan, recently named to the US Olympic team, scored his first of two goals at 12:00 in the 3rd, shortening the Blues’ lead to just one.

Once again, I heard myself saying, “Okay, that sucks even more, but we’re still fine. They’ll pull the goalie, and we’ll stop ‘em.”

Wrong, wrong, wrong. The Blues always stop attacking with a 1-goal lead. Sure enough the Ducks pulled Hiller and kept the Blues stuck in their own end. With a much, much bigger team, the Ducks only had to fire pucks on Mason and get rebounds. Bobby Ryan scored the GTG, half a minute away from victory. Déjà vu, anybody?

All I could do was stare at the TV. I didn’t yell, I didn’t throw things, or cuss out Jackman. I just sat there thinking, “God, it’s so sad that I’m getting used to this situation.”

But still there was hope. There was still a shooout. The Blues DID have a better record than the Ducks in shootouts, according to FSM so there was no reason to panic. Jonas Hiller gave me that reason as he blanked skater after skater.

Only Oshie and Boyes scored in 7 rounds of shooters. The Ducks found an unlikely hero in defenseman James Wisniewski, who scored the winning shootout goal.

The Blues D-line has been in decline since the departure of Pronger and MacInnis. I mean, where are we going to find two players (two Norris trophy winners with the Blues, by the way) like that again? Erik Johnson seems to show glimpses of their skill from game to game, but it’s never enough. The Blues have too many defensive problems to be considered a responsible D.

  • Flyin’ Solo – We’ve heard it from everyone, Erik Johnson is the future of this club. He’s got tons of skill in all the right areas, but he’s got no help. Roman Polak seems to be the only other blue liner on our roster who can shut down good, top-six forwards and pull his own weight. Everyone else falls on their asses (Jackman), takes stupid penalties (Jackman, again), or flat-out doesn’t play hard enough. EJ and Polak are solid defensemen, but can the same be said of the rest of the D?
  • One-Way Street – there’s nothing better than having a team full of two-way players, case and point – 2007-2008 Detroit Red Wings. Zetterberg, Datsyuk, and Hossa are all fantastic offensive weapons, but the reason they’re so highly touted is because they’re great TWO-WAY players. We’ve got some great role players, but not enough true two-way guys like that. Guys like Boyes, Perron, Kariya, and Berglund are all good offensive players, but lack the defensive play that can save games. Guys like Winchester, Crombeen, and Backes represent the rough-and-tumble side of the game, but don’t score enough to provide much-needed offense. Bottom line, we need more balance.
  • Untimely, Untimely Goals – If you’ve seen the Blues play at home in the past couple of months, you know what this one’s all about. With a top-10 ranking in attendance, you would think that if the Blues give up a bad goal, they could at least feed off the 19,000 Blues fans and answer with a goal. But instead, the Notes just seem to keep handing the opposition clear-cut scoring chances, which are usually connected on. It needs to stop.

Clearly, the Blues have a lot to think about before Monday, when they begin a 2-game road trip through western Canada. They’ll face the Flames on Monday, the Canucks on Wednesday. The Blues will really have to tighten up the loose ends behind the blue line if they want to stop Vancouver and Calgary’s potent offenses.

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