Someday the free-loving NHL world is going to find out what the St. Louis Blues did to earn the wrath of the Hockey Gods. Until then, one can only marvel at the mounting obstacles that follow them from game to game. Going into tonight’s game verse the San Jose Sharks, it was not a newly injured player dealt to the Blues, no. It was the flu. Circulating much like it does in an elementary school, three players were sick, with B.J. Crombeen and Brad Winchester visibly effected as the game went on.
The San Jose Sharks came into tonight having lost six straight, while the Blues hoped to build on their energetic and dominant performance over the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday night. However, it was not to be. There are certain sins you don’t commit against the Sharks: 1) You don’t give up penalties. 2) You don’t show intimidation.. aka you keep physical and 3) maintain a high pace game that doesn’t give players like Logan Couture time to set-up. The Blues proceeded to commit all three sins, in spades. In effect the Sharks ran the crease without challenge, had plenty of time for a multitude of uncontested blind, spun, set and drop passes, not to mention being as aggressive and nasty as need be.
It should also be known that the issue of the Blues power-play will be left alone for tonight. One of the biggest reasons (although not an excuse by any stretch) that the power play began to spiral was because of Joe Thornton and the San Jose Sharks. Thought to its continued breakdown is best saved for another night and game.
However, before delving into the rest of the miscues and undisciplined mistakes made tonight, there is a bright spot to be discussed. Erik Johnson has had two very solid games in a row and now has three points in three games. First, against the Los Angeles Kings and again tonight. Here is to hoping he builds on them. Tonight, he went to the net and scored on a goal that should have never went in. However, that is the whole point. When you crash the net and go for that second effort, good things happen. Chances come up and you are there when lady-luck or opportunity knocks. This is exactly what the Blues need from Johnson every night. Tonight, it is what he did. Additionally, he had four shots on goal, two blocked shots himself and two solid hits (three of his four shots were blocked- the wonders of DVRd games).
Here is another key about Johnson’s goal that will start into the issues from tonight: the whole play was made off a won face-off. Winning face-offs is a skill becoming all to rare with the Blues and it must come to a swift halt. Winning only 39% of face-offs in a game is going to get you nowhere, fast. This is especially true when most of those that are lost are in the defensive zone. Again, it allows the Sharks more time to be exact in carrying-out set plays that they practice near daily. Not to mention the twenty-two minutes in penalties. By default this will put you in essential situations where face-off wins are a must. Without it, the Sharks are never put on their heels.