Fans may be as tired of reading the message as I am of saying it: The Blues got beat at their own game. Thursday night at the Scottrade Center the Detroit Red Wings rolled into town and right through a lackluster performance by the Blues, handing St. Louis its third loss in a row, 5-1.
The Wings featured a rookie goaltender, Petr Mrazek, making his NHL debut and piled on an already slumping Brian Elliot, pouring in 5 goals and out-shooting the Blues 29-27. Mrazek was tested a few times but held his ground and led the Wings to the victory. The Wings out-played St. Louis in pretty much every aspect of the game, out-hustling, out-checking, and obviously out scoring the Blues for a second straight meeting.
St. Louis was down early, again, trailing 2-0 after the 1st period on Detroit goals by Dan Cleary and Jakub Kindl, each scoring their first of the season. Both goals saw the Blues, again, standing flat-footed in their own zone as the Wings skated freely though to be fair, Kindl’s shot from out high deflected in front of Elliot, dramatically changing direction before sailing into the net.
One bright spot for the Blues in the 1st though, was that they only took one minor penalty, a holding call against David Backes, and then killed the ensuing Detroit power-play. Hey, you have to find the silver lining where you can, right?
The Blues were out-shot badly in the 2nd period 15-8, but they managed to cut the lead to 2-1 after a power-play goal by Alex Pietrangelo. The Blues seemed to be passing up a lot of shooting chances, but they stayed calm and Petro was left alone down low and made no mistake burying a pass from Alex Steen. Pietrangelo has score all the St. Louis goals in their last two games.
For a brief moment, the Blues and their fans saw a light at the end of the tunnel, a way out of the slump they’d been mired in. The momentum shift was palpable, but the Blues were unable to keep the pressure on and the Wings, always tenacious, always attacking, snatched it right back as the 2nd period came to a close, with 2 goals in less than 2 minutes, building their lead up to 4-1. The goals, again, showed the Blues to be slow to the puck in their own zone, and slow to clear the crease of either rebounds or the opposition.
Things took an ugly turn in the 3rd period on what appeared, to me, to be a relatively innocuous check on Johan Franzen by David Perron. With the puck against the end boards behind Mrazek, Franzen and fellow Red Wing Brian Lashoff battled alongside Patrik Berglund. Perron skated in, hitting Franzen from behind. While Franzen didn’t go down from the hit, he apparently didn’t enjoy kissing the glass and as Perron skated away he brutally speared #57 in the gut.
Franzen was given a major, a match penalty, and rightly kicked out of the game, but inexplicably to me, the refs added insult to injury by assessing Perron a Boarding minor on the play, eliminating what should’ve been a 5 minute power-play for the Blues. If the league was hoping this would be the “make-up call” for Backes’s phantom penalty from a week ago, they would be disappointed. In the ensuing 4-on-4, Detroit winger Valtteri Filppula out-raced two Blues to the puck for a breakaway, then beat Elliot for the final tally of the night, closing out the 5-1 win by the Wings.
Three absolute stinkers in a row, the last two at home. The Blues have been out-scored 16-5 in those three games. They’re not playing their game, which is to say, they’re not playing team defense, backing each other up, communicating or working together to move the puck. All night long Thursday we watched pucks being passed into skates. They’ve lost their tight fore-checking and back-checking game.
I don’t think it’s time to panic, and I don’t think the slump can be attributed to any one guy or anything in particular, but the Blues need to find their groove again quickly to stay in the hunt during this abbreviated season. Elliot, while not to blame for the losses, needs to be better between the pipes. Last season he stole games for the Blues when they weren’t playing their best hockey and we need to see him doing that again.
Coach Hitchcock said he felt like there were guys “cheating” each other and themselves lately, and that he’s not a big fan of the “bag skate,” where teams skate in practice after a bad game until they puke and fall down. He’s a “teaching” kind of coach. I hope he gets tough with his team today. The team leaders say they know what needs to be done but they’re not doing it yet. Something’s gotta give. The Blues lace ‘em up again at home tomorrow night against the Anaheim Ducks.
GO BLUES! Long Live the Note!