Jaroslav Halak apparently re-injured his groin Monday night in pre-game warm-ups and was unable to play against the L.A. Kings. Instead, Halak watched from the bench as his Blues lost 4-1.
Scottrade Center, normally a safe-haven for the St. Louis Blues, has been anything but over this last home stand. The hapless Blues managed only a single point out of a possible 8 as they lost for the 5th time in as many games Monday night against the L.A. Kings. Jeff Carter led the way for L.A., scoring twice, and Kings rookie netminder Jonathan Bernier looked like a seasoned pro in earning his first career win.
Early on, this looked like it might finally be the turnaround the Blues had been waiting for, some sign there was life in the Note after all, and against a team they’d last seen in the playoffs last year, sweeping St. Louis out of contention on their way to the Cup. Wade Redden took exception to a big hit on rookie Vladimir Tarasenko by Jordan Nolan and dropped his gloves with Nolan.
Things didn’t exactly go as planned for the vet, and Nolan basically threw him around. Redden was lucky he wasn’t bloodied. The fans might’ve been riled up, but the Blues gave them little else to cheer about in through the rest of the 1st. They did a better job of gaining the blue line and entering the offensive zone, but most of their passes were going to empty spots and they generated almost no pressure on Bernier.
The low point came at 8:31 as Carter scored his 1st of the night when the Blues faltered on the backcheck and gave up an odd-man rush to the Kings.
The teams had been skating 4-on-4 at the time. Brian Elliot, the surprise starter, relinquished the easy goal- he really had no chance on the play- and continued to look shaky the entire game. He was saved once by the crossbar, but seemed to be fighting the puck at every turn, moving in slow motion, barely knocking shots down. Unfortunately, the rest of the team was no better Monday night.
St. Louis continued its uninspired play in the 2nd period, and at 3:23 Carter notched his second goal to put the Kings up 2-0. Once again, the Blues defense let the opposition get behind them and score an easy one. David Backes spent as much or more time standing in front of his own net than in front of the Kings net where his game belongs. On more than one occasion, Barret Jackman began moving the puck out of his zone “with all the time in the world,” according to Darren Pang, and ended up icing the puck.
The Blues certainly looked more confused and discombobulated than usual, but when John Kelly suggested the reason was perhaps that the team was rattled by the late change in net, it struck me as ridiculous. Bernie Federko took it too far, asking Coach Hitchcock on the bench if that was why St. Louis was struggling. Hitch looked, to me, visibly upset by the question. I can’t imagine a team of professional athletes stooping to excuses like that for poor performance. I thought it was a real slap in Elliot’s face by the broadcast team.
The Blues did a lot of standing around in their own zone, making no-look backhand passes to nobody in particular, and it led to a 3-0 Kings lead after another odd-man rush on their power-play.
Well-known FOX broadcaster, Joe Buck, had joined the FS Midwest team in the booth minuted prior and had the misfortune to call the goal on the home-team’s feed. A Blues season-ticket holder, Buck asked that the cameras not linger on his seats, implying that maybe he wasn’t going to stick around to watch much more. Pang, trying to make a joke on the L.A. goal-scorer’s name suggested he was going to get some whiskey. yes, that’s what this game was folks, a laugh-er.
The Blues got a bit of life again late in the 2nd when Vladimir Sobotka was run down along the boards and took justice into his own hands, fighting with Trevor Lewis. The Note ended up on the power-play and got their only goal of the night, a laser-beam, one-time slapper off the stick of Alex Steen.
The frame ended dubiously, as Backes was boarded (one of three boarding penalties in the period) and had to leave the ice. The refs called a minor penalty and the Blues did nothing to stand up for their fallen captain.
Starting the 3rd on the power-play, the Blues had little life left in them. They managed a total of ZERO shots on that man advantage and less than two minutes later surrendered yet another Kings goal while almost literally standing still in their own zone. Elliot has not been very good of late but tonight in particular he was really hung out to dry by his teammates.
St. Louis did a few little things right, winning face-offs, getting the puck in deep in the offensive zone, but couldn’t muster many shots on the rookie, Bernier. The Kings had a single shot through 10 minutes of the 3rd, and it was a goal. The Blues looked to be pressing, fumbling and everyone trying to do too much rather than settling back and playing their game. With only five minutes left and still down by 3 goals, Ryan Reaves took a very bad, dumb roughing penalty to essentially kill any chance they might’ve had to make a come-back.
All told, I’d guess the Blues played MAYBE ten minutes of decent hockey Monday night. The fans booed as the clock expired and the teams skated off the ice. The game was a low point in this shortened season and I wish I knew what happened to turn them into a bunch of selfish, unmotivated hockey players when a mere 12 days ago they’d been a cohesive, well-oiled hockey TEAM.
With Halak possibly injured and likely unable to play, the Blues recalled Jake Allen today to join them on their road-trip. They’ll play tomorrow night at Detroit, which doesn’t seem like a very good place for a team trying to figure out who they are. Hitch said it though, ”There’s no cavalry coming. There’s no rescue party coming to take care of us. We’ve got to do it ourselves.”