The Blues had 4 days off, prior to last night’s game, to prepare themselves for the freight train that is the Chicago Blackhawks. The ‘Hawks only needed 12 seconds Thursday night to beat the Blues who have struggled to compete at home this season. Jonathan Toews scored 12 seconds in and added another tally to lead Chicago to a 3-0 victory. It was the first time the ‘Hawks shut-out the Blues in St. Louis since Ed Belfour did it almost twenty years ago.
To say the quick goal stunned the Blues would be an understatement, but it was hardly unpreventable. The defense was caught slightly too far up the ice and David Perron appeared to miss a backchecking assignment, leaving too many Blackhawks wide open to make the play leading to Toews tipping the puck in behind Jaroslav Halak.
St. Louis never recovered from the early blow and played the rest of the game basically fending off the Chicago attack. The Blues tried playing a more physical game but couldn’t slow the Blackhawks down enough to keep them from notching their seventh straight win and extending their record of 20 games with at least a point to start the season. Chicago goalie Corey Crawford left the game with an undisclosed injury but backup Ray Emery was able to keep the Blues off the scoreboard and preserve the shut-out.
The Blues had their chances to get back into this game, but they wasted four power plays and are now 0 for their last 18 chances with the man-advantage. Kevin Shattenkirk nearly tied it up in the 2nd period when he rocketed a puck off a post, but that’s as close as St. Louis would come. They mustered a flurry of shots on their final power play of the game, but were still out-shot 23-21.
Andrew Shaw made it 2-0 Chicago at 2:11 of the 3rd period and Toews banged in his second of the night at 6:56, the ‘Hawks moving the puck seemingly at will inside the offensive zone.
After the game, Chicago coach Joel Quennville said he felt it had been his club’s best outing of the season, and it showed. It certainly didn’t help the Blues that they continually turned the puck over in their own zone Thursday night. Time after time, poor clearing passes or worse- blind passes- were picked off and created scoring chances for the ‘Hawks. Throughout the 2nd period Halak kept the Blues close but with the poor puck handling of defensemen Alex Pietrangelo and Kris Russell, it was eventually too much. Give a team playing at their highest level too many extra chances and you’re not going to like the results.
The Blues may have been a bit distracted as they prepared for the Blackhawks, but injuries aren’t why St. Louis lost this game. Earlier this week two of their top forwards, Andy McDonald and Alex Steen, went down during practice and new blood was called up from Peoria to fill in the holes. Thursday night at Scottrade Center there simply were not enough boys in blue skating hard or playing together as a team. Chicago is on a roll and deserves a ton of credit, but we know the Blues can play better.
Yes, it was a disappointing effort and loss, but St. Louis needs to forget about it quickly as the Edmonton Oilers are in town tonight. The Blues need to regroup, lace ‘em up and be ready to put in a full 60 minutes of hard-nosed hockey. And yes, that includes the first 12 seconds of the game.