The St. Louis Blues lost their final meeting of the season against the Los Angeles Kings this past Thursday night at the Scottrade Center. The loss made it EIGHT games in a row without a win against the Kings dating back to last season and including the 4 game sweep the Blues suffered in the playoffs. It remains to be seen if St. Louis will get a chance to avenge that sweep.
There’s not much to say about the game Thursday. While the scoreboard might show that St. Louis battled all night, tying the game twice after trailing by a goal and even scoring with the man advantage, the Blues were out shot 40-22 by the Kings, and ultimately out-muscled, out-skated, and out-played by the reigning Stanley Cup Champs.
The lone Bluenote who looked hungry for the puck and eager to “buy-in” was rookie Vladimir Tarasenko who scored both of the St. Louis goals. Jaroslav Halak allowed 3 goals, including a very soft one on a play where both he and defenseman Wade Redden gave up on the puck. Kings forward Trevor Lewis did not, and the result was familiar.
While many fans will argue the Blues were wronged on the Kings’ go-ahead goal in the 3rd period the fact remains they failed to out-play their opponent, again, and were in a position, AGAIN, where one bad play against them cost them the game.
The Kings would add an empty net goal to make the final score 4-2, and ONLY THEN did the Blues show any life, as David Backes looked to be fed up with his and his team’s lackluster play. It was too little, too late and I wonder if that might be indicative of what the Blues face for the remainder of the season.
With St. Louis idle for 3 days since that loss on Thursday night, the Blues saw the 4th through 8th place standings in the Western Conference shuffled up again resulting, as I predicted last week, in the Blues being on the outside looking in. At the start of today, April 1st, they sit in 9th place with 36 points, one point behind Columbus, and three teams (DAL, EDM, NAS) right on their heels with 35.
The Blues have 15 games remaining and play 6 of their next 7 on the road before finishing with 7 of their final 8 at home, including two against the mighty Chicago Blackhawks. Points will be at a premium and every game will further mix up the playoff picture as only two of those games will be against teams not currently in the post-season hunt.
Shaky goaltending, an anemic power-play, and a general lack of scoring have sent the Blues into a free-fall and I’m left wondering who is going to step up and throw the emergency brake. While the team didn’t play over the weekend, the front office wasn’t entirely lifeless making a deal to bring veteran defenseman Jordan Leopold in from Buffalo for a couple draft picks. Jake Allen was sent back to Peoria to make room on the roster and Brian Elliot returned from his conditioning stint to re-assume backup duties behind Halak.
Leopold, in theory, shores up the left side of the D for St. Louis, a move they’ve been looking to make all season long. Word is he’ll play alongside Kevin Shattenkirk tonight against the Wild but that he may eventually end up as the partner for Alex Pietrangelo the Blues have been searching for since the brought in Redden earlier this year. If that’s the plan, why not have him playing with Petro right away? Who knows?
The goaltending moves have fans in a tizzy, many screaming about Allen’s demotion and saying the rookie is the team’s only chance at making the playoffs. While I’ve been a big fan of Allen’s play this year, I disagree that he’s the goalie that will take the Blues into the playoffs on a legitimate run at the Cup. I still believe Halak, if anyone, needs to be that guy, and if he can’t do it then it’s not happening this year. Allen will be the starter for the Blues in years to come, and he’ll be very good, but it’s not his time.
I’ve heard fans talking that now’s the time for Captain Backes to stand up and put this team on his back, but I say it’s too late for that. If “now’s the time” what the heck has he been doing all season long? After all the “buy-in” talk last week and the apparent lack of it Thursday night, I think it’s going to be someone else that brings this team together, if it happens at all. All we can really do as fans is watch, wait and see who steps up in these final weeks. Maybe being on the outside looking in for the 1st time this season will be the wake-up call the Blues need, but how many wake-up calls do you get before it’s simply too late?
GO BLUES! Long Live the Note!