The St. Louis Blues lost a pair of match-ups over the weekend after winning 6 straight, and while they remain in the 6th spot in the Western Conference standings, they’re only a couple points away from being out of the playoff picture entirely. The winning streak ended Friday night, and Brian Elliott’s shut-out streak ended Sunday, but what’s more distressing is that the Blues failed to score even once against Corey Crawford and the Chicago Blackhawks, leaving them with only 5 goals in their last 6 games.
Friday night was an ugly, sloppy 4-1 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets, a team desperately clinging to playoff hopes, scratching and clawing for every possible point. St. Louis was at the end of a long road trip, they scored first (Kevin Shattenkirk’s 4th) and they out-shot the Jackets 32-19, but they failed to do what kept their winning streak alive for 6 straight: play tight defense in their own zone. Columbus capitalized on the Blues being unable to move the puck out of their own zone and created some odd-man opportunities St. Louis had been very good at preventing until that night.
Jake Allen took the loss, giving Elliott a break in net, but the way the team played I don’t think it would’ve made much difference if Ells had started. It would’ve meant a much earlier ending to his team-record road shut-out streak. As it happened, the shut-out streak ended at home on Sunday when Elliott faced a Chicago team that wore away at the Blues and finally broke through with just under 5 minutes to go in the 2nd period, ending he streak at 214 minutes.
The 1st period Sunday gave us some of the most exciting, hard-hitting hockey we’ve seen all season and definitely the most entertaining of the last few versus the ‘Hawks. Huge hits all across the ice frequently led to post-whistle shenanigans and a total of 8 minor penalties, though only 1 power-play chance for each team. The Blues continued the strongest aspect of their game, killing off the Chicago power-play, but failed, yet again, to score on their own. The St. Louis power-play is now 6-for-72 in the past 27 games.
To add insult to injury, Chicago’s second goal, coming at 6:34 of the 3rd period, was a short-handed tally by Marian Hossa, highlighting the importance of winning face-offs in your own zone.
It was the kill-shot, essentially slamming the door on the Blues for the day and probably one Elliott should’ve stopped, but it happened in a blink and he’ll have to shake it off. The Blues need Ells to be the strongest link of the chain down the home-stretch if they stand any chance of retaining their precarious hold on a playoff spot.
St. Louis must somehow find a way to score goals again, obviously. We’ve seen them play sloppy defense and bounce back, it’s the core of their game. The additions of Jordan Leopold and Jay Bouwmeester have paid immediate dividends but, this is a team of consistently under-achieving forwards and it’s decision time. Will they lay down and give up, the way they appeared to in the 2nd half of the game yesterday, or put this team over the hump and steam-roll into the post-season?
I’m looking at you, Patrik Berglund. I’m talking to you, David Perron. I feel everyone always needs to be shooting the puck more, digging harder in the corners, but really those two guys looked like black-holes on the ice Sunday, sucking the energy from the team every second they were on the ice. Losing these games has been a team effort and I still don’t see everyone “buying-in.” I thought that time had come and gone, and while I know the team has been a bit short of man-power due to injuries I cannot stand watching 21 and 57 skating their shifts into the ground.
Word from the St. Louis hockey scene is that Dimitrij Jaskin will make his game debut tomorrow night against Vancouver. I’m hopeful Scotty Nichol is healthy enough to skate and maybe even TJ Oshie can find a way back into the line-up. Regardless, something needs to change in a BIG way up front for the Blues and it’s on the players to figure it out. The front office put their chips in the pile. It’s time for the product on the ice to prove it wasn’t in vain.
GO BLUES! Long Live the Note!