The St. Louis Blues took off on a 3-game road trip and landed with a thud Sunday in Washington, losing 4-1 to Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals. Jaroslav Halak had trouble seeing the puck and was pulled in the 1st after allowing 3 goals on just 6 shots. Brian Elliott made 13 of 14 saves but the Blues couldn’t muster more than one goal, a power-play tally by Vladimir Sobotka. This came despite a season high 47 shots on goal and over 100 shots fired total. Braden Holtby stole the spotlight from Ovechkin who had 2 1st period goals for Washington.
Heading into Sunday’s game, St. Louis defenseman Ian Cole had performed admirably filling in for the injured Jordan Leopold. He was a plus-5 in seven games and had not been a minus in any game. Sunday changed all that, and may have opened the door for veteran addition Carlo Colaiacovo to see some playing time. On the ice for both of Ovechkin’s goals, Cole played probably the worst game of his Blues career, finishing minus-2 in just under 11 minutes of ice time. After the second score, a play on which Cole had Ovechkin covered, but couldn’t corral the Washington captain’s stick, I really thought we’d see a different defensive pairing against the Caps top line. However, it wasn’t until later in the game that Coach Hitchcock was able to get a better match-up. Yes, I know, Washington was able to get the last change before face-offs- being at home. Still, it was frustrating to see Cole essentially hung out to dry for for most of 40 minutes.
That the Blues lost this game 4-1 after out-shooting the Capitals 47-20 seems absurd, especially when St. Louis out-hit the Caps 27-19 AND won more face-offs (33-31.). Halak was simply bad, and the Blues were slow in the opening 20 minutes, possibly a result of their late travel to the nation’s capitol Saturday night. It’s going to happen- and I’m not down on Jaro- but he definitely will need to have a short memory and bounce back Tuesday night in Buffalo. Ells was good in relief and made some big saves, especially on Ovechkin in the latter half of the game.
As bad as Halak was in his short start, Holtby was that much better, even through a minute long 5-on-3 man advantage for the Blues in the final frame. The fast start by the Caps must’ve fired up the young netminder, and it was disappointing, to say the least, that St. Louis (with their #1 ranked power-play) couldn’t solve the young netminder. Overall, he was better than the Blues were bad. Ovechkin, with his 2 goals, re-tied Alexander Steen for the NHL lead at 17 goals. Steen’s scoreless night also snapped his 13-game point streak.
The Blues continue their Eastern Conference road-trip tomorrow night in Buffalo, facing a Sabres team, once reeling, who has won their last two at home. St. Louis might be without the services of Patrik Berglund who didn’t play Sunday due to an undisclosed injury. He was replaced in the lineup by Magnus Paajarvi, himself just returning from an injury. There’s still a lot of hockey left so there’s no reason to be overly concerned about the Washington loss. This is a Blues team sitting only 3 points out of the Conference lead with a couple of games in hand on #1 Chicago.
GO BLUES! LONG LIVE THE NOTE!