The St. Louis Blues returned home from a road trip around 1:30AM Tuesday morning with little time to prepare for a game that same night. Fatigue and another slow start led to the Blues losing, for the 3rd time this season, to the San Jose Sharks by a score of 4-2. Jaroslav Halak allowed two 1st period goals and made 23 saves on 27 shots in the loss. The Sharks swept the Blues in their season series 3-0 and dropped the Blues record to 0-5 versus teams from California. It was only the 3rd loss in regulation for St. Louis on home ice.
Tuesday’s game presented a significant challenge for the Blues, coming off the road with little rest after a bruising match-up in Ottawa and missing a number of major pieces to the team’s successes this season. David Backes, Vladimir Sobotka, and Jaden Schwartz were all missing with injuries. Ryan Reaves and Jordan Leopold both skated Tuesday morning but are still on their own roads to recovery and remain on IR. St. Louis needed some of their other guys to step up and the usual suspects remained nearly invisible.
Alex Pietrangelo has only 5-points in the last 15 games and hasn’t scored since November 2nd in Tampa. Patrik Berglund has zero points in his last 5 games and only 2 goals on the season. Even the team’s leading scorer, Alexander Steen, who cruised to 20 goals and once led the entire league, has netted only 3 in his last 10 games. Steen signed his 3-year contract extension today, a $17.4 million deal that could end up being quite a bargain for St. Louis if he can regain his scoring form from earlier in the season. Halak once again allowed multiple goals in the 1st period and the shortened bench simply wasn’t able to dig the Blues out of that hole.
After 22-minutes of play Tuesday, St. Louis was down 3-0 to the Sharks. The Blues looked beaten and demoralized but wouldn’t quit and finally got on the scoreboard at 15:31, Kevin Shattenkirk scoring his 4th of the season to make it 3-1. It was nice to see Shatty score a goal considering he’s been playing some of the shakiest defense over the last 3-games that I’ve seen since he arrived in St. Louis. I’m not saying the Blues rely solely on Shatty to transition the puck, but he’s been making terrible passes out of his own zone lately and creating more scoring chances for the opposition than for his own team. Ian Cole made a nifty move at the blueline to set up the goal.
The Blues showed some life in the closing minutes of the 2nd period, closing to within a goal when Jay Bouwmeester ripped a slap-shot past Antti Niemi making it 3-2. St. Louis was unable to carry much momentum into the 3rd period though, and San Jose reclaimed its 2-goal lead when Martin Havlat scored at 8:19. The Blues would fail to capitalize on two power-plays later in the frame and go on to lose 4-2.
St. Louis has had a number of slow starts in their 7-losses, including all three to the Sharks. San Jose outscored the Blues 8-0 in the first period this season. The Blues have one of the worst goal differentials in the first period of all NHL teams, though rank in the top-5 for periods 2 & 3. The difficulty at beginnings of games has been frustrating, to say the least, but with nearly two-thirds of the season remaining it’s hardly time for panicking. The Blues have injuries to overcome and things to figure out but have a lot of time left to do so.
The game saw the end of Backes’s 274-game playing streak come to an end and will miss at least the next game as well, though he did skate this morning which is a good sign. The status of Sobotka and Schwartz will be determined later today. Derek Roy had his 4-game point streaked stopped Tuesday night but will look to start a new streak tonight at Scottrade Center as the Montreal Canadiens come to town. Halak will likely start for St. Louis and is 3-0 with a 0.97 goals-against average, a .960 save percentage and one shutout versus his former team.
GO BLUES! LONG LIVE THE NOTE!