The St. Louis Blues lost 4-1 to the Los Angeles Kings Thursday night at Scottrade Center, just their fourth loss in regulation at home but their third uninspiring game in a row scoring two or fewer goal, an unsettling trend considering how prolific their offense has been this season. Jaroslav Halak looked rather ordinary stopping 27 of 30 shots and TJ Oshie scored the lone St. Louis goal, his 3rd in the last two games, all the Blues could muster on 29 shots of their own against a very sharp Jonathan Quick.
No strangers to slow starts, the Blues seemed to pick up right where they left off in a lackluster win Tuesday versus Phoenix, looking slow and sluggish up and down the ice, and allowing the Kings to take an early 1-0 lead at 2:31 of the 1st period. St. Louis has not been firing on all cylinders since their 5-0 win in Calgary January 9,. Since then they lost a one-goal game to Vancouver they could’ve just as easily won and beat the Coyotes by one-goal in a game Halak had to steal for them.
Tuesday against Los Angeles the Blues didn’t have much energy at all, save for about 10 minutes after Oshie’s 2nd period goal, his 11th, coming on a penalty-shot, the first of his career. Osh has been a near sure thing in shootouts this season and once again got the better of the goaltender, beating Quick 5-hole to tie the game 1-1.
The shot wasn’t awarded immediately, but the right call was made and Oshie made the Kings pay for it. The goal put a little spark into the Blues and the pace of the game picked up considerably from that point. For the remainder of the 2nd period St. Louis was out-hitting and out-skating LA though they were unable to solve Quick and do anything with their momentum. The entire 60-minutes was filled with whistles, either from icing of penalties, and though neither team managed to score with the man-advantage, the Kings dominated the final frame, re-taking the lead 2-1 only two minutes in on a bad luck deflection off the skate of Jaden Schwartz and then, in a terrible mis-play by Halak, who wandered far into the corner to play the puck, LA made it 3-1 with a shorthanded goal by Trevor Lewis, somewhat reminiscent of Alexander Steen’s game-winner in last season’s playoffs.
In a blink, St. Louis went from having a golden chance to tie the game with a power-play goal to being down 2-goals, and with some undisciplined play throughout the rest of the 3rd, the Blues couldn’t catch any breaks or put anything past Quick, who was very good Tuesday night, as he seems to be every time he faces St. Louis. The Blues pulled Halak with about 2-minutes left but the Kings were able to pump in an empty-net goal to seal the deal. For LA it was the end of a five game road losing streak, and gave them a 2-1 season series lead over the Blues, a team they’ve eliminated in the last two playoffs.
For the Blues it left only questions. Despite getting their catalyst, Vladimir Sobotka back after missing Tuesday’s game, the St. Louis offense was unable to muster much offensive zone pressure and looked abysmal on the power-play, a strength earlier this year. Sobie was highly involved, as he always is, and took a vicious elbow to the head from Jake Muzzin late in the 3rd. Muzzin would draw a minor penalty on the play, but nearly everyone who saw the replay believes there should be further discipline from the league.
With the game out of reach, St. Louis attempted some retaliation against Muzzin inside the final minute, with both Sobie and Chris Stewart taking shots at Muzzin. All three would earn minors and Stewie would receive a 10-minute Misconduct, a fitting end to a sloppy game. Will Muzzin be suspended? Will Sobie suffer an lasting effects from the head-shot? As for any questions about goaltending, Coach Hitchcock said earlier this week that Brian Elliott would start Saturday’s tilt versus the red-hot Anaheim Ducks, and that each goalie would get three starts in the next 6-games. Elliott seems so much more consistent right now and I think if he can beat the Ducks tonight that the Blues would be better off leaning on him a while like they did when Halak was down with an illness a couple of weeks ago.
St. Louis will have Steen back in the line-up versus Anaheim, which might give them the boost they need to jump-start their scoring machine. Steener hasn’t played since December 21st and has finally recovered from concussion symptoms. Hopefully he’ll be able to step in and contribute right away, as the Blues sorely need to get back on a hot streak.
GO BLUES! LONG LIVE THE NOTE!