The return of Alexander Steen was not enough to spark the Blues to their scoring average as they fell Saturday night 3-2 to the Anaheim Ducks at Scottrade Center. Brian Elliott was up and down, making some excellent saves to keep his team in the game late but gave up a soft goal early and Anaheima rookie Frederik Anderson was too much for the Blues stopping 34 of 36 shots for the win. It was the first time this season the Blues lost two in a row at on home ice. St. Louis got goals from Barret Jackman and Jaden Schwartz in the losing effort.
Steen was back on the top line with David Backes and TJ Oshie to start the game but the line as a whole failed to even register a shot on goal in the 1st period. Coach Ken Hitchcock mixed things up along the way and the lines in the 3rd looked nothing like the lineup when the game began. St. Louis fell behind early yet again as Ryan Getzlaf beat Elliott at 5:27 of the opening frame with a snap-shot while the rest of the Blues stood around mostly flat-footed. The Ducks would make it 2-0 in the 2nd period with a shot that Ells surely wishes he had back. Matt Beleskey fired the puck at Ells stick-side and the Blues goalie couldn’t quite squeeze it enough. The puck trickled through him and over the red line. To be fair, the Blues did a horrendous job trying to clear their zone and the Ducks came at Elliott with numbers.
Anaheim took advantage of a rare penalty called on Steen mid-way through the 2nd to make it 3-0 Ducks and seemingly put the game out of reach for the Blues. Cam Fowler blasted a rocket through traffic for the power-play goal and a 3-goal lead at 9:13. As we’ve seen in a few other games this season, the Blues were in a position where they would’ve folded in years past, but this team is a bit different and a bit more resilient, and St. Louis started grinding away at the Ducks with roughly 10-minutes left in the game. Jax fired a shot from the point that finally beat Anderson making it 3-1 and giving the Blues a glimmer of hope. It was the 2nd goal of the season for the veteran blueliner.
The Blues finally capitalized with the man-advantage about 5-minutes later, scoring on their 4th and final power-play of the night when Schwartz knocked the puck in off Anderson’s back from a near-impossible angle. The Blues had been held scoreless in their previous seven power-play attempts. Schwartz’s goal, his 16th of the season, came in a “must-score” situation with just over 5-minutes remaining in regulation. The Blues were in the game, but it proved to be too little, too late.
Falling behind early, running into yet another hot goaltender, and failing to play a full 60-minute game doomed the Blues Saturday night. This has been their first notable rough patch of the season and while there’s still a lot of hockey left, it just boggles the mind that a team as skilled and well coached as St. Louis can go out, especially on home ice, and expect to win a game against one of the best teams in the league by playing, really playing hard, for only 10-minutes.
Elliott wasn’t as awful as the stat line would have you believe, and was the reason the game didn’t end 4-2 or 5-2, but he got little help from his teammates. The usual suspects were there, going full-speed, banging it out in the hard areas- Schwartz, Vladimir Sobotka, Vladi Tarasenko- but there were more misplays and bad passes than there were memorable moments for St. Louis. Steen wasn’t fully up to speed but was still a noticeable presence on the ice, logging over 20-minutes and finishing with four shots on goal.
The Blues will put the game behind them and travel north for a game Monday night against their former Central Division nemesis, the Detroit Red Wings. I would expect to see Jaroslav Halak back in net for St. Louis, but anything could happen at this point as neither netminder has been overly consistent lately. At times not having a true Number 1 goalie can be a good thing, when both guys are riding a hot hand, but overall I think it’s a detriment to the team’s chemistry and flow not to have the same goalie backstopping them (most) every night. They also desperately need to get their power-play back in form, as scoring has been something of a problem for the Blues this month. In their last 4-games St. Louis has scored just 6 goals after netting 21 in the previous four alone.
GO BLUES! LONG LIVE THE NOTE!