The Blues fell to the Carolina Hurricanes Friday night 3-1, a rare loss for St. Louis versus an Eastern Conference opponent, ending their 3-game winning streak and demonstrating the consequences of not playing Coach Hitchcock’s game: tight defense, clean zone-exits and cohesive team play. It’s been a recipe for success for the Blues since Hitchcock arrived and while it seems like a simple formula, failure to adhere to the plan is the constant in the dozen regulation losses suffered by the Blues this season.
It’s frustrating to say the least, knowing how good the Blues can be and while you certainly can’t realistically expect the team to win every game I would hope they expect to, otherwise why even bother? Is it because the regular season is too long, is just a warm-up for the playoffs? The consistent inconsistency shown by any St. Louis sports club not named The Cardinals has been a thorn in fans’ sides for many years, and it’s got to be the worst thing about this year’s Blues squad as well.
Maybe it’s a good thing that while they do have a weakness, at least it’s a known entity. It’s not as if the team, front office, fans, or media ever have to rack their brains after a loss wondering what happened. How did they lose? It’s always the same story- they played disjointedly, stood around flat-footed on defense too often, made sloppy plays through the neutral zone and couldn’t clear their own efficiently enough.
Each team allowed a power-play goal in the 1st period, another rarity for the Blues, especially on the road over their last 10 games. David Backes scored for St. Louis, his team leading 8th PPG of the season and the opening frame ended knotted 1-1. Unfortunately the Blues couldn’t build any momentum and the Hurricanes jumped out to a quick 2-1 lead early in the 2nd period.
With trade rumors about him flying, Jaroslav Halak has been very good over the team’s last 4 games but Friday night received very little help from his teammates on either Carolina goal. Whether it’s the defensemen getting caught watching the play or forwards not coming back to help out, most teams are going to score when they freely move the puck around your own zone or fire shots right from the face-off.
The other St. Louis rumor target of late, Chris Stewart, once again had almost nothing to show for the not-quite 15-minutes he played, though he led the team with shots on goal at three. He was absolutely robbed of the chance to get off the schneid and tie the game by Anton Khudobin 4-minutes into the 2nd period.
Regardless of where they play, a top-tier team like the Blues is usually going to get their opponent’s A-game, and Carolina proved the point Friday night. The Blues often find ways to make relatively unknown goaltenders look like All-Stars, but credit where it’s due, Khudbin made 27 saves and got help from a post in the 3rd period when Jay Bouwmeester missed tying it up by only inches. St. Louis still boasts one of the best Intra-conference records since the 2009-10 campaign at 50-17-8. Despite the loss, the Blues are still only 2-points behind Chicago Blackhawks for the Central Division lead with 3-games in hand on both the “Hawks and the Anaheim Ducks.
St. Louis returned home after the Carolina loss and will begin a 4-game homestand tonight as the Nashville Predators come to town tonight. The Blues will be without catalyst Vladimir Sobotka after he crashed hard into the end boards inside the final 2-minutes of Friday night’s game, suffering an apparent knee injury. He’s listed as day-to-day, which sounds much less serious than originally feared. Brian Elliott will be between the pipes and here are a few other positive things to note about tonight’s matchup:
- Backes will play his 543rd game for the Blues tonight tying him with Keith Tkachuk for most games by a US born player for St. Louis
- Alex Pietrangelo leads all NHL Defenseman in Assists on home ice with 20
- TJ Oshie has 22 Points (7 G & 15 A) in his last 15 home games
GO BLUES! LONG LIVE THE NOTE!