Blues Struggle Without Oshie, Steen In Loss To Columbus

The St. Louis Blues (46-22-7) lost to the Columbus Blue Jackets (36-35-4) 4-2 Saturday evening in St. Louis.  The Blues came to the game following a last-minute 3-2 victory over the Penguins the previous Tuesday.  The Blue Jackets were less rested, having defeated the Blackhawks 5-2 the night before.  This was the second of two regular-season meetings between St. Louis and Columbus.  Their last match in early February resulted in a 7-1 victory for the Jackets.

The loss keeps the Blues fifth in the league standings while allowing Anaheim, Nashville and Montreal; who are all ahead to climb two more points ahead.  This puts them four points behind in the run for the President’s trophy, instead of only two.  League wise, the Tampa Bay Lightning are the closest threat to knocking the Blues down to fifth in the standings.  However, in the Western Conference the Blues are somewhat comfortably in third with Minnesota three points behind and Chicago four.

GAME RECAP

The early minutes of the game were mostly even with the Blues having a slight offensive advantage and the first shot on goal.  It took Columbus five minutes to get their first shot.  At 7:06 William Karlsson scored to put the Jackets up 1-0.  Then after 10:05 the Jackets took the first penalty of the game for too many men.

The Blues took early control during the power play but after a missed keep in they had a hard time finding their offense and were unable to make good use with their two minutes.  At 12:48 the Blues got a second power play chance after Jackets’ goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky shot the puck over the glass.

The Blues weren’t able to set up until the final thirty seconds but came up empty again.  The Blues became a little more physical and maintained control of the action throughout most of the final minutes excluding allowing a scary break in the final fifteen seconds.  The Blues left the period down 1-0.

The Blues started the second period without Alexander Steen, who left the game early in the first period.  56 seconds in, Jaden Schwartz and Patrik Berglund gained a two on none breakaway which resulted in an early goal from Berglund to tie the game 1-1.  Jori Lehtera received the second assist.  At 1:34 Berglund went to the box for hooking.

Mar 19, 2015; Winnipeg, Manitoba, CAN; St. Louis Blues goalie Brian Elliott (1) during the second period against the Winnipeg Jets at MTS Centre. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports

The Blues held the Jackets back during the penalty kill and managed to find two breakaways along the way.  They killed the penalty allowing no shots.  Then at 4:00 Jack Johnson went to the box for hooking to give the Blues their third chance at a power play.  The Blues played better offense, but came out shotless.

At 7:55 David Savard went to the box for a delay of game.  The Blues found their offense again, but went scoreless on their fourth straight power play.  Immediately after the kill, at 10:00, Jay Bouwmeester went to the box for hooking.  At 11:39 Johnson scored from the center of the blue line to put the Jackets back up 2-1.  At 13:48 Jeremy Morin went to the box for elbowing.

A minute in to the power play Vladimir Tarasenko scored a power play goal following a pass from Berglund to tie the game at 2.  Alex Pietrangelo earned the second assist.  The Blues did a good job of holding the Jackets back as the clock wound down.  However, with 20 seconds left, Boone Jenner scored to give the Blue Jackets a late 3-2 lead.

The Blues started the third period with some line shake-ups due to Steen leaving the game, and a little more enthusiasm.  The Blues continued to chip away at the Blue Jackets’ net and knock around bodies as the period went on.  At 8:56 Savard went to the box for holding Paul Stastny’s stick.

The Blues made a strong early push on the net during the power play they kept this momentum until the Blues were called for a hand pass.  They were unable to score on the power play.  The Blues continued to apply pressure all the way until the final minutes of the period.  At 17:52 the Blues pulled Brian Elliott from the net.  With 1:18 left, Cam Atkinson scored an empty net goal to put the Blue Jackets up 4-2.

With 41 seconds left, the Blues pulled Elliot again, which wasn’t enough.  Time ran out and the Blues lost, 4-2.

HOW THEY PLAYED

Penalties really killed the Blues, tonight.  On both ends.  They played a mediocre penalty kill game, which resulted in a power play goal for the Blue Jackets half-way through through the second period.  When the Blues took their turn on power plays, they didn’t do to well.  During the first two the Blues missed passes, couldn’t keep the puck in and for some reason played a dump and chase game.

The second two power plays were a little better for the Blues, but going scoreless after four chances isn’t a performance you’d want to see from a top-tier NHL team.  Fortunately, the Blues managed to score on their fifth power play.  While the goal came from Tarasenko, Berglund had the assist.  Patrik Berglund kept the Blues afloat in the first two periods.

Mar 15, 2015; Dallas, TX, USA; St. Louis Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock watches his team take on the Dallas Stars during the third period at the American Airlines Center. The Blues shut out the Stars 3-0. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The players have shown a pattern of over-confidence in the offensive zone.  Earlier in the season we saw a lot of beautiful tic-tac-toe goals from the Blues.  A lot of those same players are now making careless offensive passes with a lot of defenders in the way.  Predictably, this results in a lot of lost pucks.  Why try to pass through two defenders when you can take a shot against one goalie?

The Blues are a great team, with the points and league position as proof.  However, they are going to have to find some rock-solid offense.  They win and lose by the skin of their teeth, which will not translate well into a successful post-season run.

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