The St. Louis Blues went into the holiday break with some momentum, despite a rather awful road trip. They came out of the break and had that momentum stopped in its tracks by a divisional rival.
The St. Louis Blues seemed like they had found a little bit of a spark with their performance in Vancouver just before the Christmas break. The Nashville Predators snuffed out that spark and basically shut down the Blues in what is becoming a reoccurring theme.
The team’s offense just could not get it done, despite a relatively decent showing overall. They only mustered one goal, which has become too much of a habit.
St. Louis has scored two or fewer goals in seven of their last eight games. They won two games in that stretch, but in today’s NHL, two or fewer goals is just not going to be enough.
It puts too much stress on a team that is down a key defenseman and depending on rookies to play prominent minutes. It also puts too much pressure on goaltenders to put up shutouts, when most goaltenders have fewer than 10 shutouts per season these days.
The team might not have played terribly, but they’re allowing opponents within the division to gain way too much traction. While the Blues had a huge lead after the first month, they are now playing leapfrog with Nashville and Winnipeg for the division lead over the last few weeks.
The Blues are not a desperate team, but they have to find ways to win. You cannot keep living off playing well, but having nothing to show for it.
The Blues let the Predators off the ropes.
Nashville, like St. Louis, went into the holiday break on a losing streak. The Predators had lost their last four games coming into this game.
Both teams had rest, but the Blues had the home ice and the crowd was ready for this game. The Blues could not quell the uprising of the Preds though.
Instead of stepping on their throat early, the Blues could not manage to keep Nashville from feeling like they’d turned a corner. Nashville getting the first goal was the icing on their cake.
From there on, they played shut down defense and relied on a suddenly hot goaltender.
Vladimir Sobotka ended his drought.
Sobotka has been somewhat of a disappointment this season. Normally his current number would not be that bad, but he has been playing on the top two lines for much of the year.
So, only having seven goals is suddenly a bit of a letdown. That said, it was good to see him end the drought.
Sobotka had not had so much as a point in his last five games. His goal gave the Blues a glimmer of hope toward the end of the game too.
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It seemed as though they might be heading for their third shutout in three weeks. Instead, he sparked the team toward the end of the contest when hope seemed bleakest.
It was a deflection, instead of a nice snipe, but sometimes you just need a lucky one to go in to get things rolling.
Another fine goaltending performance was wasted.
The stats can go to hell at this point. Apologies for the language, but I grow tired of the weak claim of Jake Allen‘s stats being sub-par or bad when he has carried this team on several occasions.
This game was another example of that. He bailed the team out several times, including a gigantic save in the first period.
The first goal was something he could not do either. It was a fortunate deflection that no goaltender was going to stop unless they happened to have it hit them.
The haters will say he could have stopped the second goal, but it was still difficult. The shot cuts back across the grain, so while Allen is actually in good position, any goaltender is not expecting the shot to go back to the glove side.
He still stopped 24 shots, many of which were of decent quality. Allen stopped all six Predators shots on their power plays and was named the second star of the game.
Overall, whether it is Allen or Carter Hutton, the Blues cannot keep wasting good goaltending.
The Blues were not off by much.
You could really call this a game of missed chances. St. Louis missed some wide open opportunities and continue to stink it up on the power play.
However, despite not being 100% in terms of play, they were still in this game. It took a lucky deflection, a seeing eye shot and a hot goaltender to beat them.
As mentioned above, the team cannot sustain themselves on the idea that they played well but did not win. Eventually, you have to win, even if you don’t play well.
Fans and players alike will take a game like the one in Vancouver where things didn’t go great but you are victorious over playing well but losing.
Still, the good thing is there are not massive things to fix. Things are not bleak as they were a year ago when you felt like the team needed to sell and make a coaching change.
However, they need to make these changes sooner or later. Yes, there are injuries and so on and so forth. The guys out there are still good enough to win most nights and they are not getting it done.
They have a chance to keep a team down again in Dallas. The Stars are 2-4 in their last six and lost to Minnesota in their first game out of the break. The Blues have to get back on the right track.