The St. Louis Blues have a bad habit of playing up or down to their competition. They kept that tradition going against the Ottawa Senators.
The St. Louis Blues never seem to make anything easy on themselves. They almost always seem to play up or down to their opponent, while more often than not it is the down part.
The Ottawa Senators came into this game with the absolute worst record in the NHL. The Blues certainly did not make them look like that.
The first period went to plan, somewhat. Like their game against Arizona, the Blues had most of the possession and definitely the most of the chances. Ottawa only had one shot on goal very late in the period.
The Blues managed to do nothing offensively, despite their shots though. The chances were not the highest of quality and those that were got stopped.
The second period was where the wheels fell off. The Blues got caught late in a shift and gave up the first goal of the game. In typical Blues fashion, they were not that great in the second period overall anyway. They allowed the Senators too much time and space, making them look like the team fighting for the playoff spot and not the Blues.
Cons: Giving Up The First Goal
Anyone who blames this one on goaltending is a fool. I will challenge you to a fight.
That out of the way, this was not the way this game needed to go. The Blues were supposed to come out, dominate and end their losing streak.
Instead, we got a rather mundane first period with little good to speak of, other than a lot of perimeter shots. The second period was taken over by the Senators.
Ottawa took advantage of the Blues mistakes, as St. Louis was unable to capitalize on one of their few chances that period. The Senators got the play in transition while the Blues were somewhat late in a line change.
It was not necessarily an odd-man rush, but the Senators ended up with an extra man anyway. Nobody was left to guard the back side and Ottawa found the back door play for an empty net goal.
Pros: Robert Thomas’ Speed
No offense to Robert Thomas, but you know things were not going that well for the overall team when you have to pick out an attribute like this. However, it was one of the few bright spots for the team through about 75% of the game.
Thomas’ finishing has to get better. He shot wide on his two best chances at goal, which could have been pivotal.
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However, on the positive side, you can see his confidence with the puck growing with each game. You could see it on display in this game.
There were several times Thomas was able to utilize his speed to gain the zone and leave defenders in weak positioning. All they could do was reach out with the stick and more often than not, that was not enough.
Thomas is one of the few on this team that possesses that kind of speed. We see it in flashes here or there when the team is at its best, but Thomas has it all the time. It comes naturally to him, whereas other players utilize the flow of play to create their speed.
The Blues just need his confidence with the shot to catch up to the speed and they will have a heck of a player on their hands.
Cons: Missed Shots And No Real Chances
The Blues ended this contest with 35 shots on goal and no goals. In the course of two games, they have well over 100 shots and no goals.
Just like against Arizona, the Blues had almost no real chances. They got shutout and there were a handful of decent saves, but really Ottawa was never truly challenged.
The Blues constantly shot the puck wide of the goal. As much credit as you should give Thomas for his speed, you have to take that all away for missing the blasted net.
Then, the shots they did take were from too far on the perimeter. There was next to no net-front presence either.
So, it is almost impossible to score from the outside if you have nobody in front for a deflection or screen. This is two games in a row where that has been the case more often than not.
The Blues just seem to show no urgency on the offensive end until it is too late. They also seem to be gripping the stick too tightly again.
Everyone seems to be trying too hard when they get in on goal. The shots are consistently missing far wide or over the net. That means they are trying to be too precise with their shot location and failing quite badly at it.
This game should have been another win, but when you cannot put good pressure on goal, it becomes impossible to beat anyone.
For the first time in a long time, I am worried about this team’s playoff chances again. The teams below them are playing too well and St. Louis has now dropped three games in a row, two of which should never have been losses.
We can look at this game in a vacuum and say it’s not that bad, but it is bad. The Blues look nothing like the team that won 11 in a row and they look nothing like a playoff team right now.
This team has returned to being about as fragile as you can get. Yes, they have injuries, but you almost never go an entire season with the same lineup. However, any time you throw a curveball and mix the lines a little bit, they seem to not know what the heck they are doing.
Ryan O’Reilly and Brayden Schenn are the only constants from an energy standpoint. Even saying that, they were not at their best. Schenn seems to be getting frustrated with the lack of production and also, understandably, by his continual injury possibilities. He took a puck to the face in this one after a stick to the eye in his last game.
Thomas shows speed, but he lacks any kind of finishing touch. Thomas continues to shoot wide. You absolutely have to make the goaltenders make a save when you have open opportunities and he has not.
The defense has returned to backing off their defensive marks. There were far too many waving sticks, hoping to block shots instead of getting in the grill of the guy bearing down.
You lose games. It happens. Sometimes, you lose to the team with the worst record. Nobody goes undefeated and no team goes winless.
The Blues cannot be having these kinds of games at this point in the year though. The Blues don’t have any excuses any more.
You can’t say they are tired because all teams have played around the same number of games. You can’t blame the injuries because the every team is banged up at this time of year. The Blues have more than enough depth to at least play a hard-nosed game.
There is effort out there, but there is no will. St. Louis won all those games by getting into the hard areas of the ice. Now, they are shrinking away, or to slow to get to those battles.
In a vacuum, this is just a loss. In the grand scheme, it feels like things are spinning in the wrong direction. Too much of the early season woes are creeping back in. You have an impotent power play and players to weak to go into the middle.
The Blues better figure it out quickly. Guys might get healthy, but you can’t depend on instant chemistry. You have to be able to win games no matter who you send out there and no matter who is your opponent. The schedule is not much easier down the road.