The St. Louis Blues entered the second half of the season knowing they needed to go on a run of wins. However, they were in danger of starting with back-to-back losses.
Although the Blues opened up with a couple early looks at goal, they didn't get anything accomplished on the offensive end. Then, they got hosed by the referees.
Oskar Sundqvist just dumped one of the Washington Capitals players and, even though his stick was nowhere near the skates, they called a trip. Former Blue TJ Oshie cashed in on the ensuing power play, making the made up penalty that much more egregious.
Adding salt to that wound was the Blues own failure to capitalize on the power play. They earned a four-minute double minor and barely even got a look on goal.
Fortunately, the entire period wasn't a complete waste. St. Louis tied the game with just over two minutes left when a Nick Leddy shot was deflected in by Nathan Walker.
Things went awry in the second period. The Blues weren't really doing much offensively and the Capitals got things accomplished.
St. Louis turned the puck over at the attacking blue line, which is always a no-no. Washington came down the other way and a cross-ice pass went off the skate of Justin Faulk and into the net to make it 2-1.
Minutes later, the Capitals got another power play goal. For the second time, the Caps worked it around and low to high pass found Oshie in the slot for another goal and a 3-1 lead.
On the very next shift, the Blues got their own power play. Of course, they did nothing with it.
The Blues continued to get punished for going into the penalty box. Although it was not technically a power play goal, the Capitals scored 34 seconds into the third period as the penalty had elapsed.
Nevertheless, it was 4-1 with almost the entire third left to be played. Alex Ovechkin's one-timer was stopped, but Washington poked in the rebound.
The Blues came close around the three-minute mark. Kevin Hayes and Brayden Schenn came in on a two-on-one, but Hayes' pass was too close to the skates and forced the shot wide.
The Blues did score about a minute later. Nikita Alexandrov drove into the zone on the right wing and dropped it to the point. Justin Faulk used the screen and it snuck passed the goalie for a 4-2 score. They eventually changed it to a Walker goal, giving him two.
You never got a sense the Blues were going to make the comeback though. They simply didn't generate enough offense or even chances.
The game ended the way it went for most of the contest. A bouncing puck got passed Faulk off the wall and Oshie scored into an empty net for a 5-2 win.
Con: Special teams
It seemed like the special teams for the Blues was turning a corner and we shouldn't base everything on one game. However, the special teams was a gigantic reason the team lost in this game.
Normally the box score doesn't tell the entire story. It does here.
The Blues were 0-5 on the power play. They let the Capitals go 2-4 on their power play and a third goal came just seconds after a Blues penalty ended.
What made things worse was how it all went down. The Blues were given power plays shortly after almost every Capitals goal, so they had plenty of chances to snuff the momentum Washington had if they could have scored.
The power play went backwards, not even really threatening. Last week, they at least looked dangerous, even if they did not scored, but not in this game.
In addition to the special teams for the Blues not getting the job done, they were forced into situations that were unnecessary. The officialls literally made up penalties.
The worst one was that first call against Sundqvist. I could almost believe an argument if you want to say it was a hook or something. The stick was in the opponent's midsection.
It was nothing resembling a trip. Sunny's skate did not collide with the other guy's skate and his stick was nowhere near the guy's legs. The refs simply saw a guy upended, fall backwards and figure it had to be a penalty.
They called an unnecessary too-many-men call too. By the letter of the law, the Blues technically had six players' skates on the ice. However, most officials give you some leniency unless all six are remaining on the ice or the man that was supposed to go to the bench played the puck.
Sundqvist was the sub player and Hayes was leaving. Hayes made no effort at the puck and was walking through the door when the call was made. That was about as picky as you could get.
Last, but not least, the officials made up an interference call on Jake Neighbours at the end of the second period. Neighbours was literally just standing at the blue line, watching his teammate with the puck. Tom Wilson skated into him and that's interference? Just like the trip, the refs saw the end result and figured it had to be a penalty without truly seeing what happened. If they did actually see it and still called interference, then that crew should never officiate in the NHL again.
I'm normally a very forgiving fan and recognize the opponent does something to prevent what you're trying to do. I really don't know if that was the case in this game.
I really did not see the Capitals doing anything to prevent the Blues from getting offense or shots. The problems St. Louis had earlier in the season have fully creeped back in.
This team is ridiculously unselfish. They pass themselves out of shooting position more often than not.
While there are various examples of this, the worst is when the Blues have a shooting lane in the middle of the ice and they pass to a wing. The idea is obviously to set up a one-timer, but you're going from a good scoring angle to a terrible one almost every time.
The two-on-one with Hayes and Schenn wasn't a great example of that since the pass made sense, but it was still a situation where the Blues go no shot at all trying to set up the "pretty play"
19 shots is just not enough in today's NHL. All we hear is how the Blues need to get more pucks on net and have a shooting mentality and, the more we hear that, the less they shoot.
They were outshot yet again, although not terribly. Still, you cannot score if you don't take a shot.
We have seen the Blues score goals on limited shots, so it's not even just the 19 shots that is irritating. It's the fact they don't have any confidence that they can score.
Both goals were shots from the point that got deflected. They were not pretty plays or slick dangles with wicked finishes.
It was a puck towards target from the blue line and there was traffic in front. They didn't pass out of the situation and got rewarded.
Every other push down the ice seemed like it resulted in nothing, or worse, a turnover. This team isn't incredibly slow, but they definitely aren't fast enough to recover when they're turning it over in the worst spots on the ice.
They continue to look weak too. It used to be just Jordan Kyrou, but it seems like every turnover happens near the boards and has an opportunity to step up and win it back. All we see is the Blues lose these battles and the opponent go the other way and score.
Where was the top six? Where was the top nine? Both goals came from Walker, meaning the fourth line provided the only offense.
Pavel Buchnevich looks lost again. He's in his own head at this point, trying way too hard and missing the net more often than not.
Robert Thomas and Jordan Kyrou are trending in the wrong direction again.
I don't blame Drew Bannister for this, but clearly the coaching change has worn off. All the bad habits have returned and all we get are postgame comments acknowledging the problems with no corrections.