Friday, January 11, 2019

(1-12-19) BLUES NOTEBOOK

Thomas to miss time, joining Bozak, Steen 
on shelf; Steen will travel; Blues hit the road

By LOU KORAC
HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- As expected, Blues rookie forward Robert Thomas will miss some time.

Thomas was injured midway through the first period of a 4-1 win against the Montreal Canadiens with what interim coach Craig Berube called an upper-body injury, but Thomas injured his left shoulder crashing into the offensive zone boards.

Thomas, who scored a power-play goal 1 minute 56 seconds into the game, has 14 points (five goals, nine assists) in 37 games this season and has really been coming into his own.

"He'll be out for a little bit, upper body. Won't be available on this trip," Berube said. "Yeah, it is (a tough blow). It's a tough blow for the team too because he's an important player on our team. He was coming around, he was getting more ice, power play time, scored a power-play goal. It's unfortunate that happened."

Thomas joins veteran forwards Alexander Steen (shoulder) and Tyler Bozak (concussion) on the shelf. 

Bozak, who has missed the past three games, will not accommodate the Blues on a four-game trip that begins Saturday in Dallas and goes through Washington (Monday), the New York Islanders (Tuesday) and Boston (Thursday), but Steen will travel and could play sooner than expected.

"A little closer, yeah," Berube said after a limited optional practice. "... Bozak will stay back. Steen will come on the trip, I believe."

The Blues only had one extra forward [Pat Maroon] available Thursday, and now with Thomas, Steen and Bozak all ailing, it's likely the Blues will call a forward up to have an extra body. In doing that, they can place Bozak on injured-reserve retroactive to last Saturday, or even put Thomas on IR now since he will not be available for at least the next four games.

"We'll talk about about that, maybe get somebody up here," Berube said.

What it's also going to do is give more responsibility to other younger players and players that perhaps had lesser roles, such as Oskar Sundqvist, who played 19:02 on Thursday, and Sammy Blais, Zach Sanford, Ivan Barbashev and Mackenzie MacEachern, recalled on Thursday from San Antonio.

"They're up here and they need to do the job," Berube said. "They get put in the lineup and you have a job to do. It's accountability that they're in the lineup and they're playing, they've got to do the job.

"They know what their role is. They know how we want them to play. They're young, aggressive players. We want to be an aggressive team. They can skate, get up the ice and that's important."

* On the road again -- The next nine weeks will see the Blues predominantly living out of their suitcases, and given how poor their home record is (11-12-2) and the decent run they've had on the road (7-7-2 overall but 5-2-0 the past seven), it might not be a bad idea.

Beginning Saturday at Dallas, the Blues play nine of the next 10 away from Enterprise Center and a whopping 22 of the next 30 games away from home, which accounts for 73 percent of their games through March 17.

But first thing's first: the next four games are on the road and in some tough buildings.

"Exactly, obviously it's a big road trip for us," Berube said. "We've played well on the road. We're going to continue to, I believe. We're playing good hockey. 

"The key here is you're on the road all the time, you've got to be smart. You've got to be simple and find ways to win games."

The Blues and Stars will play for the second time in five days. The Stars took a 3-1 decision in St. Louis on Tuesday. 

"We've got Dallas here tomorrow night in Dallas, it's going to be a tough game, so you've got to play really well. It's a feel thing," Berube said. "We need to get that next one and then move on from there and look to Washington. We kind of just focus on one game at a time. It's the best way, I believe, rather than looking ahead. Keep a short focus."

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Binnington, young guys star for Blues in 4-1 win over Canadiens

Goalie allows one goal in second NHL start following 
shutout, Blais, Sundqvist, Thomas get goals in home win

By LOU KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- With each passing save made by Jordan Binnington and with each crowd roar, it's apparent that the Blues' goalie thrust onto the scene is taking the NHL by storm.

And the 88th overall pick in the 2011 NHL Draft doesn't appear that he wants to go anywhere else. 

Two starts, two wins for Binnington, and the only goal he allowed in a 4-1 win against the Montreal Canadiens Thursday at Enterprise Center came off the skate of his teammate.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues goalie Jordan Binnington makes a breakaway save on Montreal's
Phillip Danault in the first period of a 4-1 St. Louis win Thursday.

Binnington made 28 saves to follow up on his shutout Monday in a 3-0 win at Philadelphia and with the help of some younger Blues (Robert Thomas, Oskar Sundqvist and Sammy Blais each scored), Binnington is 2-for-2 and poised to get the Blues (18-20-4) back to relevance, and standing toe-to-toe and beating Carey Price in the process.

"I'm happy with that one," Binnington said. "Yeah, it's pretty cool. At the same time, it's my first start at home. I'm pretty excited about that. It was an exciting game, entertaining. We're happy with that outcome."

Jake Allen has competition again, and the calm demeanor Binnington has brought may be just what the doctor ordered for an underachieving team that also got a boost from the NHL debut of Mackenzie MacEachern.

"He's done great," Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester said of Binnington. "The first couple games, when he got thrown in it's a tough situation, but the starts, he's been lights out. That's awesome."

Binnington has played in four games, and the relief appearances coming in for Allen? Scrap them. They are obviously nothing compared to when a goalie knows he's going to be the guy, and Binnington has exhibited that quite well.

"It's always different when you start the game," Binnington said. "You can dictate from the start and it's your game. I've said that before. It's better when you get the start, I'd say."

Blues interim coach Craig Berube is playing it cool with the goaltending situation but knows he's got one that looks like wants in for the long haul.

"Yeah, listen, he’s played two games and he’s played well," Berube said. "And we’ve played well in front of him.

"(But) solid again. Unlucky on the one goal. It goes off our guy [Alex Pietrangelo], but you know, made big saves at big times. He looked really confident in net to me."

Confident. Something the Blues haven't displayed on a consistent basis. But Binnington is giving it to them with the timely saves.

"I think everyone feels like, 'OK, he stepped up made a big save. He kept us in this game,'" Sundqvist said. "And now we just keep going with this momentum that he gets for us with that save.

"I think the whole bench was standing up there after (one) save."

Take your pick, which one? 

Two of Binnington's biggest saves came off a 2-on-1 against Montreal defenseman Victor Mete with 16:17 remaining in the third period and another on Canadiens forward Jonathan Drouin, who came into the Blues zone with speed and split the defenseman before coming in alone with 6:06 remaining.

"I got a piece of it and I felt it pop up," Binnington said of the save on Mete. "You kind of just hope for the best and hope the d-man was there to kind of block the goal line too. It was a fortunate play.

"I think I liked that Drouin save where he kind of came in past the d-man. I liked that one."

By then, the game was in hand, and thanks to two strikes in the first period, the Blues led 2-0.

Thomas scored a power-play goal 1:56 into the game to make it 1-0 after Ryan O'Reilly followed up with a couple rebounds of Vladimir Tarasenko's shot, and Thomas was on the doorstep to pop a second chance past Price.

Unfortunately for the Blues, they lost Thomas midway through the period to an upper-body injury when he slid hard with his left shoulder into the offensive zone boards.

Thomas stayed on the bench for a bit but went to the locker room and never returned.

"I'll find out more tomorrow when he gets evaluated by doctors and stuff like that," Berube said of Thomas. "... He's been really good for a while now. It's unfortunate … so we hope that it’s not too bad and he's OK."

Sundqvist's shorthanded goal was a thing of beauty, especially the pass O'Reilly, who has 10 points (three goals, seven assists) the past eight games), feathered to Sundqvist off a 2-on-1.

Sundqvist was able to go forehand, backhand and slide a shot past Price's left skate at 16:24 of the first to make it 2-0.

"I don't know how I got the puck, but Carl [Gunnarsson] kind of swung it and it just ended up in my skates," Sundqvist said. "I saw right away that we were going to have a 2-on-1. Obviously O'Reilly's a way better passer than me, so I was just trying to give it to him as quick as possible.

"I didn't think a lot. That was the first thing that came to my mind."

Bouwmeester got in on the act and scored on a 2-on-1 at 6:04 of the second to make it 3-0. 

The Blues were doing a good job of turning Montreal over and transitioning the puck from defense to offense well, and Bouwmeester took a Robby Fabbri pass to snap it over Price's right shoulder.

"An odd man rush is usually off turnovers," Bouwmeester said. "The product of ... and not giving them a big gap but sometimes that's just on the other team. Overall, I think we played pretty good, moved it good, didn't spend a ton of time in our end. That's what we wanted.

"I haven't had a breakaway in a while. I get the odd one in practice. It was good."

Binnington proved to be mortal. He was beaten when Brendan Gallagher's pass attempt on a Montreal power play caromed off Pietrangelo's skate and past him at 9:02 of the second to make it 3-1.

The crowd showed its appreciation by cheering his shutout streak end at 105:24 in the NHL and 151:00 including the AHL where he also had a shutout. He's allowed that lone goal in his past 136:24 in the NHL.

"He said he was sorry," Binnington said of Pietrangelo. "He didn't mean to do it. You can't really apologize."

While Binnington was doing his part to keep it 3-1, Blais was scoring his first goal this season and second NHL goal a 9:19 on a beautifully outletting puck from defense to offense. Pietrangelo transitioned it to Sundqvist, who gave Blais a puck in stride and he was able to split a pair of defensemen with speed and snipe one over Price.

"Yeah, that's how we want to play," Sundqvist said. "And when we do it, we're a tough team to beat and we're creating a lot of scoring chances. So that's the mindset we're gonna have to have every game.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues forward Robert Thomas (18) scores on a rebound past Canadiens
goalie Carey Price in a 4-1 St. Louis win.

"... Just coming with a lot of speed. And even in the forecheck and stuff like that, we're making them turn the puck over. As you said, we had a lot of odd-man rushes and we should score a couple more goals."


So now as the Blues embark on a road trip that will have them away from home for the next four, nine of 10 and 22 of the next 30, which way will Berube go Saturday in Dallas? Binnington doesn't care.

"I'm not really thinking about it," Binnington said. "Jake's playing great too. If it's him or it's me, I'm happy to be here. Hopefully the team keeps winning."

(1-10-19) Canadiens-Blues Gameday Lineup

By LOU KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- Mackenzie MacEachern will make his NHL debut today when the Blues (17-20-4) host the Montreal Canadiens (23-16-5) at Enterprise Center (7 p.m.; FS-MW, KMOX 1120-AM).

MacEachern, who will play with Sammy Blais and Ivan Barbashev on the fourth line tonight, is a 2012 third round pick (67th overall) out of Michigan State; he was recalled from San Antonio of the American Hockey League Thursday morning where he had 15 points (nine goals, six assists) in 31 games, but since returning from an upper-body injury, he had eight points (five goals, three assists) the past seven games, including two multi-goal games, after missing six with the injury.

"I'm excited," MacEachern said. "You dream about it as a kid, to play in the NHL. I got my first chance here. It's going to be easier playing with Sammy and Barby. I played with them my first two years pro, so it's going to be good to have some familiar faces with me.

"... It's nerve-racking coming in and playing your first game, but being familiar with faces, it's going to be a lot easier. I think we all played together at some point in our professional career, so I think we know each other's games and that's going to help going forward."

MacEachern, who played for Blues interim coach Craig Berube with the Chicago Wolves, adds an element Berube said can help the Blues, who have lost four of their past six games.

"He's been doing well," Berube said. "Good skater, big kid, scored two goals last night in San Antonio, so he's doing really well. He's got good speed, so it's good to get some speed up here and some size.

"... Just a guy that's been playing really well. He'll be good on the fourth line, a guy we can use out there to get on the forecheck and be physical, get to the net, get pucks to the net. We like his size and his speed."

MacEachern will get to play with one of his best friends in Blais, and the two of them will get that chance to skate in an NHL game together for the first time.

"He's one of my best buddies in San Antonio, so it's nice to see him play his first game tonight," Blais said. "... He works really hard, he's good on the forecheck. He's a big boy, so he likes to play physical. He's had some success lately in the 'A'. It's good to see him get a chance tonight."

With Blais and Zach Sanford in the lineup, that's three forwards that were in San Antonio at the start of 2019.

"Obviously that's awesome for him," Sanford said of MacEachern. "He's a pretty solid player all around, he's good in his own zone, he's strong on the puck, he's got a pretty quick release there. A few games I got to play with him down there this year, he's been pretty dominant. A coupel goals here, a couple goals there. You're going to expect to see him hard on the puck, making those little plays and getting to the net hard. He plays a game like that."

It's already been a rather long day for MacEachern, 24, who caught a flight out of San Antonio at 5:40 a.m. and arrived in St. Louis at 7:40.

"I got here, landed at 7:40, think got here at 8, got a quick stretch, get the bus legs out of me, go from there," MacEachern said. "... Long day but I'm running on adrenaline at this point so I'm taking it all in.

"After the game yesterday. We finished the game and I got called in the office and flew in this morning. ... That's a good night. There wasn't much sleep. I was pretty excited, obviously. Trying to make the most of it."


With MacEachern in the lineup, veteran Pat Maroon will be a healthy scratch for the second time in four games.

- - -

Jordan Binnington will make his first home start tonight, getting the nod in goal.

Binnington is coming off a 25-save shutout Monday in a 3-0 win against the Philadelphia Flyers, his first NHL start; he became the 35th goalie in NHL history to win via shutout in his first start and second Blue behind Rich Parent, who blanked San Jose on Jan. 25, 1999.

"It'll be good to play in front of the fans," Binnington said. "Hopefully it's a good atmosphere tonight and hopefully get the fans a win and the team plays together nicely.

"It's just one game, right? You've got to take the same approach and continue to work hard and try to worry about your own job and give your team a chance to win."

Jake Allen, who started the past two home games, allowed seven goals on 32 shots total but those seven goals came on 19 shots and Berube wants to reward Binnington, a 2011 third round pick, with another start.

"He had a great game in Philadelphia and we're going back with him tonight, see what he can do," Berube said. "... I think he deserves another look. We went back with Jake last game, I'm just going to go with 'Binner' tonight."

Binnington will get the chance to go against Carey Price, arguably one of the best goalies in the league.

"That's pretty cool, but at the same time, it's just another game and trying to move in the right direction," Binnington said. "No one really cares about (Monday) anymore, right? It's just another game and like I said, hopefully we get a win here tonight."

Binnington has certainly injected some life into a lineup in need of it.

"He was calm back there," Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said of Binnington. "Moved the puck well, was simple in his saves. It was fun to watch. It was fun to see a guy come in with that kind of confidence and play that way. I think we did a good job, too, if eliminating those second opportunities, which we have done. It's good to see a young guy succeed like that."

- - -

Regular fourth-liner Oskar Sundqvist will move up to the third line with Robby Fabbri and Robert Thomas.

"We like what we're seeing and also it adds size and some grit and speed to that line with Fabbri and Thomas," Berube said of Sundqvist. "Hopefully it will be a good fit."

And the Blues' power-play, which is 4-for-45 going back to Nov. 30 against Colorado, will get a look at some younger guys on it including Sanford, Fabbri and Thomas.

"I think a lot of ties back to what I said before," Sanford said. "We've all kind of waited for our chance. Tonight's a chance to show what I can do on the power play a little bit. I just have to stick to my game the same way, be harder around the net and be right out front, be making plays. Hopefully we'll be able to be clicking tonight."

- - -

The Blues' projected lineup:

Jaden Schwartz-Brayden Schenn-Vladimir Tarasenko

Zach Sanford-Ryan O'Reilly-David Perron

Robby Fabbri-Robert Thomas-Oskar Sundqvist

Mackenzie MacEachern-Ivan Barbashev-Sammy Blais

Carl Gunnarsson-Alex Pietrangelo

Jay Bouwmeester-Colton Parayko

Joel Edmundson-Robert Bortuzzo

Jordan Binnington will start in goal; Jake Allen will be the backup. 

The healthy scratch will be Pat Maroon. Tyler Bozak (upper body), Alexander Steen (shoulder) and Vince Dunn (lower body) are out.

- - -

The Canadiens' projected lineup: 

Jonathan Drouin-Max Domi-Joel Armia

Tomas Tatar-Phillip Danault-Brendan Gallagher

Artturi Lehkonen-Jesperi Kotkaniemi-Paul Byron

Kenny Agostino-Michael Chaput-Nicolas Deslauriers

Victor Mete-Shea Weber

Karl Alzner-Jeff Petry

Brett Kulak-Jordie Benn

Carey Price will start in goal; Antti Niemi will be the backup. 

Healthy scratches include Mike Reilly, Charles Hudon and Matthew Peca. Andrew Shaw (neck) and David Schlemko (upper body) are out.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Blues can't solve Bishop in 3-1 loss to Stars

Plenty of chances go awry for St. Louis' offense; Allen allows three 
goals on 18 shots; Blues hit halfway point in season with just 38 points

By LOU KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- The Blues finally reached the halfway marker on Tuesday, and what comes of the first 41 games this season is not something anyone expected.

After a 3-1 loss to the Dallas Stars that dropped the Blues to 17-20-4 on the season, they're on pace for 76 points, which would be their lowest since that ugly team after the lockout of 2005-06 when they finished with 57.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Ryan O'Reilly (90) and Joel Edmundson (6) try to defend a shot from Stars
defenseman John Klingberg as Jake Allen (34) gets set to make a save.

It was another home loss, the 13th in regulation, which leads the League, and cements what has been a trend through the first 41 games: the Blues can play good, but they can also be frustratingly inconsistent, which they were certainly after a nice 3-0 road win at Philadelphia on Monday. They are now 0-5-0 in the second of back-to-backs.

"I thought we had good legs all game," interim coach Craig Berube said. "I thought that back-to-back, guys worked extremely hard and competed. It's a common theme here at home."

The Blues, 10-13-2 on home ice, fired off 64 shot attempts in the game, which is another high number and one sufficient to what the team wants, but blocks and missing the net was, yet again, problematic with 23 shots blocked and another 14 missing the marker.

"Again, a lot of good looks, but it's kind of a theme with missing the net," Berube said. "I think we can be more desperate too around the net."

And of course there's the enigmatic Jake Allen, who can make an acrobatic save one minute and allow a horrendous goal to Tyler Seguin to give the Stars a 3-0 lead, just hasn't been able to give the Blues prolonged, quality goaltending.

After allowing four goals on 14 shots to the New York Islanders on Saturday in a 4-3 loss, a loss in which Allen actually allowed those four goals on New York's final eight shots, the third goal scored by Seguin, his second of the game, came on Dallas' 11th shot.

"I think the Islander game and tonight, he knows that he wants to be better," said Berube, who started Jordan Binnington on Monday and saw Binnington become the 35th goalie in NHL history to earn a shutout in his first NHL start.

The Blues came out with energy and speed early and had two power plays within the game's first five-and-a-half minutes but generated little to no threats despite sustained zone time.

"Not necessarily if you don't score on the power play. It's just generating momentum if anything is key," defenseman Colton Parayko said. "Obviously it's nice and it's huge if you do score on those and it would be a big start for us, but we just want to try to generate some momentum and that just obviously wasn't the case."

It enabled the Stars (23-17-4) to settle in and get the lead when Seguin scored at 11:27 of the first to make it 1-0.

The goal came after John Klingberg skated behind David Perron and took Alexander Radulov's cross-ice pass before popping the puck through Carl Gunnarsson, where Seguin was able to knock it past Allen inside the near post.

The second period began and the Blues had their only discipline issues, as Robert Bortuzzo was called for kneeing eight seconds in and Zach Sanford slashed Klingberg 25 seconds later to give the potent Stars, which had scored a power-play goal in five straight games, a 5-on-3 advantage for 1:35.

Of course, Dallas cashed in when Klingberg beat Allen five-hole from the high slot at 1:43 of the period to make it 2-0.

"Undisciplined to start the second period, two penalties," Berube said, who then was asked if he didn't like either of them.

"Nope," he said.

 But Seguin's second goal of the game, from a severe angle in the right circle, was a back-breaker, and one Allen simply cannot allow.

It squeezed through his arm and body on the near post at 6:12 of the second to make it 3-0, and Allen whirled and broke his stick on the goal post as the 17,037 inside the building groaned.

Instead of pulling Allen, Berube called a time out and the Blues responded accordingly with Perron scoring his 15th on a backhand from the slot at 6:35 past St. Louis' Ben Bishop to make it 3-1.

"No, I didn't consider pulling him," Berube said of Allen. "He came over in a time out. I just talked to the whole team, and I thought he recovered.

"Yeah, they responded and pushed. I thought they pushed real hard until the end of the period."

Allen did respond. He made a couple important saves, but by then, the damage had already been done.

Between the second and third periods, the Blues outshot the Stars 23-12, including 12-2 in the third period but Bishop stood tall and the Blues just didn't get much in the high danger areas.

"I just thought in the third we didn't push hard enough down 3-1," Perron said. "It doesn't matter what happened, we gotta go and put everything out there. I know it's back-to-back but it just felt like we should've just pushed way more. It's disappointing."

The Blues played without veteran forwards Tyler Bozak, who is day-to-day with an upper-body injury, and Alexander Steen, who was put on injured-reserve with a left shoulder injury sustained Monday and will be reevaluated in two weeks.

Sammy Blais, recalled from San Antonio of the American Hockey League on Monday, came in and Robby Fabbri, a healthy scratch Monday, was also inserted into the lineup as the Blues went back to the conventional 12 forwards/6 defensemen set up, making Vince Dunn a healthy scratch.

The fresh bodies didn't help the team gain any momentum.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Stars defenseman Esa Lindell (left) tries to defend Blues forward Vladimir
Tarasenko from getting a shot off in Dallas' 3-1 win Tuesday.

"In and out. I think that we did have some good looks in the third and pushed, but when you're down, you've got to really push," Berube said. "Again, we had some good looks but didn't capitalize on them."

But the bottom line as they enter the second half of the season?

"We've got to be better at home. That's the biggest thing for me," Berube said. "I think as a team, we're playing a lot better. We're playing good enough to win a lot of games, but we find ways to lose games. That's got to change and our home record's got to change for sure.

"... I think our 5-on-5 play was not there early on (in the season) and our 5-on-5 play for me has been really good for a while. Our penalty kill has sharpened up again, but we've got to get the power play going. Once we get the power play clicking a little bit better, that really heps a lot in the scoring. Once they all come together, that's when you can go on a good run. When you look at a team that wins six or seven in a row, all you've got to look at is goals-against, goals for, power play, penalty kill, and they're really good."

(1-8-19) Stars-Blues Gameday Lineup

By LOU KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- Playing the second of back-to-back games today, the Blues (17-19-4) will mix up their lineup when they host the Dallas Stars (22-17-4) at 7 p.m. (FS-MW, KMOX 1120-AM).

The Blues lost forward Alexander Steen to a left shoulder injury in the first period of a 3-0 win at Philadelphia on Monday and was placed on injured-reserve; he'll be reevaluated in two weeks.

"It's a tough loss for sure," Blues interim coach Craig Berube said. "With Bozak being out, two young guys getting a chance."

Center Ivan Barbashev left the game in the first period but returned to play or the Blues would have been down to nine forwards for the remainder of the game.

Center Tyler Bozak missed his first game of the season with an upper-body injury and is day-to-day; he will miss a second straight game tonight.

"It’s a tough turnaround obviously," Berube said after the win Monday. "They get rest and come in to be ready tomorrow. We’re going to put some fresh bodies in tomorrow."

It means that Robby Fabbri, a healthy scratch Monday, will be back in the lineup as will Sammy Blais, who was recalled from San Antonio of the American Hockey League but joined the team in St. Louis in time to play tonight.

"Tenacity and energy," Berube said of what he's looking for from Fabbri. "He's got to get skating. He's still a little cautious with his feet. His game is tenacity and getting on the forecheck and being a hard guy to play against. He's been out a long time, but he's got to get skating again and get his energy levels up and get on the foreheck. That's his game. When he's on people, on the puck, tenacious around the net, that's where we're going to need him.

"... I liked Sammy early on in the season; he was an effective player. He was physical and around the forecheck, working real hard. I thought that dropped off, but for me, that's his game. He gets up the ice, he can skate, he's got to be physical and when he gets the puck, he can do good things with it. He's got really good hands and can make plays, and he's got a really good shot."

- - -

It was quite the night for Jordan Binnington, who recorded the 25-save shutout in his first NHL start to become the 35th goalie in NHL history to win via shutout in his first NHL start. He was the second goalie in Blues history to do so, joining Rich Parent, who blanked the San Jose Sharks 3-0 on Jan. 26, 1999 in his first NHL start after making four relief appearances. Binnington had previously made three relief appearances, including two this season.

"I think I was a little bit nervous, but at the same time calm and just tried to focus on my job and just stop the puck," said Binnington, who is now on a run of back-to-back shutouts after getting one with the Rampage before being recalled on Saturday. "Go save by save, minute by minute and just enjoy the experience and before I knew it, the game was over.

"... I was definitely excited to finally get the call and it was a long road. I’m happy where I’m at right now and I’m hoping to get some more action and be a part of the solution on the rise of the Blues."

A third round pick in 2011, Binnington has paid his dues.

"He did great," Berube said of Binnington. "Made a couple of huge saves in the first period to keep it 0-0 and that’s really important. I thought he was solid all game. Very confident, even coming out and playing the puck. He moved it really well and crisply. He looked really good."

Even with Binnington's shutout, the Blues will turn back to Jake Allen for the divisional game against the Stars and hometown boy Ben Bishop, who gets the nod for Dallas tonight.

"Back to back games, kid did a really great job last night," Berube said. "The veteran guy's going tonight."

- - -

Stars coach Jim Montgomery took quite the interesting road during his playing career, one in which began here in St. Louis with the Blues in 1993-94 after signing as an undrafted free agent out of the University of Maine.

"I remember the old Arena, it was the last year of it," said Montgomery, in his first season as coach of the Stars who had his most productive NHL season with 20 points (six goals, 14 assists) in 67 games here. "I just remember the talented players that I played with, a cast of characters. Kelly Chase, Brett Hull, Brendan Shanahan, Cujo [Curtis Joseph], Basil McRae. You're breaking into the best league and it was a great city, very vibrant. The fans were fantastic, and then we had (general manager) Ron Caron up in the box, and he's more animated than any player on the ice. That's what I primarily remember besides the great friends that I met here in St. Louis that I still have to this day."

Montgomery was just getting started and had to deal with the business side of it and was traded to the Montreal Canadiens the following season for Guy Carbonneau before bouncing around from the AHL to playing in Germany and Russia and other stops in the NHL, including Philadelphia and San Jose.

But Montgomery, who spent the last eight years of his playing career training in St. Louis during the summer months and skated with Blues players, played his final season of professional hockey in 2004-05 brought him back to the area to play for the Missouri River Otters of the United Hockey League on advice from ... former Blues coach Joel Quenneville.

"I was trying to get into coaching and I couldn't find a job," Montgomery said. "No one was returning calls, so the River Otters had a team and they called me and said, 'Would you be interested in us,' and I said, 'Yeah, I may as well play.' Because I didn't have enough time to hit the coaching circuit well enough and it worked out really well for me.

"I was a player-assistant coach. It was very different, but it was a good experience to get my feet wet. Also I learned how to deal with players when you're a player and also an assistant coach. It was something that Joel Quenneville, I was at OB Clarks and having lunch, I was picking his brain. He goes, 'I'd suggest doing that if you can't get a regular coaching job.' I've picked Joel Quenneville's brain a lot since then."

- - -

The Blues' projected lineup (Berube will update at 5:30):

Jaden Schwartz-Brayden Schenn-Vladimir Tarasenko

Zach Sanford-Ryan O'Reilly-David Perron

Robby Fabbri-Robert Thomas-Pat Maroon

Sammy Blais-Ivan Barbashev-Oskar Sundqvist

Carl Gunnarsson-Alex Pietrangelo

Jay Bouwmeester-Colton Parayko

Joel Edmundson-Robert Bortuzzo

Jake Allen is the projected starter in goal; Jordan Binnington would be the projected backup.

The healthy scratch will be Vince Dunn; Tyler Bozak (upper body) and Alexander Steen (upper body) are out.

- - -

The Stars' projected lineup:

Jamie Benn-Tyler Seguin-Alexander Radulov

Valeri Nichushkin-Radek Faksa-Tyler Pitlick

Devin Shore-Jason Spezza-Erik Condra 

Matias Janmark-Roope Hintz-Blake Comeau

Esa Lindell-John Klingberg

Miro Heiskanen-Roman Polak

Connor Carrick-Taylor Fedun 

Ben Bishop will start in goal; Anton Khudobin will be the backup.

Healthy scratches include Brett Ritchie and Julius Honka. Martin Hanzal (back), Stephen Johns (upper body), Marc Methot (lower body) and Jason Dickinson (upper body) are all out.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Allen takes blame for Blues' 4-3 loss to Islanders

Goalie only faces 14 shots, allows four goals, including three in third 
period; Blues close homestand losing for the fifth time when gaining 2-0 lead

By LOU KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- Jake Allen took ownership of this one, and rightfully so.

In a season full of ifs, ands and buts, this one typifies why the Blues are where they are: near the bottom of the NHL standings.

They had to win this one, and in the end, failed to do so.

Despite outshooting the New York Islanders 32-14 and literally outplaying the visitors, the Blues couldn't hold down another third period lead, and another 2-0 lead in a dreadful 4-3 loss to the Islanders on Saturday at Enterprise Center.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues center Brayden Schenn (10) looks to move the puck by Islanders
defenseman Johnny Boychuk on Saturday in New York's 4-3 win. 

This wasn't one of those where the Blues played poorly and coughed up a lead. They coughed up the lead this time because their goalie couldn't make a save.

Allen, who started for a personal NHL-high 14th straight time Saturday, has won some games for the Blues this season and has played a lot better after a tough start to the season. But this was a game in which 18 skaters did what was necessary to win a hockey game, to start building in a season that's slowly going down the drain.

Allen allowed four goals on 14 shots, and the four goals came on the final eight shots the Islanders (23-13-4) had in the final 40 minutes of the game.

"I thought the guys did a pretty good job the whole game," Allen said. "I've got to be better than that in the third period for this team. I lost it for them.

"... It was a weird game. We had some opportunities. I thought we carried the momentum of the play. It's just, we were up 2-1 going into the third, no matter what the situation, no matter how we were playing or what the situation, how we were playing or not, it's a good situation to be in. I've got to be better."

Yes, Allen needed to be better. He had two goals squeeze through him, one by Matt Martin in the second period to make it a 2-1 game that one could give him the benefit of the doubt, and one by Jordan Eberle early in the third to tie the game 2-2, and then an Anders Lee goal late in the third to make it 4-2 on a break-in coming in from the side, where Allen left a rebound right on the doorstep for Lee to knock in.

"He's been really good for us," Blues interim coach Craig Berube said. "Look, he wants a couple of them back. But we can do a little better job, too, defensively there."

It all looked good early. Brayden Schenn and Zach Sanford gave the Blues a 2-0 lead after one period. Both were the kinds of goals they'd been searching for earlier in the season, at the net, on rebounds (Schenn) or tips (Sanford). 

The Blues (16-19-4) were taking it to the red-hot Islanders, who came in winners of five in a row.

And even in a second period where the Blues were the better team, they couldn't build on the lead, and one of two shots Allen saw in the period got through him on Martin's goal 2:25 into the period when he couldn't squeeze the shot from the slot with three Blues puck-watching and not covering up the slot.

"In the second, we had a lot of good shifts in the offensive zone," Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. "Just got to keep trying to find ways to bury teams when we're up by one or two."

Up 18-8 on the shot clock after two, the Blues were hopeful of a Washington-style attack, taking it to the Islanders like they did against the Capitals on Thursday in a 5-2 win.

But Eberle scored when he curled around the net with the puck and from the side, was able to find a hole Allen exposed with Leo Komarov running some traffic to tie the game 2-2 at 8:27. Johnny Boychuk gave the Islanders a 3-2 lead 11 seconds later on a shot from the point through traffic.

"It doesn't matter how the goals go in, I want every goal back," Allen said. "It's the goalie's mindset. At the same time, it's time and place, time and situation. It was fine. We were 2-2, to be able to get that quick one right away sort of drains all the momentum from the team. I have to find a way to somehow keep one of those out of the net to keep our momentum going. It's a killer for any team when they get two goals in that quick a span."

There was a look of discontent on the Blues bench, and certainly among the 16,801 in attendance. Berube called a time out to reign in the troops.

"I called that timeout and I thought they were pretty good and we were gonna give ourselves a chance," Berube said. "We got that third one and we had some good life I thought. I thought we attacked, which is good."

The Blues thought they tied the game when Vladimir Tarasenko scored with 8:38 remaining, but the referees ruled on the ice it had been kicked in, and video replay confirmed the call on the ice.

"It looked like he turned his skate and directed it in," Berube said. "That's why they probably disallowed it."

The Lee goal turned out to be a killer, and it happened after a stretch pass to the Blues' blue line where Robert Bortuzzo gambled a bit and thought about jumping the pass but fell down, giving Lee a lane in from the left. His first shot, Allen got his stick on but pushed the rebound right into the crease and Lee, driving the net was able to tap it in with 4:54 remaining.

"It's a breakaway. I'm not worried about a rebound on a breakaway," Allen said. "Still at the same time, it honestly dived right off my stick right to him."

Ryan O'Reilly made it interesting scoring with 1:33 remaining to make it 4-3 with Allen on the bench, and the Blues had a chance to tie it late, but Pietrangelo's chance going hard to the net was off by inches when he tried to skate past Islanders goalie Robin Lehner to the backhand, but Lehner got his skate on the puck with 19.3 to play.

"I just hit it by a hair on his toe there," Pietrangelo said. "I have an open net ... if I get by him. I didn't think I could shoot it because he came out pretty far. I just needed another half a foot and I had a wide open net."
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues center Ryan O'Reilly (left) battles for the puck with Islanders d-man
Adam Pelech on Saturday at Enterprise Center. 

It seems like the entire Blues season has been off by a hair, and this was no different. A game they felt they should have won goes by the wayside with nothing to show for it, and the five-game homestand closes at 2-3-0.

And to make matters worse, it's the fifth time this season the Blues have built a 2-0 lead and lost the game, going 0-2-3 in them. That's seven points down the drain.

"We've built some good hockey here, but we're not winning hockey games and it's not good enough right now," Pietrangelo said. "We've got to win hockey games. We can talk about playing well all we want. All that matters right now are results."

Saturday, January 5, 2019

(1-5-19) Islanders-Blues Gameday Lineup

By LOU KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- Vladimir Tarasenko will return and Joel Edmundson and Pat Maroon will be healthy scratches when the Blues (16-18-4) end a five-game homestand against the red-hot New York Islanders (22-13-4) at Enterprise Center (7 p.m.; FS-MW, KMOX 1120-AM).

Tarasenko missed Thursday's 5-2 win against the Washington Capitals with illness.

The surprise may be scratching Edmundson, who missed four games this season with injury but never as a healthy scratch.

"We talked and stuff and we want him to take a game here and watch," Blues interim coach Craig Berube said. "We've got a lot of defensemen, they're all healthy, so we have to make decisions.

"... His puck decisions at times, just being more aggressive in his play would be the main things."

Edmundson has seven points (one goal, six assists) in 34 games this season.

As for Maroon, it's been a tough go for the 'Big Rig.' 

Signed to a team-friendly one-year, $1.75 million contract to come home and be near his son and family and overcoming two injuries, including a back injury that required a procedure for a herniated disk over the summer that halted his training, it's been a slow go as far as production for Maroon, who has 11 points (three goals, eight assists) in 32 games.

Maroon was a healthy scratch for two games Nov. 9 and 11 earlier this season.

"Patty obviously hasn't produced like he's wanted to and like we've wanted him to," Berube said. "I think his effort's been there. I think he's been playing pretty good hockey the last 10 games but production is just not there, so we're going to get [Zach] Sanford in there tonight. Patty's working hard and he'll be ready to go when we need him."

Sanford was recalled from San Antonio of the American Hockey league on Friday and will play on a line with Tarasenko and Tyler Bozak.

"I think for a younger guy like me going down and getting those opportunities (in the AHL) to play in those crucial minutes is huge for my game and for my confidence," Sanford said. "A big part for me is just managing the puck better. The last few games I played here, I was having a few too many turnovers and not being too sure with the puck in places I needed to be more certain. It's going to be a big focus for me tonight is just being smart with the puck and not giving the other team any chances to come right back at us."

Berube said it's imperative to get Sanford, who has nine points (four goals, five assists) in 23 games, some time.

"He played really well in the minors, so he's back up here," Berube said. "We want to get him going."

- - -

With the Blues going with seven defenseman Thursday and going back with six tonight and Edmundson out, Carl Gunnarsson slides in with Alex Pietrangelo, a pair that's bee reliable, it seems, every time it's together.

"Simple, I guess he's predictable for me at least," Pietrangelo said of Gunnarsson's game. "I like to get up in the play, be that extra guy on the rush, and he's predictable in his puck movement in a good way. You know he's going to make the right play, you know he's going to make the simple play. Sometimes I over-complicate it and it's nice to have a guy back there that I can trust. 

"All our 'D' are the same way. We're pretty predictable in the way we play to each other. That's why you see us change pairings so often because it's easy for us. We just seem to have good chemistry."

Gunnarsson, who returned Thursday after missing 20 games with a hand injury, feels the role is suited for him.

"He's more offensive than me, there's no doubt about it and he's good at it, too," Gunnarsson said of Pietrangelo. "I told Alex that too, he's putting up the points. He's good at it. He's an offensive guy. I'm not going to think twice about it. I'm trying to play my game and if there's a gap or whatever, I'll try to fill that. A big part for me is to let him play his game, too. Sometimes it just clicks and sometimes it works. I think we showed this last season, too. We were pretty good together."

Gunnarsson said he played with many guys in this role in Toronto, but the one he remembers well is Dion Phaneuf.

- - -

The Blues recalled Jordan Binnington from San Antonio Saturday morning and assigned Evan Fitzpatrick back to the Rampage after backing up Jake Allen, who will start tonight, the past two games.

Binnington went down and played three games for the Rampage; he's 11-4-0 there with a .927 save percentage.

Berube said with back-to-back games coming up Monday in Philadelphia and Tuesday at home against Dallas, to see Binnington get his first NHL start.

"We'll get him in there," Berube said. "We're just discussing that stuff and we'll come up with a plan here.

"... He went down, played three games, played extremely well, had a shutout last night, so he's back up and he'll back up tonight."

- - -

The Blues' projected lineup:

Alexander Steen-Ryan O'Reilly-David Perron

Jaden Schwartz-Brayden Schenn-Robert Thomas

Zach Sanford-Tyler Bozak-Vladimir Tarasenko

Robby Fabbri-Ivan Barbashev-Oskar Sundqvist

Carl Gunnarsson-Alex Pietrangelo

Jay Bouwmeester-Colton Parayko

Vince Dunn-Robert Bortuzzo

Jake Allen will start in goal; Jordan Binnington will be the backup. Healthy scratches include Pat Maroon, Joel Edmundson and Jordan Schmaltz. The Blues report no injuries. 

- - -

The Islanders' projected lineup:

Anders Lee-Brock Nelson-Jordan Eberle

Anthony Beauvillier-Mathew Barzal-Josh Bailey

Michael Dal Colle-Leo Komarov-Joshua Ho-Sang

Matt Martin-Casey Cizikas-Cal Clutterbuck

Nick Leddy-Johnny Boychuk

Adam Pelech-Ryan Pulock

Devon Toews-Scott Mayfield

Robin Lehner will start in goal; Thomas Greiss will be the backup. Healthy scratches include Luca Sbisa, Ross Johnston and Tom Kuhnhackl. Thomas Hickey (upper body), Valtteri Filppula (upper body) and Andrew Ladd (lower body) are out.