Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Another poor result for St. Louis at Scottrade Center, lose 4-0 to Colorado

Blues own conference's worst home record following third shutout here this season

ST. LOUIS -- How does one explain the Blues' inexcusable results at home? And considering the team just played two solid road games against teams with above-.500 records, a chance to win their third in a row was on the table for the Blues.

But another lackluster game for the Blues resulted in a 4-0 win by the Colorado Avalanche, a game in which the Avs took advantage of the minimal opportunities they got Monday night at Scottrade Center.

The Blues (12-11-5 overall) have the Western Conference's worst home record. They are 5-9-2 on home ice and now have been blanked here three times. Compared with a 7-2-3 road mark, it is a baffling number that has the Blues wondering.

"It's an awful home record," goalie Chris Mason said. "We have to be so much better here. We have to outwork teams in this building and we're getting outworked at home and that's completely unacceptable."

The Blues peppered Avs goalie Peter Budaj with 35 shots, and Budaj, making only his fifth start of the season stopped all of them. But they also missed the net on 23 times and had 20 more blocked. Compared to Colorado's 22 shots on goal, seven missed shots and four blocked shots, the Blues attempted 45 more shots (78-33) than their counterparts did Monday.

"We certainly had enough opportunities," Blues coach Andy Murray understated. "... We missed the net 10 times (in the first period). It was like 17 in the first two periods. We missed the net 17 times besides the times we put the puck on the net. I don't know how many times we missed it in the third as well. ... We certainly do need to finish on our opportunities."

That would be putting it mildly. But it's a trend the Blues seem to be getting themselves into quite often -- particularly here at home.

It makes one wonder why the team seems to play better away from this building.

"I don't know if we play a lot different (at home) to be honest with you," Murray said. "I would imagine the scoring chances would wind up at 10 or under for them. Ours will be considerably higher. ... We've scored some goals on the road in some key situations. Tonight, we had opportunities to get a 1-0 lead, and we didn't. We had a lot of opportunities to make it 1-1 in the second period, and we didn't. We had opportunities to make it 2-1, and we didn't and they made it 3-0. Those key goals we need to have have been missing."

Chris Stewart scored twice and assisted on another, Wojtek Wolski added three assists and John-Michael Liles added two more helpers as the Avs (17-9-6) completed a 3-1-1 trip by scoring on the power play late in the first period, getting another goal on a bad line change by a Blues player, poor defensive coverage by the Blues on the third and a turnover in the neutral zone on the fourth goal.

"To me, it's the failure to execute in those other situations," Murray said. "You've just got to chip away at your game and battling. The first four or five minutes, we weren't good. Sometimes it's understandable when you come back off a road trip in that first game back. They were playing at a high tempo and we had to get up to speed and I thought we did after about the first four or five minutes."

The Blues, who play in Detroit Wednesday before returning to play the next two here at home, missed the net 10 times in the first period, seven more in the second and six more in the third.

And with team owner Dave Checketts watching from his box, this was not what he had in mind when he put the team on notice that results are expected now.

"For some reason, we just haven't been able to get it done at home," defenseman Erik Johnson said. "You have to at least be .500 at home to be a playoff team. Your home record has to be your bread-and-butter. You have to take pride in your home record. For whatever reason, we just haven't gotten it done."

Why is that?

"Maybe guys try to do a little too much at home," Johnson said. "Maybe on the road, you kind of just go play. At home, I don't know if guys want to try a little too much or make one extra play and you don't have to. It's just about being simple.

"The first five minutes of periods, chip pucks in and go get it and keep it simple and not be individualistic at the blue line or anything like that. I think you just have to keep your game simple and really grind early. For whatever reason at home, we just haven't been able to do it."

Another area, as Mason pointed to, is that the Blues seem to be getting outworked by opponents, which should not happen in one's own building.

"I think we got outworked the first two periods, I got outplayed in the net," Mason said. "We just have to be so much better at home. We're not making it hard on teams coming in here. It seems like we're chasing the game in our own rink.

"On the road, we're just keeping things simple. We're waiting for our opportunities. I don't know if we're forcing at home. I don't really know what it is. I think it all starts with playing a full 60 minutes. We have to come out hard to start games, and it seems like we're kind of on our heels."

* NOTES -- Blues center Patrik Berglund skated in his 100th career game Monday. ... Blues scratches included defenseman Alex Pietrangelo and forward Cam Janssen. ... Defenseman Eric Brewer will miss 2-4 weeks with a back injury unrelated to what sidelined him most of last season.

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