Thursday, February 7, 2013

Another dismal effort results in 5-1 loss for befuddled Blues

After 6-1-0 start, team loses third straight, including second disheartening loss

ST. LOUIS -- The common theme for a word used throughout the Blues' locker room and from their head coach following another dis-spirited 5-1 home loss on home ice to the Detroit Red Wings: cheating.

The Blues have cheated themselves now ... twice. And it's made a 6-1-0 start look like a distant memory.

In back-to-back games -- on Scottrade Center ice no-less, where the Blues (now 6-4-0 after their third straight loss) -- the Blues have been outscored 11-2 and have in a span of 48 hours gone from an NHL elite team to resembling one of the game's worst.

Blues forward Alex Steen was poignant with his comments afterwards.

"We're cheating on the details ... small things out there and that's what's costing us," Steen said. "It's turnovers and individual mistakes. They're in the back of our net. We've got to get back to Square One, regroup do what we do well, and it starts with hard work. It's the only way to get out of this."

When asked if Blues coach Ken Hitchcock agreed, he was quick to answer.

"One-hundred percent. We're cheating all over the ice," he said. "We're cheating to get on the offense, we're cheating to score, our puck support is poor, our team game's not good right now ... because we're cheating the game.
(Getty Images)
The Blues and Ryan Reaves (pictured) were lethargic for a second straight
home game, losing 5-1 to Detroit.

"We're cheating each other and we're cheating the game and we're paying the price for it. You hope that sooner or later that players have had enough and they're willing to make the changes necessary, but right now, we're cheating the game."

It was the Red Wings who put a halt to a modest two-game losing slide, getting first goals of the season from Daniel Cleary, Jakub Kindl and Cory Emmerton.

And to make matters worse for the Blues, Petr Mrazek, recalled earlier in the week from Grand Rapids of the American Hockey League, picked up his first win in his NHL debut by stopping 26 shots as he gave workhorse Jimmy Howard a night off.

Damien Brunner and Valtteri Filppula also scored for Detroit, with assists from Drew Miller and Jordin Tootoo, their first points of the season as well.

Cleary, Emmerton, Miller and Tootoo are all part of the Red Wings' third and fourth lines, respectively. For one night, those types of players took headlines away from Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk.

And the Red Wings sure made it an easy night for Mrazek, who made quite the debut after going 16-7-1 with a 2.26 goals-against average and a .916 save percentage which included a berth on the Western Conference all-star team in the AHL.

"He never really panicked whatsoever," Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall said of the 20-year-old Mrazek. "I thought he was just square to the puck all night. He kept control of the rebounds and looked really good."

Mrazek said the guys in front of him made it an easy and memorable NHL debut.

"I was real excited for my first game, tried to stop what I could," Mrazek said. "I’m never nervous. I enjoyed every minute on the ice. Guys were outstanding today, blocked lots of shots that helped me so much.

"Unbelievable ... like a dream. When you’re a kid, you're always thinking about the NHL. Now it happened so I am so happy. Got the puck ... I will keep it forever."

The Blues, who have lost consecutive regulation home games for the first time since Feb. 22-March 1, 2011, have lost three straight regulation games for the first time under Hitchcock, who was forthcoming with his team's recent shortcomings.

"Individual agendas ... what's good for me," Hitchcock said. "How many times were you folks sitting in the stands saying 'Shoot the puck onto the net?' How many times? How many times did you say, 'Why did you pass it there to a covered person when you could have put it onto the net?'
"... It's a litany. When you have this many players playing under the bar, it's hard to win hockey games."

Alex Pietrangelo had his second goal in as many games and has accounted for the Blues' scoring in the past 135:30, and Brian Elliott stopped 24 shots in the loss.

Down 2-0, Pietrangelo fired into an empty side off a feed from Steen at 15:45 of the second period to cut Detroit's lead to 2-1. But the Red Wings got a pair of quick goals late in the period from Emmerton at 17:33 and Brunner with 56 seconds left in the period to go up 4-1.

"It's tough to give one back right away and then give one up at the end of the period, that's even harder coming in here down 4-1 as opposed to 2-1," Pietrangelo said. "It got away from us, and we can't be getting behind teams."

The culmination to a bad night came on Filppula's breakaway goal, which happened on a 4-on-4 sequence came after Johan Franzen was booted from the game for spearing David Perron. Franzen got a five-minute major and a game-misconduct, and Perron received two minutes for initially boarding Franzen, who retaliated.

In the ensuing sequence with both team down a player, the Blues lost the puck in the Red Wings zone and Filppula was off to the races, and again, it ended up in the Blues' net. Filppula beat Elliott with 6 minutes, 25 to play.
(Getty Images)
The Blues' Alex Steen (right) lamented his and the Blues' effort in another
dismal home loss Thursday, 5-1 to Detroit.

As they skated off the ice, the Blues, who have been nearly unbeatable on home ice since the start of the 2011-12 season, were booed by whatever fans were left in the building.

"You lose 6-1 at home, 5-1 at home ... that's got to be the reason for it and we've got to find a way to answer that," Pietrangelo said.

The fix can be easy, but as long as the Blues are ready, willing and able.

"We've gotten away from it, what makes us a good team," Steen said. "We've got to get back on the horse tomorrow. ... It's hard work."
Added Pietrangelo: "It's not going to be an easy fix, but we know what we've got to do in this room. We've just got to go out and execute it."

* NOTES -- Blues defenseman Wade Redden played the 1,000th game of his NHL career, becoming the 282nd player in history to accomplish the feat and 11th to do it in a Blues uniform, joining Jean-Guy Talbot (1969-70), Jimmy Roberts (1977-78), Harold Snepsts (1990-91), Al MacInnis (1997-98), Geoff Courtnall (1997-98), Pierre Turgeon (2000-01), Mike Keane (2001-02), Doug Weight (2006-07), Bill Guerin (2006-07) and Keith Tkachuk (2007-08).

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