St. Louis will open playoffs against the Chicago Blackhawks
ST. LOUIS -- Even with a division title on the line Sunday, the end of the regular season finished with a whimper for the Blues.
Not even their makeshift lineup could salvage a victory and prevent the longest losing streak in regulation in eight years.
The Blues had the opportunity to make the Colorado Avalanche work for the division title, as the Avalanche played the Anaheim Ducks Sunday night, but it became a moot point after the Detroit Red Wings got two goals from Justin Abdelkader and knocked off the Blues 3-0 Sunday afternoon at Scottrade Center, sending the Blues (52-23-7) to their sixth loss in a row.
|(St. Louis Blues/Mark Buckner)|
Alexander Steen (20) gets tangled up with Detroit's Drew Miller (right)
during action Sunday afternoon.
And even as recently as a week ago, what surely looked like would be a matchup against a wild-card opponent, the Blues now must somehow mend their walking wounded and face the Chicago Blackhawks (46-21-15) in the opening round of the Western Conference quarterfinals.
The Blues played the game without David Backes (foot), T.J. Oshie (upper body), Patrik Berglund (upper body), Vladimir Tarasenko (thumb), Brenden Morrow (foot), Barret Jackman (undisclosed) and Alex Pietrangelo (undisclosed). Derek Roy (lower body) did return after missing Friday, but it didn't matter for the Blues, who were shut out for the second straight game.
They'll go into the postseason with a goal-less drought of 143:59, including 217:21 without a goal at even strength.
But through it all, knowing the reinforcements will return makes it an easier feeling, despite the public outcry.
"You look at the big picture," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "The big picture is we set a record for (wins). We had a brutal stretch here at the end. Every team went through a brutal stretch. The teams that had the Olympians, at some period of time, they hit the wall. Chicago's stretch was right after the break, ours happened now. This break will do us really a lot of good and we can get re-energized, refocused and come back and get ready to play. The one difference that this last 10 days has made for us, the only difference is, the way we have to adjust our schedule for what we're going to do. We might need more rest than work to get back focused again. That part is what it is. Everybody that had a lot of those players, still has to find a way to win playoff series. We got caught in the vortex, just like two or three other teams that had multiple players get caught in the vortex, too. We get a chance to rest. Our work-base part of our practices will be minimal now. We'll have a lot different lineup that played tonight on Thursday."
The Blues were blanked for the seventh time over the final 25 games of the season, including five in 14, after not being shut out the first 57 games. A lot of it has to do with missing some of these key pieces.
"It's a mixture of things, but we've got to get more inside," forward Alexander Steen said. "A lot of the stuff's being generated on the outside. The power play hasn't really been clicking the last few games here. We've got a few days here to regroup, get some bodies back and start preparing for the first round."
Ryan Miller stopped 18 shots and dropped his fifth straight decision.
"Everybody starts at zeros again," Miller said. "We could have run the table at the end of the season and still found ourselves in the same situation. We have to beat a team to advance through the next round of the playoffs. We just kind of regroup and remind ourselves what we do well and we build a game plan and execute. We were going to have to do it anyway."
The Red Wings got on the board first when Abdelkader, parked in front of Miller, was able to redirect a Brian Lashoff shot over Miller at 13:30 of the first period.
The Red Wings thought they had scored moments earlier when Tomas Tatar's one-timer beat Miller, but the goal was waved off when Joakim Andersson was whistled for goaltender interference at 9:48.
The Blues had a terrific chance at tying the game in the second period off a 3-on-1 rush with eight minutes left, but Maxim Lapierre couldn't convert and left himself with a bad-angle shot.
Sheahan gave the Red Wings a two-goal lead after Blues defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo's shot from the point went awry and turned into a 2-on-2 going the other way. Sheahan used Colaiacovo as a screen and snapped a shot from the left circle over Miller's glove with 3:41 left in the second.
Abdelkader's second of the game came off a saucer feed from Pavel Datsyuk in the slot, and redirected the shot over Miller's right shoulder with 7:17 remaining in the game. Datsyuk now had 74 points in 64 career games against St. Louis after his two assists Sunday.
The NHL was expected to make official the schedule for the playoffs Sunday night, but word was the Blues, who won three of five, and Blackhawks would open with Game 1 on Thursday.
|(St. Louis Blues/Mark Buckner)|
The Blues' Chris Porter (32) positions himself in front of the Detroit goal
as Kyle Quincey (27) tries to defend.
"I said to the players tonight there's 300 players that would die for what we get to do starting Monday morning," Hitchcock said. "We get to prepare for the playoffs. There's 300 players that are out, 14 teams that are out. Prove this, prove that ... you've just got to compete and play. It's not rocket science. It's pretty simple. You've just got to keep going. There's going to be funky things happen. There's going to be funny stuff that happens. There's going to be some emotional stuff that happens. There's going to be some really emotional stuff that happens. You've just got to keep going.
"... We're going to have to really focus on the rest leading into this tournament so that we can get as fresh as we can early in the tournament. But I can guarantee you now, everybody that's out, that was out today, at some period of time, they're going to be in."
* NOTES -- The Blues reassigned forwards Sergey Andronov and Ty Rattie to the Chicago Wolves of the American Hockey League. Andronov was recalled after Berglund was hurt Friday and took warmups Sunday but did not play.
Rattie, the Blues' second round pick 2011, played in his first two NHL games this weekend, including 10:46 ice time Sunday.
. . . Defenseman Jay Bouwmeester was the lone player to skate in all 82 games this season, and it's no surprise with Bouwmeester, who skated in his 717th consecutive regular season game. It's the longest current ironman streak in not only the NHL but all of pro sports. It's his ninth 82-game season in his 11-year career.
. . . The Blues lost their third in a row in regulation, the first time that's happened since Feb. 21-March 1, 2011.