Thursday, September 25, 2014

Slow start dooms Blues in preseason home opener

Blue Jackets erupt on for four goals; mistakes, sloppy play at 
forefront of 5-4 loss despite late push, two goals from Tarasenko

ST. LOUIS -- Some of the Blues veterans playing in their first preseason game spoke Thursday morning of eliminating those summer hockey tendencies, which can translate into bad habits in actual NHL game action.

The Blues may want to replay the majority of the first period. Summer hockey was in full force, and the young Jackets were happy to pounce.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Peter Mueller (left) had an assist in the Blues' 5-4 loss to the Columbus Blue
Jackets Thursday night in the preseason home opener.

Lack of execution, poor penalties and overall sloppy play in the first 15 minutes of the game enabled the Columbus Blue Jackets to race out to a four-goal lead -- scoring three of those goals on the power play -- before the Blues found their game but still lost, 5-4, Thursday night at Scottrade Center.

Playing with a stacked lineup that included their No. 1 goaltender (Brian Elliott) along with David Backes, T.J. Oshie, Alex Pietrangelo, Jay Bouwmeester, Vladimir Tarasenko, Jori Lehtera and the season debut of Paul Stastny and others, the Blues were flat and outworked in many facets by a Blue Jackets team playing many of their prospects trying to make a case for being on their opening night roster.

"There's digging a hole and there's digging a big ditch; we dug a big ditch and had to dig out of it," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "It's a good wake-up call for our veteran players. To get them engaged, they just want to throw their sticks on the ice and Columbus wouldn't have any of it. They've got a lot of guys that are right on the  edge of making their team. They wanted to prove it. They came out really hard; we took some penalties because of it. Had a little bit of panic in our game and then we settled down and started to play in the second period, and then really dominated the second period. Kept the push up in the third."

Stastny dazzled on the Blues' opening goal, as he found Joakim Lindstrom in the high slot for a one-timer late in the first period. Vladimir Tarasenko scored twice, with assists from Peter Mueller on the first and Jori Lehtera (get used to hearing and reading that combination) on the second one. David Backes, who had a fighting major in the game, also scored for the Blues, who fell to 0-2-1 on the preseason.

"The thing that's telling now ... as we get moving into next week, we've got one more exhibition game (Saturday in Kansas City against Dallas) where we're still evaluating. When we move into next week, we really see the page that we need to get a much firmer commitment from the players because we've had three games right now where we've played a little bit of hockey but a lot of shinny and the shinny's always been at the start of the game, so that tells you that this is a group right now that's not sold on the way that we need to play, and that's going to be our job next week to hammer that down. You see it pretty much every game, we've dug ourselves pretty much a hole play-wise and it's because we want to play a different way. That's something that we're going to get resolved next week."

And the best way for the coaches to hammer those points down?

"This is where you need your veteran players," Hitchcock said. "They've got to engage in the right way. We've added a bunch of new players into the group, so it's getting everyone on the same page. You can see how we can really light it up scoring chances-wise. We have the ability to create chances. We create more off the rush than any team we've had here, and we're doing it with half a squad, but man, we're making decisions with the puck that ... there's high risk and then there's what we're doing, which is even above high risk. it's not going to pay off against good teams. We've got to put the hammer down."

Brian Elliott, who saw 22 shots, was bombarded with 12 in the first period and had no chance on any of the Columbus goals. 

"It showed that it was a lot of guys' first game in a long time," defenseman Jay Bouwmeester said. "The power plays didn't help. We gave up a lot of goals. If we get through that first 10 minutes, we probably get through that game. We didn't and we didn't do a very good job of just weathering things when we had to.

"I thought things went better as the game went along. ... we were just guilty of a bad start."

Stastny agreed.

"When you get that many penalties, it's tough to get into a rhythm and you're trying to roll four lines," Stastny said. "... A couple times we got caught chasing the puck, which is something the more you practice, the more you can read off guys and have better communication."

The Blues will make cuts that get their team down to 30 players by Sunday. Most that are still on the fringe will get one last opportunity to impress and try to stick it out to the final push.

But for those playing their first game, it was quite the rude awakening distinguishing a practice-like pace to a game-like pace
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Joakim Lindstrom (10) scored the first goal for the Blues in a
5-4 loss to Columbus Thursday night.

"No excuses, but it's a different pace in a game than it is from a practice or even an intrasquad scrimmage," Backes said. "You're playing against your own guys; you're not necessarily shooting through bunches of guys trying to score, you're not bodying guys as hard as you can trying to knock them off the puck and maybe that's our fault and we need to up that tempo in camp a little bit. In the interest of keeping everybody healthy, it's nice to save that for pounding some of the other teams a little bit. We still have four (preseason) games left."

Getting the checking mentality game that Hitchcock wants to implement will be the last -- and toughest -- task.

"That's how you win," Hitchcock said. "Not easy to engage. Nobody wants to engage yet, but we'll get that figured out.

"I'm more focused on where our veterans are at mentally. This is a good wake-up call. Not the score, not the loss, but this a really good wake-up call. If you're not ready to play, you might get hurt. We've got one more day of this stuff and then we really get to work. It'll be a great week next week."

No comments:

Post a Comment