Sunday, October 2, 2016

Blues listless in 4-0 preseason loss to Blackhawks

Hutton only bright spot in game Hitchcock said his players got exposed

CHICAGO -- The Blues brought a crop of players Saturday to Chicago hoping to get perhaps a final look at some candidates that could surprise coaches and management into keeping them for the home stretch of training camp.

Not much was happening though against many of the Blackhawks' top-flight players other than backup goalie Carter Hutton.

Chicago scored three second-period goals and downed the Blues 4-0 at United Center.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues goalie Carter Hutton (right) makes a save on the Blackhawks'
Vincent Hinostroza during preseason action Saturday in Chicago.

The Blues (3-2-0) did bring a number of players that will be on the opening night roster but also inserted a number of players, after tonight, will likely be destined to remain here and play for the AHL's Wolves. 

Not a bad idea bringing them along side the Wolves open their camp on Monday.

But it's not just the bubble players, it's also guys destined to be in the NHL at the start of the season that didn't make a favorable impression either.

"I thought we got exposed," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "We didn't have the puck. 

"It makes it tough because we're going to have to get better play. Some of these guys are going to be on our team; we've got to get better play than this. We've got some veteran players that need to play better, so that's a big challenge for us is to get these veteran players to play quite a bit better."

Chicago (1-2-0) played many of their NHL-ready players and played some kids also looking for jobs on their team. Needless to say their bubble players performed at a higher level than that of the Blues.

"This was very revealing for us for the players we were trying to make a decision on, this was really revealing for us," Hitchcock said. "It told us a lot about ... the last two games told us quite a bit. You play a team that has a lot of top-end NHL players and a lot of pace to the game, you get exposed. I thought a lot of guys got exposed today."

It was a game that didn't have the preseason feel to it, particularly in the third period when emotions ran high and included defenseman Joel Edmundson getting mixed up with Ryan Hartman. But towards the end, Chicago defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson received a match penalty for his check high on the Blues' Ty Rattie, who appeared to be OK after the game.

"Emotions for cranked up a little bit," Blues center Kyle Brodziak said. "Obviously we were a frustrated group the way the game went. But it's two teams that don't like each other very much. Just having a little fun."

Hitchcock said afterwards Rattie and defenseman Jordan Schmaltz, who missed the third period with an undisclosed ailment, were "fine" after the game.

But the one encouraging part was the play of Hutton, who did stop 23 of 26 shots through two periods before giving way to Jordan Binnington for the third.

It was Hutton's second straight strong game despite the loss; he played well in a 3-1 loss at Dallas last Monday.

"I thought the best player on our team was Hutton for two periods," Hitchcock said. "The second goal we gave up hurt a little bit, but I thought we got exposed. We didn't have the puck and that's what happens in exhibition. 

"Hutton's been the surprise of camp. He's been excellent for us. ... It's a real feather in his cap, a feather in the goalie scouts' camp. He looks like a guy that can really help us and is going to really help us."

Hutton, who signed a two-year, $2.25 million free agent contract on July 1 to join the Blues as a backup, has showed signs that he's more than capable of being the veteran buffer for starter Jake Allen.

"We're just building and I thought I was feeling it tonight," Hutton said. "... For me, a lot to build on. I think as we start to narrow down and get our team going and our structure, for me, they're definitely building blocks."

"He was unbelievable both times I've seen him so far," Brodziak said of Hutton. "He's been awesome. Last game in Dallas, he did the same thing. ... Guys didn't really know much about him, but everyone here that knows him or played with him said he's going to be really solid, not only on the ice but just a good guy all around, a good guy in the room and we're excited to have him." 
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues defenseman Petteri Lindbohm (48) tries to fend off Chicago's Tyler
Motte for puck possession in a preseason game at United Center.

The battle of the Schmaltz brothers (Jordan for the Blues and Nick for the Blackhawks) went to baby brother Nick, who played in front of their parents Mike and Lisa Schmaltz.

Tyler Motte scored twice for Chicago, which also got goals from Michael Kempny and Artemi Panarin.

The two teams will wrap up season play next Saturday in St. Louis before opening the regular season in Chicago on Oct. 12.

The Blues, who are off Sunday, are expected to make another round of cuts Sunday before taking another group to Washington Monday and play against the Capitals. 

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