Monday, February 9, 2015

Blues search to fight through tough part of schedule

Team better in loss to Blackhawks, not good enough

ST. LOUIS -- It was better but not good enough.

That's the consensus that came from the locker room after the Blues' 4-2 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday afternoon.

The Blues (34-15-4) fought hard for 40 minutes against the biggest rivals within the Central Division and had the game leveled at 2-all with 20 minutes to go.

But after outshooting Chicago 24-16 through two periods, the Blues lost their mojo, fell behind by a goal for the third time in the game and couldn't recover this time.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Paul Stastny (middle) and the Blues will look to snap a two-game losing
streak against Arizona on Tuesday.

"A lot better ... a lot better than Buffalo (a 3-0 win), a lot better than Columbus (a 7-1 loss), a lot better than Tampa (a 2-1 overtime win)," defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. "Obviously still some work to do, but some things to build off of. 

"I know it sounds a little bit redundant saying that, but we tightened things up defensively there. I thought we did a lot of good things."

However, a team that's built on playing structurally sound especially when they have a lead, the Blues found themselves playing catch-up hockey all afternoon.

It caught up to them in the third period when Chicago began to tilt the ice and outshot the Blues 12-3.

"That's the way we've been playing when we've been playing well," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said of the first two periods. "We put 40 minutes of good, solid hockey in, but like I said, I thought we got beat a little bit off the puck in the third period and we weren't able to get them boxed in like we were in the first two.

"... I look at it that we lost a close, hard-fought hockey game. It was a helluva hockey game. That's how I look at this game. We'll rest up and move onto to Tuesday. That's all I look at right now."

The Blues squeezed out two wins last week against a good Lightning team thanks to a stellar performance from goalie Brian Elliott and another great effort in goal from Jake Allen against the 30th-ranked Sabres. But it all caught up to them in Columbus the following night.

Sunday was more about gearing their game back towards what makes them successful. But it needs to be better against the upper echelon teams in the Western Conference.

"We looked like our old selves again," Elliott said. "I think when you come off kind of a bad game we had in Columbus, you just want to get back to your fundamentals, the things you do well and I thought we started the game well even though we got down by a goal. I thought we stuck to our guns and really wanted to do the little things right for each other."

It's become abundantly clear the Blues are in a tough part of their schedule, playing nine games in 15 days out of the All-Star break. 

"We've lost two in a row but before these two, you could say we found ways to get points in Carolina and Buffalo with not outstanding efforts, with less than full tanks, and just found ways to win games," said captain David Backes, whose goal in the second period Sunday tied the game 2-2. "On the other side of the coin, like the last two and now, we realize that we've got to get back to our principles, get back to playing the right way, the hard way.

"When those things are back in effect, then you go on runs where you have points in 13 straight and you have all the good things happening for you. Little bit of a reality check here, two games in a row, hit the rest button."

And with little time to rest in between, there's no time to get practices in either. So the Blues will have to figure things out on the fly as they play for the time being.

"This is a tough part of the season," said Elliott, who made 24 saves Sunday. "We play a lot of games in a lot of nights. It's the energy management that's going to be the key for us and every team going forward. Any time you get a chance to get a little rest, you do so. When it comes time for the game, you pour it all in."
(St. Louis Blues photo)
The Blues' Ryan Reaves (75) and Chicago's Johnny Oduya chase after a
loose puck Sunday at Scottrade Center. 

So as they move ahead and prepare for the Arizona Coyotes on Tuesday night in what will be their eighth game in 13 days, a tired Blues team will look to put an end to a modest two-game losing streak after netting a point in 13 straight (12-0-1). They've allowed 11 goals in the two losses.

And they'll look to do so playing their fifth game without defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, who is recovering from an abdominal injury that leaves the All-Star out of action from week-to-week.

"I think it's a hard evaluation for us right now," Hitchcock said. "I think we're missing pieces, so I think it's a hard evaluation right now. I think there's some growth in some of our younger guys. I think guys like (Jaden) Schwartz and (Vladimir) Tarasenko, both guys were outstanding players (Sunday). I think that's a big step for us. We don't manage the puck the way we're going to have to moving forward here. Hopefully these hard lessons we can learn and move forward with it."

No comments:

Post a Comment