Thursday, October 27, 2016

Blues scoring woes continue in shootout loss to Red Wings

St. Louis has lost four of five, scoring one goal in each of the 
four losses; Zetterberg's shootout goal in eighth round is difference

ST. LOUIS -- The effort was much better, but the result was much the same in recent games for the Blues.

They managed a point, but a lack of scoring is starting to bite this team hard right now.

It cost them a well-deserved second point on Thursday in a 2-1 shootout loss to the Detroit Red Wings Thursday at Scottrade Center after Blues killer Henrik Zetterberg scored on Jake Allen in the eighth round.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Red Wings goalie Petr Mrazek makes a save on the Blues' Vladimir
Tarasenko (right) in the first period Thursday of Detroit's 2-1 shootout win.

It ruined a game in which the Blues were for much of the first half of the game, decidedly better, but Red Wings goalie Petr Mrazek kept his team in it long enough before the Wings (6-2-0), winners of six in a row, began to generate some life after Frans Nielsen's shorthanded goal in the second period to wipe out Kevin Shattenkirk's marker early in the period.

The Blues, 4-2-2 overall, but just 1-2-2 in their last five, have scored one goal in each of their four losses but have managed to get two points out of it. Mainly because of their goaltending.

But it's now four goals on 115 shots in the past four losses, with 232 shots directed at the net.

Shattenkirk has scored the past two Blues' goals.

"We're scoring one goal and getting points," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "That's incredible and that's a helluva feather in these guys' cap, to score one goal, work as hard as we are. This is like the Vancouver game (a 2-1 overtime loss), where you're scoring one goal and getting points. You're going to score more in the league, you're going to finish your chances. But I don't think we're creating the second and third opportunities that we normally do. That's why I say that we've got to look at combinations. There's a lot of scoring chances, but they seem to be one and done for me. So we've got to take a look at that."

The Blues had a chance to break this game open early, but Mrazek made what coaches call 10-Bell saves on Vladimir Tarasenko with 10 minutes, 30 seconds remaining in the first and then robbing Nail Yakupov with 9:09 remaining after Patrik Berglund fed Yakupov for a quick one-timer after a Darren Helm turnover.

"Well I think this game is the same as four or five games we've played already," Hitchcock said. "We've played really well, had a lot of good stuff, but don't finish. I think we've got to look at everything right now. I think we've got to look at combinations, what's working, what's not working, what we need to get more from. Can't just keep living on scoring chances, you've got to finish at the end of the day. I think we've got to look at every aspect right now."

Alexander Steen scored in the first round of the shootout for the Blues before Gustav Nyquist equalized for the Red Wings in the second round.

After that, it was Allen and Mrazek getting the job done until Zetterberg, 13-for-58 in shootouts coming in, beat Allen five-hole to end it.

"My objective is to stop the puck, that's it," said Allen, who made a crucial shoulder save on Alexey Marchenko late in regulation and then on Tomas Tatar in the closing seconds of overtime. "Sometimes you're 3-for-3, sometimes you're 0-for-10. Shootouts, you're not going to win them all, but it's a tough way to go down."

The Blues' biggest takeaway is they have the penchant for dispatching a bad all-around outing like the one they had against Calgary on Tuesday in a 4-1 loss. Aside from Carter Hutton, nothing else went right.

"I think we created a lot more chances as a team offensively," center Paul Stastny said. "It was nice having Jori (Lehtera) back, 'Schwartzy' getting in his groove, so many chances eventually they're gong to go. We just have to keep finding ways to create chances and kind of bear down when we have to and win that special teams battle.

"Both goalies were good. You could see in the shootout, too, not a lot of goals scored in almost 20 shooters. Sometimes they're not going in and you're squeezing the stick a little too hard, you're trying too hard, and then sometimes you just need that bounce. It happens to everyone throughout the season. We have to look within ourselves to dig deep out of it and keep creating chances, creating your luck and kind of getting the bounces."

The overtime was so wide open, both teams had endless chances to score, but the Blues had three they would normally bank on.

Schwartz redirected Tarasenko's pass wide of an open side of the net with 4:12 remaining, then Lehtera, who returned after missing four games with a concussion, was thwarted on a breakaway, and Steen's redirection of a Schwartz pass from in tight was turned away by Mrazek.

"We can't lose sight of the difference between tonight and Tuesday's game," Shattenkirk said. "We did a lot of great things tonight, a lot of things we can take into Saturday's game and be happy about. When it comes to it, we need to bury our chances, we had some great ones tonight, when we go back and look at it and realize we were creating those, and how we were creating those, that's going to be what we need to focus on."

Shattenkirk said in the shootout, the ice was rough for both sides and would like to see the dry scrape return because it was hard to make moves. The Blues seemed to want to beat Mrazek five-hole from distance.

"A little bit. Me personally, when I shot that puck, it was a little slow, getting that shot off but, that's something maybe we'd like to see, the scrape come back into the game," Shattenkirk said. "It opens up a little creativity. I think we could have pulled off some better moves and given ourselves some better quality scoring chances."

Shattenkirk gave the Blues a 1-0 lead 2:31 into the second when Patrik Berglund won an offensive zone faceoff and Shattenkirk's wrist shot caromed off the skate of Nielsen.

The Blues had things going their way, outshooting Detroit 20-7 before Nielsen and Helm worked a shorthanded 2-on-2, and Nielsen beating Shattenkirk around the right edge before throwing a shot off Allen's left pad and caromed high into the net for a 1-1 game at 13:54 of the second.

"It's a hard play because Helm did such a good job of slowing me down on the rush and then as he drops it to Nielsen, he's got so much speed," Shattenkirk said. "I think Jake felt like he had to honor the backdoor pass. It was also a great move by him, it looked like he was going behind the net and stuff it. If I could read that a little better and have my speed better then hopefully I can get a stick on that play."

Hitchcock didn't like the development and the way it happened.

"It was another 2-on-2 rush that we got beat at the net," Hitchcock said. "Happens, I guess. Our coverage was soft on the 2-on-2."
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues goalie Jake Allen sprawls to make a save in front of teammate Alex
Pietrangelo (right) Thursday against the Detroit Red Wings.

It changed the momentum of the game and took a lot of the steam the Blues had built up.

"We've got to, as a unit, either get momentum or score when we get a power play," Stastny said. "Not get scored on. That was just a miscue, not even a miscue, when we're out there, that's the last thing we're thinking, getting scored on, we should be thinking, every time we're out there, we should be thinking get a goal or get momentum. That one we didn't and it kind of paid a dividend for them and basically that was the tying goal and that's what forced the loss for us.

"A point's a point. If you get any points, whether you're the better team or the team playing from behind, if you find a way to get a point, down the road, that's important. When you're at home, you want to get as many points as you can. We didn't get one the first game, got a point today, hopefully get the win and it's a decent homestand."

* NOTES -- Blues defenseman Robert Bortuzzo, who replaced Carl Gunnarsson in the lineup Thursday, left with an undisclosed injury early in the third period and didn't return. Hitchcock had nothing new to report and said an update should come Friday. ... Scottie Upshall was a healthy scratch for the first time this season. Dmitrij Jaskin remained in the lineup in his place. ... With Lehtera's return, the Blues put Magnus Paajarvi on waivers. Another team has until 11 a.m. Friday morning to claim him or the Blues will send him to the Chicago Wolves of the American Hockey League.

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