Blues need to limit special teams game, keep it 5-on-5;
continuation of Game 1 third period; Fiala done; faceoffs still a problem
HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- The Blues came away with their 4-3 loss in Game 1 of the Western Conference Second Round series against the Nashville Predators with a couple simple takeaways.
They were A) limit the amount of times they go to the penalty box, or stay out of it completely, and B) play the game 5-on-5.
The game, which was ultimately decided on a fluky goal scored by seldom-used Vernon Fiddler, who played just 8 minutes, 32 seconds on Wednesday, came down to the Predators' ability to scored two power-play goals.
Nashville, which leads the best-of-7 series 1-0 with Game 2 slated for Friday at 7 p.m. (NBCSN, KYKY 98.1-FM), was 2-for-3 with the man advantage and outshot the Blues 13-1 in that department (the Blues were 0-for-1 on the power play).
But when playing 5-on-5, the Blues held a huge 29-19 advantage in shots on goal and had a 64.4 percent to 35.6 percent Corsi rating in 5-on-5 situations.
"We know it's a little bit different than the first round," defenseman Carl Gunnarsson said. "That we've got to keep things 5-on-5. I think a big part is we kind of showed in the third period what we've got. We've just got to keep that for 60 minutes, have a good start and keep it 5-on-5, because they showed they've got some big weapons on the power play.
"... I think 5 on 5 we did a pretty good job. So like I said, special teams are big, you've got to be better there, we know we've got more to bring. But 5-on-5, I think we kind of kept it even and maybe even had more chances than they did. So 5-on-5, I think we're really confident, but we know we've got more here."
But the Blues took the wind out of their sails when a first-period penalty by David Perron led to a Nashville goal after the Blues had the better of the play in the game's first 10 minutes. Then a string of penalties (Joel Edmundson that made it a 4-on-4 situation, followed by Colton Parayko to turn it into a 4-on-3, and a Kyle Brodziak penalty that gave Nashville a brief 5-on-3) ultimately led to a third goal to make it a 3-1 game just as the Blues got back into it when Parayko scored to make it 2-1.
Those are the little things that need some adjusting.
"There's obviously some positives we can pull from it, but also at the same time, it's little things we have to focus on, things we have to improve on to continue to get better over the course of the series," Parayko said. "I think that we had a lot of good things, but obviously we have to focus on some things there to make us successful."
"Penalties killed us," Blues right wing Ryan Reaves said. "We've obviously got to eliminate penalties. Playoff hockey, teams are going to make you pay."
That's why as a coaching staff, Blues coach Mike Yeo and his assistants spent Thursday at their practice facility sifting through the positives and things that need fixing.
"I think it's a combination of both," Yeo said. "In all honesty, today was probably a little bit more on the things that need to be corrected. I prefer to keep some of the positives for the game day and we had to save a few of those. But yeah, certainly today, it's about finding answers. When you're in a playoff series, it's a process in terms of learning your opponent, but trying to improve your game, trying to find ways to limit them getting to their game and trying to find more ways to get to yours. And obviously learning about the game yourself and the feel of the game and the opponent you're playing. Obviously last game was the first step of that and today was the next.
"... This is up to us to make sure that we find a way. It's about adjustments, but like I said, it's about learning about your opponent and the type of games that you're going to be playing and so we have to prove that we're one step closer to that."
* Third period push -- Down two, the Blues had no choice but to push the envelope and go for it in the third period.
Arguably their best period of this postseason, the Blues rallied to tie the game on goals by Jaden Schwartz and Vladimir Sobotka.
"Yeah, we got to our grind, that's our game," Reaves said. "We get it down low and we work them down low. It was tough for them to handle. I think you saw it the whole third period where we started taking over and we had shift after shift in their zone. But like I said before, we just started too late."
The Blues were poised to perhaps pull off the comeback until that ill-timed goal, one in which Yeo said three mistakes occured, the last in which goalie Jake Allen went for the poke-check and failed to come up with it before Fiddler was able to poke the puck himself through Allen's legs.
The puck got past Reaves in the neutral zone as he tried to stab at it, then defenseman Jay Bouwmeester's clearing attempt went right into Austin Watson, who was able to in turn push the puck into the path of Fiddler before he scored.
Allen took the blame, but Yeo said he doesn't have any doubt his goalie will bounce back.
"Yeah, I've got no issues. For me, I really appreciate and respect that (Allen) fell on the sword there, but there was three mistakes on that last goal," Yeo said. "For me, that was a good example of why we lost the game. It was all those little things that added up, that we didn't do, that we did in the first series."
* Fiala done for the season -- Predators forward Kevin Fiala, who sustained a serious injury early in the second period after crashing hard into the boards after being checked to the ice by Blues defenseman Robert Bortuzzo, sustained a fractured left femur and will be lost for the remainder of the playoffs.
The Predators announced that Fiala, who was taken off the ice on a stretcher, underwent successful surgery at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and will be on the road to recovery.
"It's a tough loss, there’s no question," predators captain Mike Fisher said. "Everything went well I guess and he’s doing well. That’s the main concern. He’s one of those guys that’s played really, really well so far in the playoffs and is a big part of our team. To lose a guy like that is definitely tough but glad he’s doing OK."
Added Predators coach Peter Laviolette: "(Fiala’s) gone through a process where he finally had some stick and was a guy that we were counting on. He was now on a power play, he was now in the top-six mix, he was now taking down 16 or 17 minutes a night and he’s earned that. He’s worked hard, he loves the game, works hard at it in practice. He wants to get better, and it was getting to a point where he really was a difference-maker with the puck on his stick, as you saw in that overtime goal in the first round. It was a really, really nice play and a patient play. It’s unfortunate for an accident like that to happen on the ice."
As for Bortuzzo's check, the Predators didn't have any issues with it, nor did his Blues teammates.
"I didn't mind it at all," said Reaves, who had 10 hits in the game, including seven in the first period. "I think 'Bobbo' had a good angle on him. I think (Fiala) thought he could go around him. I didn't see any room for the guy to go and I think he thought he could and he just kind of got run into the boards going really fast - high-speed impact.
"It sucks obviously. It's a physical sport and you're trying to get your licks in, but to go down with an injury like that, it's too bad for him. He was having a good series against Chicago and a big part of that. So, I feel for him, I wish him the best for a speedy recovery."
* Faceoff issues -- For the sixth game in the postseason, the Blues were on the wrong end of the 50 percent marker on the faceoff dot.
After winning 11 of 19 in the first period, the Blues finished the game at 38 percent, and they continue to be last among all playoff teams at 41.9 percent.
"We have to be better, we have to be better at that," Yeo said. "Certainly they went in there and they dominated that area. I thought they dominated a lot of the 1-on-1 battles in the game, too, so they were better than us in all the small areas of the game and that's why they won."
The Minnesota Wild was 57.4 percent in their series against the Blues, and the Predators are second among the 16 playoff teams at 54.6 percent.