Sunday, October 1, 2017

Prospects make final case to make opening night roster in preseason finale

Megan, Blais, Thompson, Dunn all 
perform well, Blues fall 4-3 to Capitals

ST. LOUIS -- The Blues used their final preseason game Sunday to give those deserving to get an absolute final look before rosters will be trimmed down to the season-opening 23 players.

Never mind that the Blues lost 4-3 to the Washington Capitals at Scottrade Center. It was the final dress rehearsal for those that want to make this roster coming out of camp, and in light of a rash of injuries during training camp, there will be players that stick and those that don't.

Once again, forwards Wade Megan and Sam Blais made strong respective cases to stick and be in Pittsburgh when the Blues open on Wednesday.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues players (from left to right) Kyle Brodziak, Wade Megan, Robert
Bortuzzo and Dmitrij Jaskin celebrate Jaskin's goal Sunday in a 4-3 loss.

Megan scored and was a plus-2 in 11 minutes, 43 seconds of ice time, Blais had a power-play assist on a Brayden Schenn goal in 17:02 despite having to go to the quiet room for concussion protocol late in the second period after being hit from behind by the Capitals' Tom Wilson (more on that later) and Tage Thompson the most minutes among all forwards (21:49) despite not getting on the scoresheet.

Defenseman Vince Dunn played 21:36 and Jake Walman played 18:55 in their final dress rehearsals.

When asked what he saw, Blues coach Mike Yeo said, "A lot of good things. Actually disappointed that we lost the game. I thought that having a young lineup, the guys that we wanted to see play well played well. I thought they competed hard. Where we lost the game was our execution in the third period. Obviously a veteran team, with a lot of skill, they recognized that we had a young group out there and they did a good job of getting in the offensive zone. We defended it well, but we didn't execute well enough. I thought there were a lot of times where we were just shoveling pucks around the wall and you have to make a play at that point to break that to get your game, to get to the offensive zone because when we did that, we we had success tonight. A lot of times, whether it was nervous plays or just not enough poise in situations, we didn't compete well enough.

"Guys that we're making decisions on, they made a case for themselves tonight. Obviously we can't keep everybody here."

Megan scored a nifty little backhand to tie the game 1-1 11:34 into the third period on a play that typified his camp: hard work and sticking with a play even when the odds are stacked against him.

Megan had just drawn a tripping penalty and the puck curled around to the back of the net, where Dmitrij Jaskin helped get the puck near the goal line, where Megan picked it up and hustled to the front of the net and slipped s backhand past Braden Holtby.

The Boston University product signed as an unrestricted free agent in 2016, Megan, 27, has made his case.

"I feel like I just competed as hard as I could and just tried to battle every day," Megan said. "It's the last game, it's done now and there's nothing more that I can do about it.

"(Camp went well) for the most part. There's still some adjustments, a couple mistakes that I made, just adapting to the NHL game. Obviously a little bit faster, a little bit stronger. Plays need to be made that much quicker. There's definitely still some adjusting to do, but I felt like I competed like I should have. It is what it is at this point. ... I try to play hard in the offensive zone as well, be responsible defensively. If you do that, the offensive chances will come, so I try to play a sound defensive game and then try to capitalize on the opportunities if I get them in the offensive zone. 

"There's nothing I can so. Whatever feelings they may have don't really matter because it's done, so there's nothing else I can do."

Yeo said Megan "made a strong case for himself."

As for Blais, he had quite the afternoon.

After assisting on Schenn's goal that gave the Blues a 3-2 lead at 13:45 of the second period, he was facing the glass in the defensive zone when Wilson planted him face-first into the boards.

Wilson, who was suspended two games in the preseason after a late hit on the Blues' Robert Thomas, received a boarding major and game-misconduct at 17:39 of the second.

But Blais, who didn't initially return for the third period, was able to pass concussion protocol and came back to play.

"I'm fine," he said. "I just had to do the (concussion) protocol, but I'm feeling good right now.

"I didn't see (him), but I think it was not a good hit. I didn't see him coming. For sure if I would have seen him coming, I would have protected myself. I never saw him coming.

"I wanted to do a play, I didn't see him coming, but I'm good right now."

Needless to say, Yeo didn't like it.

"It's a predatory hit with a guy that apparently didn't learn his lesson from the first suspension," Yeo said. "Maybe coming down on him a little bit harder will make him think a little bit more about it. It's tough going after vulnerable people.

"(Blais) a tough kid. You can see the toughness for me is not dropping the gloves, there's different types of toughness for him. His toughness is the way he plays through things, the way that he wins puck battles, the way he's willing to take  hit to make a play, those types of things."

As far as making the team, Blais, who finished with two goals and two assists in seven preseason games, also put himself in position to make it.

"I think I did my best and I played (and did) what I have to do, play the offensive zone, try to do the little details and I think I did a good job," Blais said. "Just got to wait right now.

"I was trying to do it through the games and I think it went pretty good. For sure, it's not perfect but it's going to take time, but I thought I did a pretty good job at it.

"I'm getting comfortable game after game and I think my confidence is getting (better) game after game. I've just got to keep playing hard and everything is going to be alright. ... It's not in my hands. For me, I just have to wait and see the decision at the end."

Thompson certainly put himself in the conversation.

"What I like about Tage and what I've seen is his mind is in the game no matter what happens on the ice," Yeo said. "If he's in the d-zone, he's thinking the game, he's aware, he's alert. If it's in the offensive zone, he's got that same mindset. He wants to make a difference, whether it's offensively or defensively right now and he's engaged. I think that he did a nice job again tonight."

Dmitrij Jaskin, who gave the Blues a 2-1 lead on Sunday, had himself a decent camp, and for a guy whose job is safe, he sees an opportunity for everyone to step up.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Vladimir Sobotka (71) skates with the puck during the Blues' 4-3 preseason
loss to the Washington Capitals on Sunday.

"It's a good chance for everybody," Jaskin said. "I'm pretty sure everybody does. We've just got to be at our best to play in this competition with so many guys injured. I think it's a great chance for everybody and it's even a greater challenge for us.

"Today was pretty good, but we had some bad shifts. Three goals, it's not good. Our line (got scored on) three goals. I think we have to work on that."

Jake Allen played the whole game Sunday and gave up four goals on just 21 shots, including two goals on three shots in the third period.

Now comes the final decisions, and let the regular season begin.

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