Thursday, December 14, 2017

Blues offense remains throttled in 3-1 loss to Ducks

Losses of injured players Schwartz, Pietrangelo showing; 
second home loss in a row for St. Louis, outscored 6-1 in process 

ST. LOUIS -- On Tuesday, the Blues felt their game was good enough to win. On Thursday, from a defensive and goaltending standpoint, it was also good enough to win.

But when goals aren't going into the net, it becomes a concern, and that concern is at the front of what ails the Blues after a 3-1 loss to the Anaheim Ducks on Thursday before 17,822 at Scottrade Center.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues center Patrik Berglund (right) passes the puck while being defended
by Ducks center Adam Henrique on Thursday.

It marks two games in which the Blues (21-10-2) have managed one goal on home ice, Patrik Berglund's goal with 5 minutes, 53 seconds remaining to break John Gibson's shutout bid looking to be the second goalie in as many games on home ice to throw up a goose egg on the Blues.

Yes, they're missing Jaden Schwartz and Alex Pietrangelo. Jay Bouwmeester was a late scratch Thursday after taking warmups and replaced by Jordan Schmaltz. 

Offensively, the Blues looked lost, and the same narratives are coming from the locker room afterwards: there's not enough interior play and they're making it too easy on the opposition.

"I think it's up to us to get there," Berglund said. "I think we're not cheating the game right now, but we've got to find ways to get bodies in front of the net and to get pucks there. Right now when we're down there, sometimes it just looks a little too easy for the other team.

"It looked like we got a lot of shots blocked today too (19) so we've got to be more desperate, especially at home, we've just got to bear down and play better hockey."

The Blues, who went 0-for-4 on the power play, sprinkled in a few decent scoring chances on Gibson, who made 29 saves. He stopped Joel Edmundson's breakaway bid at 2:25 of the second, and Magnus Paajarvi hit the post on a shot in the first and Vladimir Tarasenko's shot off the bar with five seconds left in the second kept it a 1-0 game.

But the bottom line is this team is really struggling without Schwartz and Pietrangelo, and coach Mike Yeo having to use guys higher up in the lineup is giving the Blues right now little to nothing.

"It’s execution again," Yeo said. "I’ve been trying to manage the rest here. Obviously we’re playing a lot of games in a lot of days, and with that obviously we lack some practice time. 

"We’re going to hit the ice tomorrow. It won’t be a long skate, but I think just the opportunity to get out there and just execute the day before the game. I think that will help."

Kevin Roy scored twice for the Ducks after being recalled from San Diego of the American Hockey League to replace the injured Corey Perry in the lineup.

The Ducks (14-11-7) are 3-0-1 in the past four games and have a point in six straight (3-0-3). Andrew Cogliano scored, and John Gibson made 29 saves.

Berglund's goal was the 300th point of his NHL career, all for the Blues, and Jake Allen made 15 saves.

St. Louis has been outscored 6-1 in losing two in a row, and a lack of interior play is really bringing the Blues down right now.

"I think for one, you look at the shots that are getting blocked, we’ve got to shoot the puck quicker," Yeo said. "Every time we get the puck, we’re trying to turn that play into a goal … obviously, but if you hang onto the puck a little bit longer, No. 1 you need a perfect shot to beat the goalie because they’re going to get in position … they’re going to come out, they’re going to cut off their angle, they’re going to get square to the puck. But No. 2, it’s more difficult to get those shots through because people have moved out on you and now they’ve found a way to get in those lanes. So I think that mindset would help a little bit, but you know … it’s a matter of not only finding a way to get the secondary opportunities, but it’s been a while since we’ve had a tip or a deflection or something like that. So I just think getting our head up in certain situations, if there’s a lane there then take it, and if not, maybe there’s another lane for a stick or another option."

Cogliano scored his first goal in 23 games; he took Rickard Rakell's backhand pass and banked in a shot at 11:11 of the second period for a 1-0 lead.

It was the second game in which the Blues were in a one-goal game but could never get the lead in doing so. 

Berglund ended Gibson's shutout with a goal at 14:07 of the third period to make it 3-1. It was St. Louis' first goal in 114:07 after being shut out by the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-0 on Tuesday.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues goalie Jake Allen (34) makes a save on a breakaway attempt by
Rickard Rakell on Thursday. The Ducks won 3-1.

Roy scored twice in a 2:45 span in the third period. He made it 2-0 at 5:43 and 3-0 at 8:28.

"I don't really know if there's a certain thing you can point at," Blues defenseman Vince Dunn said. "I think it's just kind of one way it doesn't go our way, and I think the guys coming out for the next shift aren't picking it up after those guys. I think it's just not the kind of hockey St. Louis plays. The way we came into that game was kind of the way we came into that game [Tuesday] against Tampa. We were in it until the third and the goals that we gave up were all pretty preventable."

Yeo said he and the Blues felt Bouwmeester would be ready but now he'll be held out throughout weekend games on Saturday and Sunday against the Winnipeg Jets and be re-evaluated next week.

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