Thursday, April 5, 2018

Despite all the agony, Blues still control own fate

Another agonizing home loss, this time 4-3 to Blackhawks on 
Wednesday, keeps playoff hopes alive heading into final weekend

ST. LOUIS -- Blues fans on this Thursday must feel like it's Groundhog Day.

Or should I say for those that have been fans of the Blues since their inception into the NHL in 1967, Groundhog Eternity.

If Wednesday night's agonizing 4-3 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks with everything on the line didn't disparage the spirits of lifelong Blues fans, there's an incredible amount of intestinal fortitude there.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues center Brayden Schenn, who had a goal and an assist against
Chicago Wednesday, said the team must stay positive in playoff hunt.

But through another wasteful night in which a point was all but assured until the clock hit 8.5 seconds remaining when Duncan Keith scored a power-play goal that helped the Blackhawks, whose only motivation is to ruin the Blues' season, overcome a 3-1 deficit, a deficit that should have been and felt like it was 6-1.

But these are today's Blues, who get a rematch with the Hawks Friday at United Center and still -- as amazing as it sounds -- very much alive and in control of their own fate, destiny, whatever one wants to call it, with wins Friday against the Blackhawks and Saturday night in Denver against the Colorado Avalanche, who hold a one-point lead on the Blues but play an important game late Thursday night in San Jose.

But in the meantime, the Blues have to somehow shake off the most agonizing loss -- aside from the 3-0 third-period lead at Nashville on Feb. 13 -- of the season. But this one feels more painful for obvious reasons.

"It's tough to not sit here and talk about winning the game, for sure," Blues coach Mike Yeo said after the game. "And I think it's even tougher to say that we just didn't play well enough, especially when the game was on the line in the period to deserve the win.

"... This team has made the playoffs six years in a row, but this is a new group, this is a new challenge. But making the playoffs, it's hard because first off it's tiring, mentally it's tiring, you have to pay a price physically. But mentally you have to find a way to be strong and competitive and be at your best in big games, and obviously the biggest games of the year are our next two ones."

It's more important for the players to forget and move on. Easier said than done, but somehow, they have to find a way to move on.

"We know that we have to win the next two games and that's the bottom line," center Kyle Brodziak said. "We want to get in the playoffs and we need two wins. It starts with next game and that's where all our focus has to go into. Obviously tonight is probably as disappointing as it gets. We've got to move past it."

"It sucks, but at the end of the day, we have to stay positive," said center Brayden Schenn, who had a goal and an assist. "Two-game winning streak here to get in the postseason."

"Yeah, that's the only way we can look at it right now. It's in our hands, really," goalie Jake Allen said. "We know we have to win both games basically. It's going to be tough, especially on the road. But we've had more success on the road this year than at home probably, so that's a bonus. Hopefully regroup tomorrow. I think we're all pretty pissed right now, but we'll regroup tomorrow and give it one last crack."

Despite a poor performance, allowing four goals on 26 shots, it sounds like Yeo will stick with Allen.

Allen has been under heavy criticism at times for his streaky play, and Wednesday's performance was one in which had Blues fans and many pundits, including the national broadcast on NBC Sports where Mike Milbury and Keith Jones were highly critical of Allen's play.

"Obviously I haven't discussed it but yeah that's my intentions," Yeo said, who wouldn't get into the finger pointing. 

"... You know what, I think that we as a team lost this game," Yeo added. "We as a team were not good enough, so definitely not gonna single out one player right now. If there's anything that I have confidence in, it's that Jake's gonna bounce back and have a real good game in Chicago."

However, the Blues made a surprising recall of goalie Ville Husso from San Antonio of the American Hockey League Thursday evening.

The Blues did not practice on Thursday before departing for Chicago, and there was no indication that either goalie was injured on Wednesday, so one has to wonder if this is any indication of where the organization feels with its goaltending situation.

Husso, 23, has appeared in 37 games for the Rampage this season and is 15-13-5 record with a 2.32 goals-against average and .926 save percentage.

Husso, a 2014 fourth-round draft pick, was recently named to the 2017-18 AHL All-Rookie Team. His GAA is second among AHL rookies, but he shares the rookie lead with four shutouts and leads all rookies with his save percentage.

With just two games remaining for both the Blues and Avalanche, here are the potential clinching scenarios, provided by the Blues:

IF Colorado win in regulation or OT tonight:

-- Blues need one point vs. Chicago tomorrow and a regulation win on Saturday in Colorado


-- Blues need a regulation or OT win Friday and any win on Saturday


-- Blues need a shootout win on Friday and a regulation or OT win on Saturday

IF Colorado wins in a shootout tonight:

-- Blues need and OT or shootout loss on Friday and any win on Saturday


-- Blues need any win on Friday and any win on Saturday

IF Colorado loses in OT or shootout tonight:

-- Blues need any win on Friday and any win on Saturday


-- Blues need an OT or shootout loss on Friday and any win on Saturday

IF Colorado loses in regulation tonight:

-- Blues can lose in regulation on Friday and get any win on Saturday


-- Blues can lose in OT or shootout on Friday and get any win on Saturday


-- Blues can win in regulation or OT on Friday and get any win or an OT or shootout loss on Saturday


-- Blues can win in a shootout on Friday and get any win or a shootout loss on Saturday

Here are the NHL tie-breaking procedures: 

1. The greater number of games won, excluding games won in the shootout. This figure is reflected in the ROW column

2. The greater number of points earned in games between the tied clubs

* NOTE: If teams have played an unequal amount of home games against each other, then the team that has hosted more home games is forced to drop their first home outcome in order to calculate the head-to-head tiebreaker.  In the case of St. Louis and Colorado, St. Louis must drop their 3-1 win against the Avs on Jan. 25 at Scottrade Center.

2017-18 Blues / Avs Reg. Season Series
Oct. 19 - Blues 4 at Avalanche 3
Jan. 25 - Blues 3 vs. Avalanche 1 -- game is dropped from consideration for head-to-head tiebreaker in order to make for an equal number of home games.
Feb. 8 - Blues 6 vs. Avalanche 1
Mar. 15 - Avalanche 4 at Blues 1
Current Head-to-head: Blues 4 points, Avalanche 2 points

3. If more than two clubs are tied, the higher percentage of available points earned in games among those clubs, and not including any "odd" games, shall be used to determine the standing. The greater differential between goals for and against for the entire regular season. 

* NOTE: In standings a victory in a shootout counts as one goal for, while a shootout loss counts as one goal against.

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