Thursday, October 4, 2018

Jets break open game late, top Blues 5-1 in season opener

Despite 42 shots, St. Louis has tough time beating Winnipeg goalie 
Hellebuyck; visitors score three goals in 1:44 stretch in third to break it open 

ST. LOUIS -- Where have we heard this before: the Blues peppering the opposition with shot after shot, only to come up empty-handed.

Sound familiar? It should.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues defenseman Colton Parayko battles in front of the Blues goal
with teammate Vince Dunn in a 5-1 loss to the Winnipeg Jets.

Only difference is it's a new season with new faces with a familiar result, a 5-1 Blues loss to the Winnipeg Jets in the season opener for each team Thursday before 18,292 at Enterprise Center.

The Blues used Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck as a shooting gallery at times, often coming up with high percentage looks at the net and either finding a body part of the goaltender or just missing the net. Or hitting pipes, like Jay Bouwmeester and Alex Pietrangelo did in the first period.

But much like was a reason used last season, the Blues couldn't convert, even adding new faces Ryan O'Reilly, Tyler Bozak, David Perron and Pat Maroon to the forward mix.

"It's tough, it's the first game and certainly not going to go overboard here with what we're feeling," Blues coach Mike Yeo said. "Obviously it's disappointing. I think that there's a lot to learn from the game about our group and playing against a good team like that and what goes into winning games. I think we had some opportunities and didn't capitalize. 

"We're not going to just accept saying that at the end of a bunch of games this year. There is a number of points through the course of a game where we could have done things differently, better and with a better mindset than we did that would have served us well."

"We've just got to bear down," Pietrangelo said. "Forty shots, or whatever we had, it's not the only reason why we lost, but early on, if we got a couple, things change. Gotta stick with it though. Can't do what we did there at the end." 

For two periods, it was a toss-up game. The Jets led 1-0 on a Patrik Laine power-play goal 4 minutes, 1 second into the first period, a shot from the top of the left circle that deflected past Jake Allen off Colton Parayko's stick. The Blues looked at the play on the bench for a potential offside play but decided against it.

And in the third period, when the Blues outshot the Jets 20-8, Hellebuyck was up to the challenge with 19 saves, and the game turned on a dime in a flash when the Jets scored three goals (Adam Lowry shorthanded, Blake Wheeler and Kyle Connor) in a 1:44 span to put it away.

"It didn't take too long," Yeo said. "It's a breakdown that turns into another breakdown that turns into another breakdown. It can't happen. At a point when we needed to keep pushing and find another level to our game, we took a step back."

Lowry's shorthanded breakaway goal came at 5:51 to make it 2-0 and came seconds after Hellebuyck robbed Alexander Steen from tying the game on the power play. Steen's pass to Pietrangelo on the point was errant, and in an attempt to keep the puck in zone, Pietrangelo's sliding attempt failed, and Lowry was off to the races and snapped one short side past Allen.

"They had a guy without a stick, so it was just kind of desperation," Pietrangelo said. "Even if I would have stayed on my feet, I don't think I would have got that thing. I'm coming from a long ways. We've got to connect on that one."

Wheeler scored at 6:55 to make it 3-0 after a neutral zone breakdown, converting Connor's pass, and Connor scored at 7:45 to make it 4-0, a deflection off Jacob Trouba's point shot.

"We kind of beat ourselves there," Pietrangelo said. "Yeah, we gave up the shorthanded goal, but it's the ones after that that we have to grab control of. I thought we were good up to that point. We had a lot of really good looks, especially on the power play. When you're not capitalizing, can't make those kinds of mistakes."

Hellebuyck helped maintain Winnipeg's 1-0 lead when he robbed Blues forward Alexander Steen seconds before Lowry's goal; he also made a lunging blocker save on O'Reilly in the second period.

"For myself, on the power play, if we score there, it changes the game," O'Reilly said. "We break them a bit and things open up. He was getting lots of shots and he was feeling it. It was tough to crack him. It happens some nights, but we've got to push through it to find a way to put it in.

"It was an unbelievable pass by 'Vladi' and I didn't think he'd be there. I was just trying to get it as quick as possible into the net and [Hellebuyck] was across and makes a big save and took a little wind of the sails there. They played well and they stuck with their game and we've got to go back to work tomorrow."

On the other hand, Allen, who made 20 saves, played well himself and then the wheels came off. Not on him necessarily but the team when the Jets hit the Blues with their flurry.

"It changed quick," Allen said. "We let them capitalize on the chances, a quick-strike team. I needed to keep one of those out of the net so we could get some momentum.

"I thought we put a lot of pressure on them to be honest. ... We just let them have some chances and that's how they capitalized. I've got to make one of those saves to try and keep us in the game and at least give us a chance." 

Tanev made it 5-0 at 11:05, Winnipeg's fourth goal on five shots, on Allen's only blip, a soft backhand shot that caromed off him and just over the goal line despite the effort of rookie Robert Thomas' effort to keep it out.

Vince Dunn ended Hellebuyck's shutout by scoring with 5:50 left to make it 5-1.

Along with Thomas, Jordan Kyrou made his NHL debut. Neither factored into the scoring, but Thomas' line with Ivan Barbashev and Sammy Blais generated some chances with sustained zone time off some quality shifts.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues left wing Alexander Steen (20) fires one of 42 shots on Jets goalie
Connor Hellebuyck during a 5-1 Winnipeg win in the season opener.

"I think it was a good learning experience for them," Yeo said. "As far as a difficult game and making sure you keep your head in it, there's a couple teaching points that we'll make sure we keep showing them and keep working with them. As a coach for me, I thought they did what we were asking them to do."

One issue the Blues really need to clean up is their defensive zone exits, which Winnipeg seemed to disrupt with its forecheck. But the Blues simply need much better zone breakouts.

"Yeah, they have to be," Yeo said. "Passing in general has to be better. It's a tough game if you're just chasing the whole time. You have to bear down, you have to put pucks on the tape and whether that's a d-man going back and executing and making plays under pressure or that's the wingers making plays off the wall, we have our low forward a lot going back and making retrievals. I think that's an area we have to be better, no question. We can't just throw the pucks to areas and hope that something good is going to come out of it. We have to make sure that we have a purpose in what we're doing and moving the puck, how we're moving it and take pride in those little plays. That's what win hockey games."

No comments:

Post a Comment