Monday, November 26, 2018


Maroon gets monkey off his back despite lopsided loss, wants
to focus on 5-on-5 game; Thomas multi tasks; Steen, Bortuzzo skate

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- Pat Maroon always envisioned what that first goal with his hometown team would be like.

Everyone has that fairy tale vision, perhaps it being a game-winner in front of the home fans at Enterprise Center out of the gates, looking up in the stands and seeing his son Anthony and perhaps giving him a fist pump to him or a number of family and friends. But in a 7-3 game, making it 7-4, Maroon was finally able to grab that monkey that didn't feel like going anywhere and throwing it far away by scoring that first goal in his 16th game during an 8-4 loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday, a power-play marker that broke the Blues' 0-for-26 funk. 

Maroon took a pass down low from David Perron and was able to curl to his right off the left post and whip it past Laurent Brossoit, but in a game so far out of hand in the third period, there was no celebration, no high-fives, no fist pumps. Just a simple skate to the bench.

"I think if it was a 3-3 hockey game, obviously we've all dreamed of that, but it is what it is," Maroon said Monday. "... It's not the goal I wanted to score. You're down 7-3, but it feels good to get the first one out of the way. Hopefully the floodgates kind of open up. I've played with a little more confidence here moving forward. I feel like the last two games I've been pretty effective so I've got to just find ways to feed off that energy and just keep playing the right way and things will hopefully start to fall in the right direction."

Maroon, who has eight points (seven of them assists, and all of them on the power play) in 16 games, wants to make a difference in his first season with the Blues playing 5-on-5 hockey, and feels he's been able to do that after being a healthy scratch for a pair of games and missing four here recently because of an upper-body injury.

"I just need to find a way to get 5-on-5 going," Maroon said. "I usually get all my goals and points there, so obviously I've just got to continue in the right direction. It feels good to get that one off the back. We feel like there's been a weight on your chest these last 15 games. You feel like you never know when it's going to happen but you've got to stick with it and hopefully good things happen. I'm just happy it went in and hopefully our team can find our team game. We're not out of this yet. I don't think we're counting ourselves out. We're far from out of it. We're only 22 games in, so there's always room to gain here. We're only one month away from being where we have to be. We have to focus on Detroit and hopefully things start to fall into place.

"I think just getting to the net, protecting the puck, bringing it to the net. I haven't been doing that. I know last game I did that. I took it to the net there and created some havoc. We got a couple whacks at it, a couple scoring chances. Protecting the puck, making plays in tight. I made that play to 'Bozie' [Tyler Bozak] there in the third. Just those little things, moving my feet, pushing the pace, getting in on the forecheck, being hard and physical. Just keep doing that and I think good things are going to happen."

Blues interim coach Craig Berube, who has played Maroon with David Perron and Tyler Bozak the past two games, likes where Maroon's game is trending and feels he has to get to a certain focus to be effective.

"Moving his feet for one," Berube said. "Patty's got to move his feet all the time and he's got to push the pace so he can get there. I think he's done that the last couple games. I was happy with his game. The other part is down low in the offensive zone working the puck below the goal line, getting to the front of the net obviously and scoring some dirty goals for us. Like everybody else, he's got to be defensive responsibly. You've got to be responsible defensively.

"It's always good and it's always good for a guy that doesn't have a goal to get one."

* Thomas expanding his horizons -- The Blues drafted Robert Thomas as a center and played him there the first 15 games of his NHL career.

The 2017 first-round pick didn't fail there but like many rookies getting their footing on level ground at the NHL level, there were the proverbial ups and downs.

So the past three games since the coaching change from Mike Yeo to Craig Berube, Berube has moved Thomas to right wing with Robby Fabbri on the left and moved Brayden Schenn back to center.

"I think it's been a little bit of an adjustment, but overall pretty good," Thomas said. "When you have a couple good linemates, it makes that a lot easier. It's just kind of little things that you kind of got to get used to, but overall I think it's been pretty good.

"Sometimes you've got to find ways to get speed, sometimes you get stuck on the blue line standing still and you've got to make up for it when you're going in on the forechecks. A couple little things like that and just in the D-zone finding the right lanes and stuff." 

Thomas scored his first NHL goal last Wednesday in a 4-1 loss at Nashville but has seen his minutes increase drastically from the early-season 10-11 minute games to more like 15, 16, 17, 18 and a career-high 19:04 in that loss to the Predators.

"Obviously a great opportunity for me," Thomas said. "The last couple games, besides last game, I thought I've done a pretty good job of it. I think it's just keep building off of that. You're going to have a bad game, so you just rebound. 

"Haven't played wing in a couple years. Played a bit first year in junior, but other than that, not really too much. ... I think it's just been a game by game thing. Every game you get more comfortable. I think the one in Nashville was a good step for me and as well as Nashville here. Those kind of games you just keep on building from."

Berube trusts the 19-year-old Thomas, who is seeing special teams play on both sides, too, but getting a look at him on right wing has its benefits.

"I wanted to get Schenn back in the middle and Robby Thomas has got great vision with the puck that can make plays and he's playing with one of our guys that we need to score goals," Berube said.

* Blues gearing for three-game trip -- On the heels of that ugly 8-4 loss to the Jets, just 24 hours after hammering Nashville in the second of the home-and-home, 6-2, in one of the more impressive showings of the season, the Blues (8-11-3) get set to tackle a three-game road trip to Detroit on Wednesday, Colorado on Friday and Arizona on Saturday.

But once again, they're left answering questions about why they couldn't follow up on what was an impressive, potential season-turning win over Nashville to completely falling flat again.

Oh, and some guy named Patrik Laine made history by scoring five goals.

"I wish it was a simple answer and a simple change," Blues center Ryan O'Reilly said. "It's going to be extremely difficult, but obviously our consistency isn't there. We're up and down and we have to limit that.

"Obviously we're a quarter of the way through the season and we're very disappointed. This is not where we expected to be. The good thing is we still have a bit of time to get back into this fight. I believe we do have a group for it, because obviously if you look at us on paper, I think we're as good as anyone. At the end of the day, it comes down to us and producing and performing the right way. Myself included, we've just been too inconsistent. We have to find a way to show up every game. Some games it could be a 2-1 win. Other games, we might be putting the puck in the net, but we have to and I think we will."

So the Blues came to practice to watch film, get on the ice for two days (Monday and Tuesday) before hitting the road looking for a consistent trip that can perhaps get them back to .500 if all goes well.

"Through video, we looked at stuff and just missed coverages in a lot of areas," Berube said. "We let that game slip away from us. I knew it was going to be a tough game energy-wise with a lot of emotions going on the last few days and games. I thought both Nashville games, they were hard games, a lot of energy used up. I thought that we lacked energy in that Winnipeg game, which I expected, but our brains kind of turned off, too, which is not a good thing. We left obviously Laine open too many times and not with coverages and things like that. More or less, we just went over that stuff.

"I don't think it was for a lack of trying in that [Winnipeg] game. We weren't very smart in that game. We took dumb penalties and we didn't defend very well at all, and when we got the puck, we just gave it back to them. There were a number of things that weren't very good in that game. To me, energy was at the bottom of it. There's other things ... if you don't have energy, you can still do the right things and we didn't."

Maroon set the bar by dropping the gloves with Nashville's Austin Watson two seconds after puck drop, and Schenn followed suit 73 seconds later with a scrap with Ryan Hartman. The post-Thanksgiving crowd was jacked, the players were pumped and the Blues soared.

Then against Winnipeg ... 

"We waited," Maroon said. "(Against) Nashville, we dictated the play. We basically came out of the gates flying and we told them we were coming at them instead of waiting for them to come at us, and we waited for Winnipeg. I don't think they had that good of a start. I just think we waited and we waited and they got one, they got two and we were playing from behind. 

"We've got to find ways to basically the dictate play, play hard every night, be strong on sticks, be heavy and doing the right things. We can't wait for someone to just bring us energy every night. We've got to find other ways for guys to step up and bring energy. If that's having a hit or just even on the forecheck or cycling the puck, having that line in there, high to low, create some frustration for their 'D' or their forwards to know that it's going to be a hard night for them every night. That's just being heavy and between the ears. I think we've got to find ways to just focus on what we can control and that's our game, control what we can dictate and if we do those things and play heavy and focus on the task at hand, I think we're going to be pretty good."

* Monday practice update -- The Blues were without six notables on the ice.

Left wing Jaden Schwartz (upper body) and defenseman Carl Gunnarsson (upper body) were both out again and they seem unlikely to play against the Red Wings or on this trip unless they get on the ice soon, but Fabbri, Bozak, Ivan Barbashev and Jordan Schmaltz all missed practice with what Berube called maintenance days.

But forward Alexander Steen (upper body) and defenseman Robert Bortuzzo, who's missed the past 15 games with a lower-body injury, took part in practice and could return at any time.

"They're looking good," Berube said. "I thought they had a real good practice today and both felt good. Just kind of go day-to-day with them and see how they are tomorrow.

"... Obviously we were missing a few guys out there though, but they should be good tomorrow. Maintenance more than anything for all four of them. Nothing major."

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