Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Blues blanked for third time in four games by Kings 2-0

St. Louis' fourth loss in five games costs Mike 
Yeo coaching job, Craig Berube named interim coach

ST. LOUIS -- A 2-0 loss to the lowly Los Angeles Kings, the only team below them in the NHL standings, seemed to be the lowest point for the Blues at the end of the day on Monday.

But then news came quickly, approximately 30 minutes, after what turned out to be his last press conference that Mike Yeo was fired as coach of the Blues (see related story): http://bit.ly/2KgtFSk
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues center Tyler Bozak (21) chases after Kings defenseman Drew Doughty
for a puck along the wall Monday night at Enterprise Center. 

But the Blues (7-9-3), mired in 30th place in the NHL (two points ahead of the Kings), were shut out for the third time in four games and have a goalless drought of 242 minutes 48 seconds since their last goal, which came last Friday in Vegas.

The Blues, 1-4-0 their past five games, came out of the gates scoring goals at a high rate, in the top five in the league at the outset, but were allowing goals at an alarming rate.

They finally fixed the defense but suddenly, in light of a rash of injuries to key forwards Alexander Steen (upper body), Jaden Schwartz (upper body) and Pat Maroon (upper body) and defensemen Carl Gunnarsson (upper body) and Robert Bortuzzo (lower body), the Blues have stopped scoring goals, and losing to the lowly Kings, who recently made  coaching change of their own from John Stevens to Willie Desjardins, was the final straw.

But it was not surprising considering it was a game in which the Blues looked uninspired for long stretches, couldn't put one pass -- let alone two -- together, were outmuscled by the bulkier Kings (7-12-1), made little to no commitment to pay the price of getting to the dirty areas to score goals and have become predictable to play against.

These are the Blues of today, not near the reflection of what was expected when the season began with such high hopes.

"Yeah, it's frustrating," captain Alex Pietrangelo said. "We had some good looks, especially there at the end. But gotta find ways to score. You can't win hockey games without scoring goals.

"... I don't think there's a lot of rhythm in general. I don't think they had a whole lot of rhythm either. Those are the games again, you gotta find a way to score goals. We had 30 shots, we had chances. You can't win without scoring."


And in light of goalie Jake Allen getting his game together -- he's stopped 75 of 78 shots and allowed one goal in each of his last three games, including 26 of 26 shots Monday -- the offense has gone totally stagnant.

"It's weird. At the start of the year we scoring a ton of goals and giving up way too many and now we're not scoring but we're not giving up as much either," center Tyler Bozak said. "It's kind of weird how it goes like that but we've got to get back to work tomorrow. We've got a big stretch of games here against some really good hockey teams so it's going to be important for us to focus on some good things we did and build off that and be ready to go to Nashville."

Nashville. Nashville. Winnipeg.

That's what awaits interim coach Craig Berube and the Blues, who are nearly at the quarter mark of the season and laboring at the bottom.

"We've said that. Every team has injuries throughout the year, I don't think you can use that as an excuse," Bozak said. "We're not using that as an excuse. We've got a lot of depth here and we've got guys who can step in and play different roles and obviously you're not going to fill the shoes of those guys with one guy. It's going to be a team effort and everybody's going to have to step up a little bit and we haven't gotten the job done yet but we've got Nashville twice and Winnipeg. It's a great opportunity for us to turn things around against really good hockey teams in our division so these are a big stretch of games here."

Included in these three shutouts in the past four games is a 1-0 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks, a team that also fired its coach, three-time Stanley Cup winner Joel Quenneville and hired young 33-year-old Jeremy Colliton as his replacement. 

"Yeah, I think so. Myself included," Pietrangelo said when asked if players are thinking about it too much right now. "We just gotta simplify. Get pucks there and we'll get some bounces if we start going to the net."

But that's been a huge issue, they're unwillingness to get to the net and the interior when the heat is turned up. 

"As a player, you think you need the puck to score," Yeo said before being fired. "If you want the puck, it's easy to go to the ice that's available. Teams are going to protect the middle. The league's become tighter, we've said this that it's harder to score goals right now because teams are better on he inside of the ice. I still think that we're forcing plays in the offensive zone, which leads to too much one-and-done. I think that we're taking the easy ice, which leads to not being a threat or if we do get pucks to the net, not making things challenging enough for the goalie. We've got to fix that."
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues goalie Jake Allen (34) makes one of his 25 saves on Monday against
the Los Angeles Kings. Allen and the Blues lost 2-0.

It'll be someone else's problem to fix now.

The Blues were shut out by a fourth string goalie (Calvin Peterson) making his third NHL start in four days and Matt Luff scored his first NHL goal at 8:18 of the second period in his sixth NHL game.

Anze Kopitar added an empty-netter with 29.5 seconds remaining to seal the win for L.A. and send the Blues into a new direction.

"I don't know. We just couldn't score," Bozak said when asked what the problem is. "We knew it was going to be a tight-checking game. Whenever you play LA it's low scoring. They check hard. We had a few chances. I had a few myself. The goalie made some good saves, but we have to start burying those at the right times if we're going to want to win these close games."

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