Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Blues can't solve Bishop in 3-1 loss to Stars

Plenty of chances go awry for St. Louis' offense; Allen allows three 
goals on 18 shots; Blues hit halfway point in season with just 38 points

ST. LOUIS -- The Blues finally reached the halfway marker on Tuesday, and what comes of the first 41 games this season is not something anyone expected.

After a 3-1 loss to the Dallas Stars that dropped the Blues to 17-20-4 on the season, they're on pace for 76 points, which would be their lowest since that ugly team after the lockout of 2005-06 when they finished with 57.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Ryan O'Reilly (90) and Joel Edmundson (6) try to defend a shot from Stars
defenseman John Klingberg as Jake Allen (34) gets set to make a save.

It was another home loss, the 13th in regulation, which leads the League, and cements what has been a trend through the first 41 games: the Blues can play good, but they can also be frustratingly inconsistent, which they were certainly after a nice 3-0 road win at Philadelphia on Monday. They are now 0-5-0 in the second of back-to-backs.

"I thought we had good legs all game," interim coach Craig Berube said. "I thought that back-to-back, guys worked extremely hard and competed. It's a common theme here at home."

The Blues, 10-13-2 on home ice, fired off 64 shot attempts in the game, which is another high number and one sufficient to what the team wants, but blocks and missing the net was, yet again, problematic with 23 shots blocked and another 14 missing the marker.

"Again, a lot of good looks, but it's kind of a theme with missing the net," Berube said. "I think we can be more desperate too around the net."

And of course there's the enigmatic Jake Allen, who can make an acrobatic save one minute and allow a horrendous goal to Tyler Seguin to give the Stars a 3-0 lead, just hasn't been able to give the Blues prolonged, quality goaltending.

After allowing four goals on 14 shots to the New York Islanders on Saturday in a 4-3 loss, a loss in which Allen actually allowed those four goals on New York's final eight shots, the third goal scored by Seguin, his second of the game, came on Dallas' 11th shot.

"I think the Islander game and tonight, he knows that he wants to be better," said Berube, who started Jordan Binnington on Monday and saw Binnington become the 35th goalie in NHL history to earn a shutout in his first NHL start.

The Blues came out with energy and speed early and had two power plays within the game's first five-and-a-half minutes but generated little to no threats despite sustained zone time.

"Not necessarily if you don't score on the power play. It's just generating momentum if anything is key," defenseman Colton Parayko said. "Obviously it's nice and it's huge if you do score on those and it would be a big start for us, but we just want to try to generate some momentum and that just obviously wasn't the case."

It enabled the Stars (23-17-4) to settle in and get the lead when Seguin scored at 11:27 of the first to make it 1-0.

The goal came after John Klingberg skated behind David Perron and took Alexander Radulov's cross-ice pass before popping the puck through Carl Gunnarsson, where Seguin was able to knock it past Allen inside the near post.

The second period began and the Blues had their only discipline issues, as Robert Bortuzzo was called for kneeing eight seconds in and Zach Sanford slashed Klingberg 25 seconds later to give the potent Stars, which had scored a power-play goal in five straight games, a 5-on-3 advantage for 1:35.

Of course, Dallas cashed in when Klingberg beat Allen five-hole from the high slot at 1:43 of the period to make it 2-0.

"Undisciplined to start the second period, two penalties," Berube said, who then was asked if he didn't like either of them.

"Nope," he said.

 But Seguin's second goal of the game, from a severe angle in the right circle, was a back-breaker, and one Allen simply cannot allow.

It squeezed through his arm and body on the near post at 6:12 of the second to make it 3-0, and Allen whirled and broke his stick on the goal post as the 17,037 inside the building groaned.

Instead of pulling Allen, Berube called a time out and the Blues responded accordingly with Perron scoring his 15th on a backhand from the slot at 6:35 past St. Louis' Ben Bishop to make it 3-1.

"No, I didn't consider pulling him," Berube said of Allen. "He came over in a time out. I just talked to the whole team, and I thought he recovered.

"Yeah, they responded and pushed. I thought they pushed real hard until the end of the period."

Allen did respond. He made a couple important saves, but by then, the damage had already been done.

Between the second and third periods, the Blues outshot the Stars 23-12, including 12-2 in the third period but Bishop stood tall and the Blues just didn't get much in the high danger areas.

"I just thought in the third we didn't push hard enough down 3-1," Perron said. "It doesn't matter what happened, we gotta go and put everything out there. I know it's back-to-back but it just felt like we should've just pushed way more. It's disappointing."

The Blues played without veteran forwards Tyler Bozak, who is day-to-day with an upper-body injury, and Alexander Steen, who was put on injured-reserve with a left shoulder injury sustained Monday and will be reevaluated in two weeks.

Sammy Blais, recalled from San Antonio of the American Hockey League on Monday, came in and Robby Fabbri, a healthy scratch Monday, was also inserted into the lineup as the Blues went back to the conventional 12 forwards/6 defensemen set up, making Vince Dunn a healthy scratch.

The fresh bodies didn't help the team gain any momentum.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Stars defenseman Esa Lindell (left) tries to defend Blues forward Vladimir
Tarasenko from getting a shot off in Dallas' 3-1 win Tuesday.

"In and out. I think that we did have some good looks in the third and pushed, but when you're down, you've got to really push," Berube said. "Again, we had some good looks but didn't capitalize on them."

But the bottom line as they enter the second half of the season?

"We've got to be better at home. That's the biggest thing for me," Berube said. "I think as a team, we're playing a lot better. We're playing good enough to win a lot of games, but we find ways to lose games. That's got to change and our home record's got to change for sure.

"... I think our 5-on-5 play was not there early on (in the season) and our 5-on-5 play for me has been really good for a while. Our penalty kill has sharpened up again, but we've got to get the power play going. Once we get the power play clicking a little bit better, that really heps a lot in the scoring. Once they all come together, that's when you can go on a good run. When you look at a team that wins six or seven in a row, all you've got to look at is goals-against, goals for, power play, penalty kill, and they're really good."

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