Sunday, March 3, 2019

Blues scoring down, injuries to key players catching up

Schenn absence for past six games has led to dip in scoring from 
linemates Tarasenko, O'Reilly; Perron's 19-game absence also being felt 

ST. LOUIS -- Conventional logic would suggest that one man's absence shouldn't affect an entire team's deficiencies.

However, such has been the case for the Blues (34-25-6), who have dropped two straight for the first time since Jan. 15-17 and first back-to-back regulation losses since Dec. 29-31 after a 4-1 home loss to Dallas after a 5-2 loss at Carolina on Friday.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Ryan O'Reilly (90) and Vladimir Tarasenko talk things over Saturday at
home against Dallas. O'Reilly and Tarasenko's numbers have fallen off
since the injury to teammate Brayden Schenn.

Among the deficiencies for the Blues has been a lack of scoring, with nine actual goals (including one empty-netter) the past six games, and it's no coincidence that is when Brayden Schenn departed the lineup with what is believed to be a concussion.

And specifically, Schenn's absence has affected arguably at the time, one of the top first lines going with Ryan O'Reilly and Vladimir Tarasenko.

Before Schenn went out, that line tore it up during a franchise-record 11-game winning streak, collecting 45 points in that time. Tarasenko benefited the most with 20 points (10 goals, 10 assists). Schenn had 13 (two goals, 11 assists) and O'Reilly had 12 (five goals, seven assists). 

But since then, the Blues are 2-3-1, and O'Reilly has just a goal and an assist, including no points the past five games, and Tarasenko has just a goal and two assists, including no points the past two.

Players and coaches aren't going to make excuses, but it's obvious that teams have been able to focus on Tarasenko and O'Reilly, and that a third linemate (Jaden Schwartz for five games and Pat Maroon on Saturday) just haven't had the effectiveness of Schenn.

"He's a huge missing piece for us," O'Reilly said. "When he's in the lineup, he affects us dramatically and helps us. But we also have some opportunities for other guys to get more ice and see more chances. We've still got some great depth but obviously getting him back is going to help a lot."

O'Reilly took the onus on himself after the loss Saturday that more is needed out of his game, including the defensive side that became such a critical asset when the Blues were winning, but the Blues' leading scorer with 63 points (24 goals, 39 assists) has been an asset throughout his first season here.

"My play hasn't been where it needs to," O'Reilly said. "Those are the things I have to do night in and night out. The backside, the forechecking pressure, the tracking, smothering them, it wasn't good enough tonight. Yesterday as well it killed us.

"There's some decent things we've been doing. I myself have been terrible these last few games. I have to find a way to create more. Our line has to be one of the lines that plays the most minutes, has to create and change momentum and do stuff. I myself take responsibility for that. I have to be way better than what I've shown this last bit. We have to keep building. This rest comes at a good time."

The Blues, after a day off Sunday, will have two days of solid time to practice before heading for a three-game swing through California against Anaheim, Los Angeles and San Jose. Working on an ineffective and a season-long inconsistent power play will be among the points of emphasis after an ineffective 0-for-3 game Saturday that had the Blues miss out on two opportunities in the first period to give Dallas momentum.

"I think we've got some days here before we go on the road, get some practice time in, which will be good and some rest at the same time," interim coach Craig Berube said. "It's been a hectic schedule. I think these few days are going to be good for us and just get back to playing hockey the way we can, that's all.

"We haven't had a lot of practice time. ... Work on some things and get some flow and stuff like that and work on some power-play stuff."

The Blues were able to manage getting offense while David Perron, who had a 13-game point streak before departing the lineup after the Jan. 17 game at Boston (19 games) also believed to be due to a concussion and related symptoms, has been out of the lineup. But now missing two key top-six forwards has brought to light the offense that's all of the sudden not coming from secondary scorers.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues center Ryan O'Reilly has no points the past five games and just a goal
and an assist in six games since losing linemate Brayden Schenn to injury.

"Obviously we're missing them," said center Oskar Sundqvist, who scored his first goal in 14 games Friday and added an assist Saturday. "That's two guys that got, what do they have, 45 points each? So obviously we're missing them. I think before we've been good at stepping up. Other guys have been coming in and stepping up. And that's what we need to keep doing.

"We can't (complain) if we're missing a couple guys here and there. It's on us. The guys that are playing are good hockey players and we should be able to win hockey games."

"Any of those guys would obviously be a huge help," O'Reilly said. "But we have to focus on what we've got right now and getting back to our game."

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