Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Blues fall in shootout to Coyotes, have seven-game winning streak snapped

Despite being better team, St. Louis found itself 
in one of those games it deserved to win, didn't

ST. LOUIS -- A lot can happen over the course of an 82-game season.

From feeling unstoppable and winning in all sorts of fashion, including games where maybe you don't deserve to win, to perhaps pulling out all the stops and playing as well as can be but falling on the short end of a game, all those possibilities exist.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Colton Parayko (55) scored his first goal of the season Tuesday against the
Arizona Coyotes, but the Blues fell 3-2 in a shootout at Enterprise Center.

Chalk one up to the latter for the Blues on Tuesday, who fell to the Arizona Coyotes, 3-2 in a shootout, in a game they outplayed their opponents and were definitely the better team but came out on the short end of it and in the stick.

The Blues (12-3-4), who had their seven-game winning streak snapped but now have earned a point in eight straight (7-0-1), were the more dominant team playing an Arizona team that didn't arrive into their St. Louis hotel until 3:30 a.m. after sitting on the tarmac in their plane for 2.5 hours, a team that was rest-deprived and lacking energy. The Blues applied pressure, they owned stretches of the game with tremendous amounts of zone time, generated 64 shot attempts at the net to Arizona's 35 and yet, still left shooting opportunities -- as amazing as that sounds despite pumping 64 shots towards the goal -- and were possessing pucks for good chunks of shifts.

The second period especially proved that the Blues were better. They outshot Arizona (11-6-2) 16-6 in the middle frame and grabbed a 2-1 lead when Colton Parayko scored his first of the season. Jaden Schwartz had given the Blues a 1-0 lead in the first.

"I don't think we were thinking that way," forward Oskar Sundqvist said. "It was more that we were playing really good and just keep doing what we were doing and wait to try and score some more goals."

But the Blues only came out of the second with a one-goal lead, a lead that felt like it was three or four but in reality, it was only a one-shot game, and we all know what can happen in that situation. One glimmer of hope can erase all that good play, which happened when Conor Garland tied it with a power-play goal, and hometown hero Clayton Keller, who scored the tying goal in the second off an egregious Blues turnover, and Garland quickly ended it by beating Jordan Binnington with both shootout attempts while Tyler Bozak and Ryan O'Reilly were thwarted by Darcy Kuemper at the other end.

Chalk it up to one of those instances. The Blues lived on the fine line in winning seven games in a row, including five in overtime. They fell onto the wrong end of it this night.

"You can't win every single game," Parayko said. "There's 82 games. Every team want to win. Every team's too good in this League. Good players on every team. One point could be the difference between us winning the division and us not winning the division. My second year, that was the difference between making the playoffs and us not (in 2017-18). We'll take points, we'll put it in the bank and just keep moving forward."

What's different about this team is that they're banking points early in the season, which is huge. There will come a time when the Blues will hit their stride and reel off a stretch of games where they'll play scintillating hockey, and there will be stretches where things just won't go well. It's all part of the marathon, but even in these games when there have been blown two-goal leads (the Blues have had five of them), blown third-period leads (there have also been five of those), winnable games, grabbing wins from the clutches of defeat, banking points is always the goal.

It's happening now, and the Blues are atop the Western Conference with 28 points.

"Obviously we're playing a certain way that we need to win right now," Parayko said. "We understand the way that we need to play to win. We've had a lot of overtimes, but the bottom line is we're getting points, we're getting two points out of all these games. Maybe could we play some better? Possibly, but at the same time, we're getting the two points and that's the biggest thing."

There are always going to be those 'what if' moments, and Tuesday was one of them, but the Blues have to remember, these always seem to balance themselves out.

"We just made a couple mistakes [Tuesday]," Blues coach Craig Berube said. "Probably should have won the game 2-0."

(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues forward Oskar Sundqvist (right) looks to move the puck while being
defended by Arizona's Ilya Lyubushkin on Tuesday.
And in overtime, where the Blues have won five straight, when they successfully killed a senseless too many men penalty, there was a feeling they'd find a way again.

Not this time.

"Maybe should have got into 3-on-3 a little bit sooner," Sundqvist said. "We played quite a bit 4-on-4 there. But I think we did good. I think we probably should have scored some more goals tonight."

Schwartz, who missed a tap-in off a great cross-ice pass from Robert Thomas in the third period, agreed.

"We had our chances, we had our looks," Schwartz said. "Just didn't find the back of the net. We certainly had a lot of chances, a lot of o-zone time, but still get to the inside a little bit more as a team.

"I think we still had some good looks. I don't know how many shots we had, but I still think we had some good looks from the middle. I think we had a few power plays there where we could have executed a little bit better and get a little more momentum. We didn't play horrible. We just didn't find a way to win, which we've been doing."

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