With one week remaining before trade deadline, slumping St. Louis will need
to look hard at adding a scorer to give itself a stronger chance at repeating
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- If Doug Armstrong was waffling prior to this weekend, particularly Sunday, the Blues general manager likely got his answer after a demoralizing loss to the Nashville Predators.
In a game in which the Blues dominated for the most part from start to finish, executed in all areas of the ice much better than their opponents in their building, but severely lacked in one area: finishing.
|(St. Louis Blues photo)|
Forward Oskar Sundqvist (70) gets off one of 39 shots for the Blues Sunday
but couldn't beat Nashville's Pekka Rinne in a 2-1 loss at Bridgestone Arena.
And in the end, a late goal against resulted in a 2-1 loss that extended the Blues' losing streak to five games (0-3-2) and that cushion for first in the Western Conference and Central Division is gone. The Dallas Stars have pulled up alongside of the Blues (32-17-10) with 74 points.
They dropped a home-and-home with the Predators, including a 4-3 loss at home Saturday.
As for that lack of scoring, it's become imperative that the Blues are really feeling the affects of losing Vladimir Tarasenko for the majority of the season and need help up front.
The Blues have done an admirable job playing without Tarasenko, going 27-15-7 without their Russian sniper.
It's great that Tarasenko, their top goal scorer the past five seasons, is skating again. But let's face it, he's still a ways away. The trade deadline is one week from Monday, and even though the price will be high, whether it be rentals or players with term, there are players that can be had out there.
Armstrong will need to take a good, hard look at this, because he has the tools in place for the Blues to take another hard run at the Stanley Cup. It's becoming evidently clear they need another finisher.
"I think we played a good game, but obviously, it's about scoring goals and we didn't do that tonight," said Blues forward Oskar Sundqvist, talking about the Blues' 39 shots on goal that netted just one Tyler Bozak goal banked in off Predators defenseman Dan Hamhuis. "We need to regroup here and find a solution to score more goals. That's what we need right now. We need some goal scoring. Hopefully we can turn it around next time."
The players won't talk about adding. Their answer is to find it from within, and rightfully so, but case in point, the Blues in the past five periods in two days against Nashville outshot the Predators 58-36 the past five periods, and 48-29 the past four. In the past four, however, they've been outscored 3-1, and both times, the games were tied going into the third period.
"I thought we played well the second half of the game yesterday. Forty shots again, we've got to find a way to put the puck in the net," Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. "I don't think we're doing a terrible job defensively. We weren't terrible tonight. I thought we did a lot of good things, a lot of things that we talked about from yesterday to today to correct and we did it. It's just a matter of bearing down and finding ways to score. ... We've got to maybe get even a little harder in front of the net.
"Look, this time of year, everybody's tightening up. It's a lot harder to score now. Everyone's playing desperate hockey right now. We've just got to find a way to be desperate offensively and score some goals."
The Blues are 14th in the NHL in scoring at 3.15 goals per game, which is average and right in the middle of the pack, but in the past 12 games, when this slump of 2-7-3 began, they're 16th in scoring at 2.83 goals for but last in the league at 3.92 goals-against.
Sunday, they had 24 scoring chances that resulted in one goal, shot attempts for the game was 69-44 in favor of the Blues. Sixty-nine shot attempts resulted in one goal. They had a recent game in Vancouver after the All-Star break in which the Blues had 74-51 in shot attempts, including 37 on goal.
The players can only control what is put on the ice, so they have no say in personnel matters, so from that standpoint, how can they fix this?
"If we knew that, we'd probably have changed it by now in this last little stretch," Bozak said. "It's been a tough stretch of games, we've been on the road a lot, a lot of travel, obviously some adversity and some things happened. It's been an emotional couple weeks. It's going to be nice to get back home, be with our families a little bit and spend some time at home before we go on the road again. We've got two huge games at home. It starts next game and we'll focus on that."
Blues coach Craig Berube is another one that will control what he has now, and believes his skaters presently will get this on track.
"I think we're top 10 in scoring, so we can score," Berube said. "We just didn't finish tonight. We've just got to battle through it. It's a tough time right now. We're playing a lot of good hockey, but we're not coming up with wins. If we just keep competing and working like we did the last two games, we're going to be OK."
Among the names floated around the trade ranks include New York Rangers left wing Chris Kreider, whose stock continues to rise by the second, it seems, and Los Angeles Kings right wing Tyler Toffoli at the top of the charts.
The New Jersey Devils, who come to St. Louis Tuesday, just jettisoned off Blake Coleman to Tampa Bay that netted prospect Nolan Foote and a conditional 2020 first-round pick that can turn into a 2021 pick of Vancouver doesn't make the playoffs this season. That's the going rate, and a big one, for a player with 21 goals who has term left (one year) on his contract.
What does Armstrong do between now and Feb. 24 will give a better picture just where the Blues can go.
Can he afford to wait for Tarasenko to arrive? Can the guys on the ice now give more production? As terrific as David Perron has been, he's been stuck on 23 goals now for a season-high seven straight games. Brayden Schenn has no goals in six straight and just three his past 22 games, Ryan O'Reilly has no goals in seven straight and two in his past 20, and Jaden Schwartz has two goals in 13.
|(St. Louis Blues photo)|
Blues forward David Perron (right) battles with Nashville's Craig Smith for
a puck battle Sunday.
"We got the puck back quickly tonight and created even more chances," Sundqvist said. "We definitely need to bear down and score some goals here."
It's been an added bonus to have Zach Sanford, who has nine goals his past 10 games, scoring, but the Blues need their top-end players to pot pucks. If they're not, Armstrong will have no choice but to look outside the cupboard, and that will likely mean parting ways with higher-end draft picks and a prospect or prospects.