Monday, February 17, 2020

Despite loss Sunday, Blues got back to their blueprint of what makes them successful

2-1 setback in Nashville had Blues dominate majority of statistics 
except one that mattered; this is kind of game that breaks slumps

ST. LOUIS -- It was a recurring theme as of late Sunday for the Blues, yet another loss, 2-1 to the Nashville Predators to close out a home-and-home set.

But this one certainly felt different.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Pekka Rinne (35) makes one of 38 saves against the Blues for Nashville on
Sunday. The Blues played a near-flawless road game but fell 2-1.

It felt like "the" kind of game that turns slumps around.

It felt like a game that was one that will in turn get the Blues (32-17-10) going.

When a team is mired in a slump, defeats look dreary. This one didn't. It was one of those that if the Blues played it 100 times, they'd win it 99 times.

Call it a blueprint, a Blues blueprint on what success means to them, other than the finishing, of course, which was sorely lacking despite a 39-24 shots advantage and a heavy dose of territorial play.

"We played the way we wanted to play," Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. "We've just, again, sometimes it doesn't work out your way, but we've got to find a way to start getting wins and getting points here."

And that's what it's all about, wins, and points.

A month ago, the Blues had an 11-point advantage in the conference and the division. It's now down to a tie with the Dallas Stars, each with 74 points, and a slim margin of one point over the Colorado Avalanche.

But the Blues were playing so well in the early part of the season, this 2-7-3 slump has afforded them to still remain on top of the conference. The only difference now is they'll be in a heated battle the final 25 games.

"We're still sitting pretty well," said Blues forward Tyler Bozak, who scored the lone goal Sunday. "We're in a good spot. It's going to get tight, it's already tight. Obviously we've let a little bit slip away here and let teams get close to us, but there's a lot of hockey left this year and we want to finish strong. The goal is to make the playoffs obviously, but get in while you're playing hot, that's when you're having the most success, so let's get out of this funk now and get back to a nice little streak."

Despite the end result, the way the Blues played was their way. It was hard, heavy-checking, puck possession, playing in the oppositions end, controlling pucks, cycling, funneling pucks to the net, playing tight defensively, getting the saves when needed.

"That was one of the best games, I think, we've played all year," Blues coach Craig Berube said. "It's a great effort by everybody. We've just got to keep working, keep grinding and playing that way. Things will turn. They will turn.

"It was a really good effort by everybody."

The Blues will open a brief two-game homestand against the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday. There are four games left before Monday's trade deadline. But based off that effort Sunday, which was the first time in the past 12 games the Blues have allowed fewer than three goals in a game, the Blues likely figured some things out and could begin to build back to their foundation.

Of course, some things still need ironing out, including a penalty kill that's been 30th in the league (ahead of the Dallas Stars) at 69.4 percent the past 12 games. That drastically needs to improve. The goaltending needs to be better. Jordan Binnington is 7-5-3 with a 3.33 goals-against average and .885 save percentage since Dec. 27, and Jake Allen is 1-4-1 with a 2.66 GAA and .901 save percentage. They'll need to make the key saves at key moments to help fuel a turnaround, but simply based off a game plan and execution from Sunday, aside from the finish, this is how the Blues need to play, and will win a lot more than they will lose down the stretch. 
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Jordan Binnington (right) turns as teammate Colton Parayko (55) sweeps
a puck away from the crease Sunday in Nashville.

"I think we played a good hockey game," said Blues forward Oskar Sundqvist, who returned after missing the past nine games. "We just need some more goals and definitely we can build off this. The game is good, it's just the goals. That's what we need right now."

* NOTES -- The NHL announced that the Blues' postponed game against the Anaheim Ducks from Feb. 11 will be made up on March 11. In order to do that, the Blues' home game against the Florida Panthers was moved from March 10 to March 9.

What it means is the Blues will play March 8 in Chicago, then head home for a home game, travel to Anaheim on Tuesday, March 10, play the 11th, head home on the 12th before playing at home against San Jose on the 13th.

Of course, the original Blues-Ducks game was postponed in the first period with 7 minutes 50 seconds remaining of a 1-1 game when Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester collapsed on the bench after suffering a cardiac episode.

After having an Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD) procedure to restore his heart's normal rhythm Friday, Bouwmeester was able to travel and returned to St. Louis on Sunday.

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