Sunday, February 28, 2021

Binnington's unconventional departure fueled Blues in 7-6 win against Sharks

Goalie was pulled in second period after allowing four goals on 19 shots, 
then took shots st Sharks players as he left, including counterpart Dubnyk

Jordan Binnington's had his share of memorable moments in his young career.

Winning the Stanley Cup of course, tops them all, and the way be burst onto the scene that season in January certainly ranks right up there, but there have been some moments where he riles up the opposition and its fans in memorable fashion.
(St. Louis Blues/Scott Rovak)
Blues goalie Jordan Binnington (50) was pulled in the second period of
Saturday's 7-6 win at San Jose but didn't leave quietly.

He had his moment with St. Louis media with his 'Do I look nervous?' moment. There was also the infamous comment, 'Who's Montgomery?' referring to former Dallas Stars head coach-now Blues assistant coach Jim Montgomery during the Stanley Cup Playoffs. There was also the brush-up with now teammate, then with the Los Angeles Kings, Kyle Clifford, and he had a dust-up with San Jose Sharks forward Evander Kane this season, which apparently has stemmed from the past.

But on Saturday in their wild 7-6 win over the Sharks at SAP Center that broke a three-game losing streak, Binnington was pulled after allowing four goals on 19 shots.

Needless to say he wasn't thrilled with the decision, and he wasn't too happy with some apparent chirping going on from the Sharks players as Binnington was leaving the ice, so he decided to take matters into his own hands.

As he was skating towards the Blues' bench, Binnington did an about-face and came back towards the Sharks bench and puts a mitt in Radek Simek's face, and in San Jose, where the benches are not large enough to hold the backup goalie on the visiting bench, the second goalie has to skate off the ice on the opposite side, and as he was leaving, Binnington skated past Erik Karlsson and gave him a fake punch as if he were going to hit him, and at the end, he and counterpart Devan Dubnyk came together and each swung an arm at one another. 
He then departed, one team feeling like he just fed them some fire to get into the game and fight to the finish, and the other, wondering what the heck is he doing.

It seemed to work for the Blues (11-8-2), who rallied from down a goal four different times, then had to go ahead three different times in the third period before finally pulling out the marathon win.

Binnington left, in unconventional fashion, to say the least, and left the cage for Ville Husso to fend, which he did very well for the record, making 19 saves on 21 shots, and the Blues used their starting netminder's fire to feed off the emotion created by it.

If nobody saw what he was trying to do, then they missed out grossly.

"I've seen him do that a couple times before, but I think that was good for us," said forward Zach Sanford, who had a goal and an assist. "Obviously he was pissed off and we were pissed off. To see him do something like that and go out with some fire was good for us and getting Ville in there kind of kicking it up a level playing hard the rest of the way.

"Yeah, I think some things were said. I'm not really sure, I wasn't watching too closely to be honest, but like I said, I've seen him do that a couple times before. I think it was good for us."
Defenseman Marco Scandella, who scored his first multigoal game in the NHL and first goals with the Blues, including the game-winner in the third period, agreed.

"I love it honestly," Scandella said. "Emotion is something not everybody has. I feel like we have a lot on our team and our group and especially in a game like tonight, I love it personally. That fire's what's going to drive us and make our team better and get us to the next level.
"Absolutely (the Sharks were chirping). It's hockey though. That's part of it. It was a firey game. It was an up-and-down game. That's just what it takes and obviously there's going to be chirping. It's the game of hockey."

Binnington was assessed a two-minute minor for unsportsmanlike conduct out of it, which the Blues killed off, and it seemed to really calm things down when he left the game.

"Well, he's a fiery guy," Blues coach Craig Berube said. "That's kind of the way he is. We've seen that in the past from him. So, I didn't think a penalty was warranted on it, but you know ... he's trying to rally the team, that's what he's trying to do."

Needless to say, the Sharks weren't amused.

"I guess he'll maybe have something to report in his next interview," Kane said. "Seems like he likes to do a lot of talking. It's too bad I wasn't on the ice for that."
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Ville Husso (right) makes a save on Evander Kane during the Blues' 
7-6 win over the Sharks at SAP Center on Saturday.

"I guess he's frustrated, but I don't know why he's skating around pretending to punch guys," Dubnyk said. "I just told him to get off the ice and calm down. I mean, he's 160 pounds and he's out there swinging at guys. We all get frustrated. If you want to get into it with somebody, fine, but I don't know why he's out there fake-punching everybody. I understand guys get frustrated sometimes. He's competitive, a good goalie and he was obviously pissed off about something, but that's fine. We can look after ourselves."

From that moment on, the Blues outscored the Sharks 4-2 and won a game they probably didn't deserve when giving up six goals, but on the flip side, they found a way to put seven past Dubnyk, equaling almost as many goals as they've scored in the past five games (eight).

"We won. That's it," Berube said. "I mean we scored lots of goals tonight. Our guys battled, I thought they stuck with it and competed hard. It was obviously a back-and-forth game, lots of goals. But there was no quit in our game, which is good to see."

Saturday, February 27, 2021

(2-27-21) Blues-Sharks Gameday Lineup

Nathan Walker, come on down. You're the next contestant on ... 

You get the picture here.

It's not The Price is Right, but the Blues are hoping for the time being that Walker is the 'Right' fit as they look to snap a three-game losing streak to begin a six-game road trip against the San Jose Sharks today at 9:30 p.m. at SAP Center (FW-MW, ESPN 101.1-FM).

Walker was called up from the taxi squad and inserted into the lineup following quarantine and will replace Austin Poganski, who was returned to the taxi squad.

"These guys are great," Walker said. "They definitely welcome you in with open arms. It definitely makes you feel more comfortable coming into a situation like this. I'm not looking to try to do anything special. I'm just going to try and play my game and hopefully help the team and help my linemates here.

"I'll be honest, I really didn't know what to expect. I just knew there's been a lot of injuries here. I just try to keep myself ready and the body ready for when I do get a chance to play. Fortunately, my time's tonight."

Walker said he managed to skate after being recalled from Utica of the American Hockey League after scoring two goals in four games with the Comets.

"It was a little different, but I think the quarantine process was good," Walker said. "I managed to keep the fitness up, which was good. It's going to be exciting to get into a game tonight."

Walker will play on a line with Brayden Schenn and David Perron. He had a goal and an assist in five games with the Blues last season.

"He provides energy, is a good skater, gets in on the forecheck," Blues coach Craig Berube said of Walker. "He's a scorer down the in the American League, so he has the ability to score. He's an all-around player down the in American League and up here, I think he can really get in on the forecheck, he'll play physical, get to the net. Hopefully get a dirty goal around the net for us."

- - -

There's some line and d-pair shuffling with Berube looking for a boost up and down the lineup.
It's not often that Perron and Ryan O'Reilly are broken up but they will be tonight, at least at the outset.

Oskar Sundqvist will skate again with Sammy Blais and Mike Hoffman, a group that's had some shifts together and although they didn't light up the goal lamp profusely, they did manage to put together some good o-zone shifts. 

"I've played a couple games with them, more with Sammy than with Hoffman, but we all know that Hoffman's a shooter and we need to try to get him the puck in a position where he can shoot it," Sundqvist said. "For me and Sammy, it's more to create that space for him and win puck battles and stuff like that. I think we can have some success in the offensive zone tonight."

Sundqvist broke his 18-game goal scoring drought since scoring twice on opening night in a 4-1 win at Colorado when he finally lit the lamp against Los Angeles, a 3-1 loss.

"It's good for confidence and it's been frustrating," Sundqvist said. "I feel like I've been getting a lot of scoring chances that I haven't scored on. I've been hard on myself in that department that I should have scored more goals at this point. Getting that one last game is obviously good for confidence. I just need to keep doing what I'm doing. Chances have been there, I just haven't been able to score."

On defense, Torey Krug will play alongside Niko Mikkola for the first time.

"I think it's important to transport the puck up the ice in every d-pair, so that's what we're looking for," Berube said.

- - -

The Blues have scored just eight goals in five games (1-4-0) and are 2-1-1 against the Sharks this season, all in St. Louis.

"We've got to go out and compete," Berube said of tonight's game. "We've got to play real good defense and check well. The offense, if we do good things defensively, the offense will take care of itself. I truly believe that. I think first and foremost, we've got to do a good job without the puck here tonight, check well, force this team into turning pucks over and let's take advantage of it. Not only get pucks to the net but people at the net. We need to get more rebound chances and second and third opportunities around the net to score some goals.

"I think our guys are in a good frame of mind, to be honest with you. I think they've battled hard lately, no luck offensively. You go through those stretches at times. You've just got to battle through it and keep going. They understand that. I liked our skate yesterday, I liked our morning skate today."

- - -

The Blues' laundry list for injuries is long, as everyone knows, and the uncertainty continues for Colton Parayko (undisclosed), Jaden Schwartz (lower body) and Tyler Bozak (upper body).

Parayko and Schwartz did not travel and will miss at least six more games.

Vladimir Tarasenko, who is close to returning from shoulder surgery, did skate Saturday morning and is likely to make his season debut at some point on the trip.  

- - -

The Blues' projected lineup:

Zach Sanford-Ryan O'Reilly-Jordan Kyrou

Nathan Walker-Brayden Schenn-David Perron

Sammy Blais-Oskar Sundqvist-Mike Hoffman

Kyle Clifford-Jacob de la Rose-Mackenzie MacEachern 

Marco Scandella-Justin Faulk

Vince Dunn-Robert Bortuzzo

Torey Krug-Niko Mikkola 

Jordan Binnington will start in goal; Ville Husso is the backup. The Blues report no healthy scratches. Vladimir Tarasenko (shoulder), Colton Parayko (undisclosed), Jaden Schwartz (lower body), Tyler Bozak (upper body), Robert Thomas (thumb), Ivan Barbashev (ankle) are out. Carl Gunnarsson (knee) is out for the season. 

- - -

The Sharks' projected lineup:

Evander Kane-Logan Couture-Kevin Labanc

Rudolfs Balcers-Dylan Gambrell-Timo Meier

Ryan Donato-Patrick Marleau-John Leonard

Matt Nieto-Alexander Chmelevski-Noah Gregor 

Mario Ferraro-Brent Burns

Erik Karlsson-Radim Simek

Marc-Edouard Vlasic-Nikolai Knyzhov

Devan Dubnyk will start in goal; Martin Jones will be the backup. 

The healthy scratch is Marcus Sorensen. The Shark report no injuries. Tomas Hertl is out because he is in the league's COVID-19 protocol.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

(2-24-21) Kings-Blues Gameday Lineup

ST. LOUIS -- Sammy Blais will get the latest turn with Ryan O'Reilly and David Perron.

No offense to Jordan Kyrou, who had good moments playing with O'Reilly and Perron, but Blais will take the latest turn with them in hopes of making things click when the Blues (10-7-2) look to end a two-game losing streak against the surging Los Angeles Kings (8-6-3) at 8:30 p.m. (NBCSN, ESPN 101.1-FM).

It's not the first tango for Blais on that line. He's taken a spin there before, including Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Boston Bruins. Blais was on the ice with that line to help set up O'Reilly's goal on the first period to make it 1-0.

"I think it's important for the guy that clicks with O'Ry and I to be really strong on the forecheck and be at the net obviously," Perron said. "It gives us a lot of space. Sammy is a big body too and teams might start to realize how big he is, how strong he is on his skates. He's tough to move when he's net front. He's got good hands to and can make plays. It's not to say when it's your time to drive the middle of the ice, you do it, you've got to do it, we've all got to do with it. But certainly I think that the focus is good when it's on a good forecheck here and a guy want to play simple as well. We've got to be strong against our matchup too. If we've got to play (Anze) Kopitar again, or any top line, we've go to be strong both ways. We get that it's O'Ry that plans down low, but there's (Brent) Burns, there's (Drew) Doughty, there's guys up top that can really do a lot of damage, so we've got to be strong."

Ivan Barbashev, who is out with a hairline fracture in his left ankle and had surgery Tuesday, was making progress on that line when the Blues bumped him up there off the fourth line. Kyrou was helping here but more so with speed. What it did was take away some of the luster being produced on Brayden Schenn's line, so Kyrou will go back with him and Mike Hoffman.

"We're trying to find some combinations here amongst all the lines," Blues coach Craig Berube said. "I thought that Kyrou did a great job up with those guys, but I didn't see much from the other line, Schenn's line. We've got to get some balance there and Blaiser's played with those guys before and has been successful. He needs to obviously get in on the forecheck tonight. The way that LA plays in the neutral zone, it's imperative that your forecheck's the key to the game. You've got to get in there. There's no room to really attack this team through the neutral zone. You've got to get pucks deep and get on it. He's going to have to get on that forecheck, be physical and create with his stick and create loose pucks for O'Reilly and Perron and then he should get to the net."

- - -

With news of Carl Gunnarsson's season ending with a right knee injury, sustained with 9:20 left of Monday's 3-0 loss to the Kings, and with Colton Parayko still out of the lineup, Niko Mikkola will get the chance to cement his role not only in the lineup but his career. 

Mikkola is really just getting his feet wet still, but now will see the lineup with the Blues down two d-men.

"He just takes up so much space out there," defenseman Justin Faulk said of Mikkola. "Watching him on the D side of things, his stick, he's got one of the longest sticks on the team I think and he uses it so well I think it makes it tough on opponents. He's been on the penalty kill, he's just in the way of the other team and that makes it hard. You like that. It closes plays in the D-zone and helps us transition and get to offense and onto our forecheck, which is where we're pretty good too.

"I think he's done a great job of doing what's asked of him. He's open to everything. He listens, he works hard. As a young guy that continues to do that, it generally makes your job a bit easier and you start to settle in and get more comfortable. He hasn't played a ton of games, but he's going to have an opportunity here most likely to cement his spot in the lineup and show what he can do. We all he's capable of taking the reigns and stepping up back there. We're excited for him."

- - -

With seven players out of the lineup because of injuries, the Blues are hoping they can tread water until some bodies can return.

Some injuries are more serious than others, but the schedule will motor on, and teams will not take the Blues for granted.

"It is what it is," Perron said. "I think guys should be excited whoever's got more ice time, bigger opportunity and it's right through our lineup to be honest with you right now. When all the guys are coming back, we would have a much different lineup than we had the first couple games of the year. Anybody that's in the lineup should be excited. I thought our fourth line last game had really good energy down low, Rosy Mac, Cliff, those guys obviously in on the forecheck. And then you see the way the year started, Sammy was on the outside. Now he's got a chance to play with O'Reilly. It's always exciting and even for me, I know we've played for three years together, but I never want to take that for granted. That's what I see out of it. There's opportunities out there. Guys should be excited. Wins aren't easy, but you've got to grind it out, find a way and you start going the other way."

The psyche of the team isn't shaken, according to Faulk.

"It's alright. Tough things happen," he said. "We've been put in a tough spot with a lot of injuries and certain injuries that are worse than others. It's tough on the group, but at the same time, we all know that things happen like that and we've got to just rebound. Tough stretches happen throughout the year. Obviously injuries are a different part of that, but we've got a lot of capable guys in this room and just trying to stay positive, keep the work ethic up and go from there."

- - -

The Blues, who've been outscored 8-4 in their two losses in a row here, continue to be plagued by inconsistent play in their own d-zone. Breakouts just haven't been clean enough, and the opposition is doing to the Blues what the Blues used to do to them.

"Execution for sure is a part of it," Berube said. "Wall play is another part of it. The way the forechecks are now, people come hard with forechecks, there's going to be pucks put on walls and you've got to have good wall play and you've got to have composure. There might be a play to be made underneath to a centerman coming or a D, but also you've got to chip pucks out sometimes to a slash forward and that's the plays that are there, but execution's a big part of it."

"... You've got to get back hard. These teams come so fast and forechecks are hard. It's important that we've got five guys back in the zone quickly and it's easier to break the puck out."

- - -

Among the injured, Vladimir Tarasenko continues to ramp up his intensity and production as he gears towards a return. 

Tarasenko, who hasn't played this season because of a left shoulder injury that's needed three surgeries, with the most recent Sept. 17. is a regular on the ice now at practices and taking part in all drills with light to minimal contact still. 

"It's cool to see Vladi, excited as he inches closer," Perron said. "I just leave him space. Any guy that's injured, a lot of times all they're being asked around the room ... obviously he's not talking to media, but he's got it in his head, 'How are you doing', things like that. I honestly don't even try going there. I don't even try to judge him when he's on the ice. I'm just excited for him to be out there. And it goes for all the other guys. It's great. I think he's really excited. You finally see him around a lot right now and that's what I think of him."

Tyler Bozak, who has an upper-body injury and hasn't played since Jan. 26, took the ice on Monday for the morning skate and skated on his own Tuesday, did not skate on Wednesday, as far as Berube knows.

"No, I don't believe he did today," Berube said. "He's not feeling ready yet. We'll have to look at it."

Parayko and Jaden Schwartz (lower body) are not on the ice and no indication on when they will be.

- - -

The Blues' projected lineup:

Sammy Blais-Ryan O'Reilly-David Perron

Mike Hoffman-Brayden Schenn-Jordan Kyrou

Zach Sanford-Oskar Sundqvist-Austin Poganski

Kyle Clifford-Jacob de la Rose-Mackenzie MacEachern 

Torey Krug-Justin Faulk

Vince Dunn-Robert Bortuzzo

Niko Mikkola-Marco Scandella 

Jordan Binnington will start in goal; Ville Husso is the backup. The Blues report no healthy scratches. Vladimir Tarasenko (shoulder), Colton Parayko (undisclosed), Jaden Schwartz (lower body), Tyler Bozak (upper body), Robert Thomas (thumb), Ivan Barbashev (ankle) are out. Carl Gunnarsson (knee) is out for the season. 

- - -

The Kings' projected lineup:

Alex Iafallo-Anze Kopitar-Dustin Brown

Adrian Kempe-Gabriel Vilardi-Jeff Carter

Carl Grundstrom -- Blake Lizotte -- Trevor Moore 

Andreas Athanasiou -- Michael Amadio -- Austin Wagner

Mikey Anderson-Drew Doughty

Tobias Bjornfot-Matt Roy

Olli Maatta -- Sean Walker 

Calvin Petersen will start in goal; Jonathan Quick will be the backup. Healthy scratches include Lias Andersson, Matt Luff and Kurtis MacDermid. Jaret Anderson-Dolan (upper body) and Martin Frk (lower body) are out.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Gunnarsson to miss rest of season with right knee injury

Defenseman was injured with 9:20 left in second period of loss to Kings 
Monday; Barbashev has ankle surgery, to be reevaluated in six weeks

MARYLAND HEIGHTS, Mo. -- The injury news got worse for the Blues in one manner on Tuesday.

Carl Gunnarsson
The team announced that defenseman Carl Gunnarsson sustained a right knee injury in a 3-0 loss to the Los Angeles Kings on Monday and will miss the rest of the season.

Gunnarsson, 34, was injured with 9:20 remaining in the second period when he went into the back boards with Kings forward Gabriel Vilardi. He was down on the ice before needing help off it to the locker room.

It's horrible," Blues forward Brayden Schenn said after the game Monday. "... That's a guy that's laid it on the line for this organization for a long time. He's a hell of a teammate and a good guy. The guy is an absolute warrior, so it's tough to see a guy that plays hard every single night, and gives it his all, go down like that - obviously it looked serious."

Gunnarsson joins Vladimir Tarasenko (shoulder), Jaden Schwartz (lower body), Colton Parayko (undisclosed), Tyler Bozak (upper body), Robert Thomas (thumb) and Ivan Barbashev (ankle) out with injuries.

The Blues said that Gunnarsson is undergoing further orthopedic evaluation and imaging studies to determine full extent of his injury, and with this being the final year of his contract, chances are we've seen the last of 'Boom Boom' in St. Louis.

But Gunnarsson will go down in St. Louis history as the one who scored the game-winning goal in overtime of Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final, the Blues' first-ever Cup Final victory, and the story behind it with the conversation he had with coach Craig Berube during intermission 'at the pisser.' 

"Yeah, it's disappointing for sure and really disappointing for him I'm sure," Berube said of the injury. "An injury like that's tough. It's tough to see a teammate, a player go down like that with that injury. I feel bad for him. We're losing a great teammate, he's a great guy and a real good hockey player for us."

The news on Barbashev is that he had successful surgery on his left ankle Tuesday morning and he will be reevaluated in six weeks.

As for Bozak, he skated Monday morning but did not skate with the players on the ice for an optional practice. However, the 34-year-old, who has missed the past 11 games, did skate on his own Tuesday 

"We'll see how he is tomorrow and go from there," Berube said. "If he keeps feeling better and better as he goes along, hopefully he'll be in our team skate tomorrow, we'll see, but those are all good signs."

Tarasenko skated again on Tuesday, but Berube had no updates on Schwartz or Parayko.

Depleted Blues better start trusting, supporting each other on the ice before season goes haywire

Yes, injuries are causing some challenging times for Blues, 3-0 loss to Kings 
shows some alarming trends that continue to grow, trust being one of them

ST. LOUIS -- They 10 words that came from the thoughts from captain Ryan O'Reilly, at times throughout his press conference Monday that broke off into different segments and sprouted like branches representing different sorts of thoughts, spoke volumes regarding where the state of the Blues are right now these days.
(St. Louis Blues/Scott Rovak)
Blues captain Ryan O'Reilly (left) said the team is having issues trusting one
another, trusting the process on these ice these days. 

"I don't think we're trusting ourselves very much right now," O'Reilly said after a discouraging 3-0 home loss to the Los Angeles Kings at Enterprise Center that left the decimated Blues (10-7-2) just 1-4-1 in their last six games here.

Even with a depleted lineup that took another hit when defenseman Carl Gunnarsson appears to have sustained some sort of serious injury to his right leg or knee in the second period that will now sideline the veteran for an extended period of time, to hear players talk of having trust issues, even with a veteran lineup where most of the players have played together for a lengthy amount of time, including win a Stanley Cup together in 2019, is troublesome, and needs fixing pretty quickly or this train that is on the verge of derailment will spiral out of control.

It's a Blues squad that is seriously disjointed right now, one that is a turnover machine in its own end and one that can't seem to find its way out of the ocean if it were in their own end, and one that has lost its will. Teams are doing to the Blues that the Blues used to teams: forecheck, hit, hunt, hound, recoup pucks ... wash, rinse, repeat. And it's worked to perfection.
But the Blues have a new sort of makeup now, and with regulars Vladimir Tarasenko, Tyler Bozak, Jaden Schwartz, Colton Parayko, Ivan Barbashev and now Gunnarsson out of the lineup for who knows how long -- Tarasenko is on the horizon -- it's made that sort of transition from the big, bad bully of the neighborhood to a more balanced roster filled with more finesse and speed compromising.

And it's hurting them in an inconsistent-filled first 19 games of this 56-game schedule.
But to find that guys are second-guessing what the teammate next to them is doing, not supporting one another on the ice that the Blues have been so accustomed to doing is puzzling.

"Yeah, I think so. I think as a group, sometimes we rely on what has worked in the past and get a little wrapped up on it and think we know how to do it," O'Reilly said. "And when we rely too much on that and think we know what it takes instead of just reinventing ourselves and trusting the compete level. That's where the winning comes from and the exciting hockey comes from. Right now, we just think it might be a little too easy and not having that trust factor where you're trusting that guy's going to compete beside you and he knows you're going to compete and it just kind of builds from there. It's surprising a bit but it happens. It's something that at least we know that we can change."

So why is this happening?

Good question.

The Blues can't blame it on the new guys in the lineup anymore. They've played roughly 30 percent of the season now. They can't blame the taxi squad guys because they are new, and despite being limited in their abilities to a degree, they do what's asked of them. 

"I'm not sure how (O'Reilly) said it, but I think what he means is no matter who's out there, trust the guy that's going to do the job," Blues assistant captain Brayden Schenn said, "and it's going to be tough some nights and you're not going to have chemistry with different linemates and new linemates and you've got to try and find ways to trust the process and ultimately find a way to win and grab two points."

So who helps the players gain one another's trust? Coaches? The players themselves? Both? How does one go about regaining the trust that's been so consistent some games but grossly inconsistent in others?

"We talk about it all the time," Blues coach Craig Berube said. "We've got a lot of new players. You've got to find chemistry and you've got to trust each other. That's the only way you get out of this is by playing like a team and working as a team. That's the stuff that we talk about all the time and we'll continue to do that."

Against the Kings (8-6-3), who have won five in a row and are surging in the standings, the Blues had a decent start but not enough drive, passion and netfront presence around Kings goalie Jonathan Quick.

Then L.A. started to build some momentum, and when Robert Bortuzzo took a tripping penalty trying to bail out d-partner Vince Dunn, who looked like he was caught in quicksand while Andreas Athanasiou was wasting little time blowing past the Blues d-man, the Kings pounced on a loose puck and deposited it into the net late in the first period for a 1-0 lead.
Game. Set. Match.

The Blues mounted little until it was too late, and by the meaning too late is a horrendous Zach Sanford turnover -- where has that been said before? -- in his own zone that resulted in a two-goal lead for the Kings.

These are the sorts of puck errors the Blues have been making and opponents are making them pay in a big way.

"You've got to make better plays with the puck for sure and better decisions," Berube said. "You turn pucks over in the D-zone, it obviously causes problems. Our puck play has got to get better than it is right now. We don't execute good enough with the puck right now in all three zones. That's got to get better.

"It's not even awareness as much as we have the puck and we give it back to them. And then we didn't defend off (the second goal) very well when the guy takes it to the net. We were in position to defend him but we didn't."

The Blues showed some passion and energy in the third period but too little, too late. They're making a habit of playing catch-up because of glaring errors with the puck, or a lack of discipline. 
(St. Louis Blues/Scott Rovak)
David Perron (57) and the Blues were smothered by Trevor Moore (12)
and the Los Angeles Kings on Monday in a 3-0 loss.

One way or the other, things need to change, whether they get some of these important pieces back in the lineup, or they find a way to rally around what they have and play more consistent hockey, because as it's constructed right now, this team will plummet in the West Division if this trend continues.

"I think there is a bigger issue that is our overall game and it's kind of ... we need to kind of at least learn how to lose together, lose as a team before we can win as a team," O'Reilly said. "It's just kind of being tight and not thinking as much and really supporting each other and having that kind of trust not only in our own game but our teammates' games. You can tell there's a little hesitation now. We don't want to make mistakes and it's putting us on our heels and you don't get bounces and find a way to put the puck in the net and we all get frustrated. Every one in that room is frustrated right now and wants to play better. We have an opportunity where we have to come together. We have to come together and rely on each other to get ourselves out of this and find our identity."

Monday, February 22, 2021

(2-22-21) Kings-Blues Gameday Lineup

ST. LOUIS -- If this were a couple expecting news on conception of a child, it would be a major disappointment. 

But in the case of the Blues, they were never more happier with a false positive.

That's the news they received Sunday on a Sammy Blais test confirming that he did not test positive for COVID-19 and he will be in the lineup when the Blues (10-6-2) host the Los Angeles Kings (7-6-3) at 7 p.m. (FS-MW, ESPN 101.1-FM).

Blais, who became the first Blues player to be entered onto the NHL's COVID-19 protocol list on Saturday, forcing him to miss a 5-4 loss to the San Jose Sharks, is good to go after receiving a series of negative follow-ups.

"False positive," Blues coach Craig Berube said. "We're fortunate there. We escaped one, which is good. We need the bodies right now, too."

It wasn't much of process for Blais, but he did need to isolate himself immediately until the negative tests confirmed the false positive, which was a relief for his teammates.

"We got that information yesterday, I think it was," center Oskar Sundqvist said. "Obviously he got isolated as soon as he got that first positive test, if we want to call it that, then he got two negatives. Ray and the trainers are doing a great job with everything and keeping everyone as safe as possible. We have our trust in them and they've been doing a terrific job so far."

"It's a sigh of relief," defenseman Robert Bortuzzo said. "These things happen. We have an understanding of what this year is like and we adapt. It's great news."

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Center Tyler Bozak was a surprise add to the group this morning for the morning skate, but welcomed news for the Blues.

Bozak hasn't played since he was injured on a blindside hit from Mark Stone against Vegas Jan. 26. He's missed the past 11 games.

"We’ll see after practice today how he felt and we’ll go off of that," Berube said. "Hopefully he doesn’t have any issues and he feels good, then he can get more of a practice tomorrow and keep building off that, and we’ll see where he’s at in a couple days."

Considering the Blues, who are missing Vladimir Tarasenko (shoulder), Jaden Schwartz (lower body), Colton Parayko (undisclosed), Robert Thomas (broken thumb) and Ivan Barbashev (hairline fracture in left ankle), a return of some bodies -- any bodies -- is a sight for sore eyes.

"Whenever we can get guys back, it's great to see, especially guys like Bozie and Blaizer, who mean a lot to our team," Bortuzzo said. "It's nice to have them out there and we're happy when guys come back."

"Obviously we want everyone healthy and to see them back here and on the ice, especially Bozak here, that's been out for a while. It's nice to see and good to have him back out there."

Speaking of Tarasenko, who for the third time had surgery on his left shoulder Sept. 17, he was on the ice again Monday morning, and the good news there is that's becoming the norm these days.

- - -

Some tweaks to the lineup that the Blues will make include playing Blais on a line with Brayden Schenn and Mike Hoffman, and Bortuzzo will be paired with Carl Gunnarsson on defense.

"I've played with Gunny a fair amount of hockey," Bortuzzo said. "We're comfortable together. We've been here together for a while now. We have the ability to adapt and work with each other, communicate and try to make things easy on each other. Hopefully tonight we'll do a little bit of that."

- - -

The Blues' projected lineup:

Jordan Kyrou-Ryan O'Reilly-David Perron

Sammy Blais-Brayden Schenn-Mike Hoffman 

Zach Sanford-Oskar Sundqvist-Austin Poganski

Kyle Clifford-Jacob de la Rose-Mackenzie MacEachern 

Torey Krug-Justin Faulk

Marco Scandella-Vince Dunn

Carl Gunnarsson-Robert Bortuzzo

Jordan Binnington will start in goal; Ville Husso is the backup. The Blues report no healthy scratches. Vladimir Tarasenko (shoulder), Colton Parayko (undisclosed), Tyler Bozak (upper body), Robert Thomas (thumb) and Ivan Barbashev (ankle) are out. 

- - -

The Kings' projected lineup:

Alex Iafallo-Anze Kopitar-Dustin Brown

Adrian Kempe-Gabriel Vilardi-Jeff Carter

Carl Grundstrom -- Blake Lizotte -- Trevor Moore 

Andreas Athanasiou -- Michael Amadio -- Austin Wagner

Mikey Anderson-Drew Doughty

Tobias Bjornfot-Matt Roy

Olli Maatta-Austin Strand

Jonathan Quick will start in goal; Calvin Petersen will be the backup. Healthy scratches include Lias Andersson, Matt Luff and Kurtis MacDermid. Sean Walker (upper body), Jaret Anderson-Dolan (upper body) and Martin Frk (lower body) are out.

Saturday, February 20, 2021

(2-20-21) Sharks-Blues Gameday Lineup

ST. LOUIS -- When the Blues (10-5-2) line up for their fourth and final home game against the San Jose Sharks (6-7-2) today at 6 p.m. (FS-MW, ESPN 101.1-FM), they'll do so with a makeshift lineup.

Now that Ivan Barbashev (ankle) has been added to the growing injury list, it puts more emphasis on the top players to perform and produce.

Or does it?

"The big guys in the lineup for sure, I think we have to be the difference," Blues captain Ryan O'Reilly said. "We have to create, we have to put the puck in the net and find a way to out-perform the team that we're playing. It's definitely a difficult challenge, but your best players got to be your best players in order to win and that's the way it is. It's a good challenge. Guys that we have coming into the lineup bring a lot of energy and it's something we have to feed off of and find a way to have success."

Barbashev joins Robert Thomas (thumb), Vladimir Tarasenko (shoulder), Tyler Bozak (upper body), Colton Parayko (undisclosed) and Jaden Schwartz (lower body) sitting out for the time being, although Tarasenko was on the ice again Saturday morning for a limited optional getting his prep work on towards a potential return in the not-too-distant future.

"It's tough for him and tough for us," Blues coach Craig Berube said of Barbashev. "We lose another guy for a significant amount of time playing well, but I guess move on. We've got to move on from it."

And the Blues will, with Austin Poganski, Mackenzie MacEachern and Jacob de la Rose, guys on the taxi squad not too long ago, looking to keep the Blues afloat and needing to make an impact, which is why Berube doesn't necessarily think the top players have to carry all the weight.

"I don't do that. I rely on everybody," Berube said. "Everybody that's going to play tonight is going to do the job. That's the way you look at it. It's a team, you lose players, things happen, but you still have got to be a team out there and you've got to rely on everybody."

It doesn't minimize the loss of Barbashev, who like Thomas was gaining traction and playing well at the time of injury. Barbashev was making his mark with O'Reilly and David Perron.

"It's unfortunate. I thought Barbs, myself and DP were playing very well," O'Reilly said. "Barbs was making stuff happen. He was playing great, making great plays, doing all the right things. Unfortunate that the injury happens to him, which is tough, but we've got (Jordan) Kyrou there tonight. He's dynamic with his speed. I think for someone like myself, who's not a great skater with DP, we're not the fastest guys. It's nice to have someone like that that if we find him, he's going to be gone and creating. We can get some good jump there and still be heavy in the right ways. But with him, we should be able to create some good offense I think."

Players always talk about simplifying the game, even when the lineup is stacked full. Now that it's been impacted, that simplification is more crucial than ever.

"It's more important than ever," defenseman Torey Krug said. "I think sometimes the tendency when some players are out, especially key players, other guys step up and try to do too much, but I think it's more important than ever to try and simplify the game and allow each other and know what we're going to do with the puck when we get it. Obviously on the defensive side, willing to compete and outwork the opposition. That's key, especially with all these injuries out. We've just got to let each other know that we have each other's backs.

"Playing in Boston for so many years and being here, it's a couple teams that play so hard and they're so competitive that at the end of the day, injuries, they just do add up and they pile up. It's a next man up mentality. Two similar groups in that regard, but yeah, I've been through it before and hopefully we can get out of it quicker here."

- - -

Speaking of Kyrou, he will get his shot now with O'Reilly and Perron.

It's quite the jump for the 2016 second-round pick that was on the fringe of making the opening night roster, to having a solid training camp and starting as a third-line winger, to moving up and playing with Schwartz, Brayden Schenn and Mike Hoffman to now getting a shot here.

"He's played well," Berube said of Kyrou, who is tied for second on the team with 14 points (six goals, eight assists). "He's had a good start to the season. He's a very highly-skilled player, does a lot of good things with the puck. Just trying to put lines together with a little bit of depth and spread it out a little bit."

- - -

Parayko's injury is a mystery publicly, but for the Blues, having him sit now is for the best to get him right because he clearly wasn't himself to start the season.

He was obviously playing through something that was altering his ability to play the game at a top-notch level.

"He's a freak of nature too, so he's got the ability to overcome a lot of things and still have a very positive impact on a game for us," Krug said. "To see him battle on a nightly and daily basis, it's important for the team to respect that, and hopefully he can get better soon so that we can get his presence back on the blue line. He's a very important player for us."

- - -

Nathan Walker, called up from Utica of the American Hockey League to join the taxi squad, which at the moment of empty of forwards, is in St. Louis but will need to quarantine for the time being before being able to join players on the ice.

"I'm not sure how long, how long that is, but he is here," Berube said.

Walker had a cup of coffee with the Blues last season when injuries mounted, and he had a goal and an assist in five games.

"He brings energy," Berube said of Walker. "He's a real worker, competitive guy. He can skate. Actually down in the American League, he scores a lot, he's an offensive player, but up here, I think his role changes a little bit. He's going to be an energy guy up here, worker, penalty killer but has the ability to score."

- - -

* LATE UPDATE -- The Blues had a late afternoon update to their lineup, as Sammy Blais became the first player to miss time due to the COVID-19 protocols.

Blais was a full participant in practice Friday after returning from an upper-body injury to play against the Sharks on Thursday.

Jake Walman was called up from the taxi squad to replace Blais in the lineup Saturday.

- - -

The Blues' projected lineup:

Jordan Kyrou-Ryan O'Reilly-David Perron

Zach Sanford-Brayden Schenn-Mike Hoffman 

Kyle Clifford-Oskar Sundqvist-Mackenzie MacEachern 

Jake Walman-Jacob de la Rose-Austin Poganski

Torey Krug-Justin Faulk

Marco Scandella-Carl Gunnarsson

Vince Dunn-Robert Bortuzzo

Jordan Binnington will start in goal; Ville Husso will be the backup.

The Blues report no healthy scratches. Vladimir Tarasenko (shoulder), Colton Parayko (undisclosed), Tyler Bozak (upper body), Robert Thomas (thumb) and Ivan Barbashev (ankle) are all out. Sammy Blais became the first player added to the COVID-19 protocol list and is out.

- - -

The Sharks' projected lineup:

Evander Kane-Logan Couture-Kevin Labanc

Rudolfs Balcers-Tomas Hertl-Timo Meier

Matt Nieto-Patrick Marleau-Ryan Donato

John Leonard-Dylan Gambrell-Stefan Noesen

Mario Ferraro-Brent Burns

Marc-Edouard Vlasic-Nicolas Meloche  

Fredrik Claesson-Nikolai Knyzhov

Devan Dubnyk will start in goal; Martin Jones will be the backup. Marcus SorensenJacob Middleton and Stefan Noesen are the healthy scratches. Erik Karlsson (lower body) and Radim Simek (upper body) are out.

Friday, February 19, 2021

Barbashev added to list of injured Blues, who aren't feeling sorry for themselves

Forward sustained left ankle injury in win over Sharks Thursday, 
will miss at least next six weeks; Tarasenko skates with full group Friday

MARYLAND HEIGHTS, Mo. -- Don't feel sorry for the Blues. They're not feeling sorry for themselves.

They could easily be doing that after another domino fell regarding the injury front when forward Ivan Barbashev was the latest to fall to the injury bug when he was placed on injured reserve with a left ankle injury; he will be out a minimum of six weeks and then be reevaluated.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Ivan Barbashev (49) will miss a minimum of six weeks after injuring his left
ankle in a 3-2 overtime win against the San Jose Sharks on Thursday.

Barbashev was hit with a puck early in the third period of Thursday's 3-2 overtime win over the San Jose Sharks by teammate David Perron and joins teammates Vladimir Tarasenko (shoulder), who by the way was on the ice for the first full practice with his teammates; Tyler Bozak (upper body), Jaden Schwartz (lower body), Robert Thomas (thumb) and Colton Parayko (undisclosed).

But the Blues (10-5-2) will be the first to tell you they don't want your pity, they don't want your condolences. The show must go on, and that's the mindset they have always had and will continue to motor on with, because simply they have no other choice.

"That doesn't help anything if you're going to worry about who's out or who's in," center Brayden Schenn said. "We'd love to have Thomas, Bozak, Schwartz, Tarasenko, Parayko, Barbashev, you look at the names I'm naming obviously, but at the same time, guys that come in have to grab opportunity, grab ice, make the most of it and guys have done that thus far. Nothing new I find with this team, this organization. We always seem to find a way and guys dig in and we're going to have to dig in even more here, especially at home. We haven't been great, we haven't had consistent play. Tomorrow night's a good chance for us to grab two in a row here."

So what does that mean for the immediate future? Well, for one, the taxi squad has been, well, taxed out, and they're all here, so the club has called up Nathan Walker from Utica of the American Hockey League to the taxi squad, and it thrusted Jordan Kyrou up to the top line with Ryan O'Reilly and David Perron in practice Friday; Zach Sanford moved up to skate with Schenn and Mike Hoffman; Austin Poganski will likely go back into the lineup, Mackenzie MacEachern and Jacob de la Rose will stay in. The aforementioned trio were all taxi squad members at the start of the season and now get to carry the torch until some of these guys can return.

"We can't focus on what happens with injuries and what we don't have," Blues coach Craig Berube said. "There's guys getting opportunities and they've got to take advantage of it. I don't think we should be thinking about that at all. We just should be focusing on what we've got to do in the game tomorrow and who's in the lineup."

It can be tough to see when watching practice who wasn't out there, though, which included defenseman Robert Bortuzzo, but Berube said he'll be good to go Saturday. Tarasenko, Bozak, Schwartz, Thomas, Barbashev and Parayko can make up a heck of a line in some fashion or form.

"Obviously it hurts, but we're not a superstar team," defenseman Vince Dunn said. "We don't rely on one guy ever to win us the games each night. It's about everyone doing their job. Whoever's in and whoever's coming into the lineup, the hurt guys, we count on them and we know they can pull their own weight. The lineup changes quite a bit and this season you can't predict who's going to be out with injuries and things like that. It's just about staying in the moment and being prepared for whatever job you're being told to do.

"It's really hard obviously. You want to have everyone you started the year with, not to mention Vladi. We wish he started the year with us. It's definitely hard when guys are out. Maybe guys are in spots where they didn't expect themselves to be. I think it's just a mental thing and just being prepared for whatever's put in front of you."

The Blues have had this mindset for a number of years and it's enabled them to stay afloat and still be a contending team.

"I'm not sure what every player thinks, but it's the organization's mindset, I'll tell you that," Berube said. "One of the reasons we're a deep team, we've got guys that can come in and replace people and do the job and that's what they should be thinking."

* Tarasenko practices with full squad -- Berube said Thursday that the plan for the time being was to get Tarasenko on the ice during optional skates, just to get him around the team and getting more integrated into things.

Well, on Friday, the right wing was on the ice again. No big deal, right? Well, this was one that rattled the bell a little bit because it was a full practice and aside from taking on any kind of contact, Tarasenko was a full participant.

"We want to integrate him more with our team and practicing," Berube said. "Hopefully he keeps pushing and he can do more and more. It was good to see him out there today. He brings energy to our team right now, guys see him out there, he's in a good mood. I think it's good for our team."

Tarasenko was skating, shooting, passing, all the things necessary recovering from surgery he had five months ago on his left shoulder, his third surgery there and second since Oct. 27, 2019.

"I'm sure it's not easy going through what he's gone through," Schenn said. "Mentally it's tough and I think for him and for us, just to have him around. The moment he gets skating with the team again, he's inching closer and Vladi is one of those guys that can really put our team to the next level and make us into a serious contender. It's going to take time and probably a little bit of time for him to get his 'A' game back. Obviously we're going to have to help him and be patient with this, but the way he can uplift the team and make us a dominant team, he's obviously a huge piece for us. As a group, we're looking forward to getting him back."

There's no timetable for when Tarasenko might take part in practice at 100 percent, or as close to 100 percent as possible and do everything necessary to play again, but the timeline certainly seems to be dwindling.

"It's really nice," Dunn said. "It's nice to have him around the room. Obviously he's been a huge presence here over the last few years. When he's around, it changes the atmosphere in the locker room and especially on the ice when he's doing a simple drill with us, pass the puck around, shooting. That's good to see. I think the guys feed off that."