Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Hapless Blues look helpless in 6-1 drubbing to Vegas

Another loss slides Blues further out of playoff contention, seventh straight 
defeat, eighth in a row at home as concerning play continues, raise questions

ST. LOUIS -- Once again, the right things were said by the Blues and their coach. A Monday morning once again filled with promise that a season spiraling out of control can right itself in a new series and against another formidable foe.

But alas, the words of filled promises once again fell on deaf ears.
(St. Louis Blues/Scott Rovak)
Jaden Schwartz (17) and the Blues were once again throttled by Tomas
Nosek (92) and the Vegas Golden Knights once again on Monday.

Should anyone really be surprised anymore after the Blues looked hapless and silly in an embarrassing 6-1 loss to Alex Pietrangelo and the Vegas Golden Knights Monday at Enterprise Center?

Perhaps yes, after the Blues (16-16-6), losers of seven in a row (0-6-1) and eight straight on home ice (0-6-2), gave themselves two chances to win over the weekend in a pair of one-goal losses to the equally formidable Colorado Avalanche in Denver.

They lost back to back games in Ball Arena, 3-2 and 2-1, games that offered some sort of hope that this sinking ship could be saved.

Monday proved once again that this ship's deep patches likely cannot be repaired, and once again, questions regarding the coaching of Craig Berube and his staff really came into question, mostly from frustrated fans, and makes it look like this group has quit on their coaches.

"They didn't tonight. I'm only going to talk about tonight. They didn't tonight for sure," Berube said of responding to the coaching tactics. "I thought the start of the game was pretty good. We had pretty good jump, did some good stuff early, but it was a total collapse in the second period."

Yeah, it was, and sent the Blues to a 4-9-4 home record. The four wins is tied for fewest in the NHL with the Buffalo Sabres and New Jersey Devils.

The Blues have scored a paltry eight goals the past seven games, and 22 in the past 13 games. Take five away from a win in San Jose, and it's 17 in 12 of the past 13 games.

Monday had a start to the game that was brewing with promise. The Blues had some bite, and why wouldn't they when out of nowhere, No. 55 emerged from the hallway leading to the Blues' locker room in Colton Parayko, his first action in 22 games, stemming from a back injury.

It's another injured piece back in the lineup, giving the Blues as close to an opening night lineup as they've had. Aside from Oksar Sundqvist and Carl Gunnarsson, each out for the season with ACL injuries, and Mackenzie MacEachern, who has an upper-body injury and is listed as week to week, they laundry list has been whittled down to a couple.
It doesn't seem to matter these days. That resiliency is gone. 

"It isn't right now, I agree," Berube said. "They're probably a pretty unconfident group right now when things don't go right out there. Things are going to happen, goals are going to go in, you better be a lot mentally tougher than that, I'll tell you that. That's weak, weak-minded right now."

Vegas (25-10-2), which came in on a season-high three-game losing streak, took command in the second period when the Blues fell flat on their faces and surrendered three goals in 1:59 to turn a 2-1 deficit into a 5-1 rout while chasing starting goalie Ville Husso, who along with his teammates did not have a good night allowing five goals on 19 shots.

"Soft plays, coverage, things like that around our net, goals that probably should be stopped, things like that," Berube said.

These things shouldn't be happening to a veteran group, not one that's been through the battles and wars of winning it all. But here we are, but it begged the question to one of those veterans, David Perron, if the players are still responding to the coaches here.

"Absolutely we are. We love our coaches," Perron said. "We got a good start. We just weren't able to keep going. It had nothing to do with ... those guys are part of our team and we're going to stick together."

That's great, you're sticking together. But that doesn't prevent management from making personnel changes and/or a coaching move.

A coaching move seems unlikely, and a source tonight indicated Berube "is safe," but the trade deadline is less than a week away and the Blues are quickly falling into the category of sellers rather than buyers.

Once again, the problem for the Blues is, "Sticking with it," Perron said. 'We get a goal or two against, we get away from our game, I felt a little bit. Our team has an identity, we got to play deep and that’s how we’re going to put pressure on teams and not give odd-man rushes like that."

While the Blues were busy getting lit up like swiss cheese Monday, their anemic offense remains stale. It's produced just eight goals during this 0-6-1 slide, and there doesn't seem to be any urgency from the top players who have gone cold and stale during this drought.

"They've got to have a lot more will than they have right now to score and they've got to go to the harder areas to score goals," Berube said. "You can't be on the outside. There were good looks, but I mean, the goalie stopped pucks, but we've got rebounds there, we've got to get to them and you've got to get involved and right now, we don't have enough of our guys that are supposedly goal scorers doing that. So it's hard to score."

Parayko, who hadn't played since Feb. 15, finished with three shot attempts (all blocked shots) and three blocked shots of his own in 19:46 while logging a minus-3.

"It was just a feeling-out process, just this morning," Parayko said. "I was kind of timing it to try to get in tonight, so I wanted to see how it felt this morning, and it all came together.

"It's different from the personal side. I've been pretty fortunate, haven't been through this really yet, so it's tough. You've just got to stick with it, put your head down, keep battling, put your head down and keep moving forward."

There was one common element for Vegas on all its goals: the Golden Knights' ability to get bodies to the net and win puck battles.

Check and check.

And while the opponent keeps checking off all the necessities, the Blues were busy falling two more points off a playoff position, currently held by the surging Arizona Coyotes with 43 points. The Blues have 38 with 18 games remaining.

"It’s not like we’re letting our foot off the gas here," Perron said. "We’re really trying to get it done every night. But that doesn’t happen right now. It’s about us sticking together, that’s really what it is. We don’t start losing faith in anything, we really believe in our group. Yes, there’s time, but we’ve got to start finding results. I know you guys are looking for ansers but I think we’re doing this inside the team."
(St. Louis Blues/Scott Rovak)
Justin Faulk (left) takes control of the puck against Vegas captain Mark 
Stone after checking the forward to the ice.

"We have such a great group in there, and if there's a group that's going to turn it around, this is the group to do it," Parayko said. "We're sticking together, we're going to make progress, we're going to push. Tomorrow we're going to go to practice and have a good practice and get ready for Wednesday. I have no doubt this is the group to turn it around. We're going to come ready to play Wednesday and do everything we can to put our best game out there and the result we want is obviously a win. That's the plan, stick together, get better tomorrow at practice and come Wednesday ready to get a win. Just start something from there."

And how does the coaching staff plan on helping these fragile players get that resiliency back?

"Stick together and keep working and I'm going to keep coaching them, that's how," Berube said.

Good luck.

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