Sunday, November 28, 2021

Berube lights into Blues; they respond accordingly in 6-3 win over Blue Jackets

Coach didn't like what he saw in the first period, let his voice be known; players 
get message; Buchnevich, Barbashev, Tarasenko, Thomas lead way offensively

ST. LOUIS -- The horn just blew on the first period Saturday between the Blues and Columbus Blue Jackets and Craig Berube was seething.

The Blues' coach wouldn't discuss his exact words to his team, which trailed 1-0 at the time, but let's just say there were likely a few expletives thrown in there.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Pavel Buchnevich (89) gets a shot off on Columbus goalie Joonas Korpisalo
in the Blues' 6-3 win over the Blue Jackets Saturday. 

"It was pretty simple," Blues forward Ivan Barbashev said. "Just turnovers, not skating enough. It was a really simple message. But some players had to say something and we did turn around."

Let's just say the message got through loud and clear.

The Blues, who were finishing up a grueling part of their schedule playing their 12th game in 21 days, made the most of the remaining 40 minutes. They played with a purpose, and those Grade A chances they'd been getting lately that hadn't gone into the net, went in Saturday, with Pavel Buchnevich and Barbashev leading the way scoring goals, and Vladimir Tarasenko throwing in three helpers for the 'Russian Express' in a 6-3 win over the Blue Jackets at Enterprise Center.

The Blues (11-7-3) had just returned home after a tough 3-2 overtime loss in Chicago against the Blackhawks 24 hours earlier, a game in which they coughed up a 2-0 first-period lead and to make matters worse, lost David Perron in the game to a likely concussion.

But the manner in which the Blues lost, not burying scoring opportunities and making the inopportune mistakes, is what's been a trend the past 15 games, making that franchise record five-game winning streak to begin the season a distant memory.

But that trend continued in the first period. The Blues were obviously not skating. They were turning pucks over, they were not moving it out of the zone, Columbus was all over them with little resistance and two minor penalties didn't sit well with the coaching staff. So Berube had one of his moments where he needed to be heard.

And loudly too.

"Well, we needed something," the coach said. "In the first period, we got clearly outskated. Coming out, this game at home, we can't start like that.

"... We took two penalties, no reason for it. Ended up scoring on one of them. We got outskated in the first period. That's what it really boils down to."

Berube had his say, and the players did the rest, with their voices and their actions.

"Yeah, we had conversations with players and with Chief," Tarasenko said. "We can’t start like this, especially at home. Last few games, like, we lose one, win one. We should be more consistent. And that’s what we were talking about. Like especially at home, we have to start harder. I think we played well last two periods and found a way to win a game."

It started fast and furiously in the second, and the onslaught was precise.

Buchnevich, who had two goals and an assist giving him 13 points (six goals, seven assists) the past 11 games, scored 58 seconds into the second to tie the game and Barbashev scored 58 seconds later at 1:56 to give the Blues a 2-1 lead.

They never looked back from there.

"I think it was huge for us to get those two quick goals, especially in the first five minutes," Barbashev said. "That's what we've been told, to have a really good start in the second period. And yeah, it looks like since then, we did turn the game around."

Jordan Kyrou continued the second-period onslaught with a breakaway goal, set up by a sweet feathery feed from Ryan O'Reilly, to make it 3-1, a period in which the blues peppered Columbus goalie Joonas Korpisalo, who kept the game within striking distance with several quality saves, with 17 shots.

"Yeah, we had a ton of them in the second and we didn't get much out of it, but that's the style of hockey we're capable of playing," Berube said. "... It was a great second and third period. We're a dangerous team if we want to play that way."

The game got a little dicey when Adam Boqvist, Columbus' young and talented offensive blue liner acquired in a trade from the Blackhawks for Seth Jones, scored a power-play goal to cut the lead to 3-2. 

That was the moment in which the Blues in recent weeks have crumbled and given up leads, and precious points, in the third period, when they couldn't put a game away. This time, they continued to press instead of sitting back and allowing the opposition to attack with momentum.

Justin Faulk scored from the slot off a sweet feed from Robert Thomas, and Buchnevich and Barbashev each netted a goal to put the game well out of reach.

Which begs the question of why can't this Blues version show up more often? And more often on a more consistent basis?

"I think the challenge is we see it a lot, but it's not consistently for 60 minutes enough," Berube said. "It's hard to play perfect hockey for 60 minutes, but it's not hard to work and compete for 60 minutes, and if you work and compete for 60 minutes, you're going to get good results most times. The work and the compete have to be there for 60 minutes. Now, mistakes happen. Decision-making sometimes you make the wrong decision at times and you might get burnt by it or whatever, but the work and the compete, if they're there, we'll be fine."

The Blues finished this grueling stretch of games 4-6-2. Not exactly what they wanted or needed, but there were stretches of play, like the final 40 minutes, that shows just how good they can be, even with players missing (Perron, James Neal and Klim Kostin) from the lineup.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues defenseman Niko Mikkola (left) lays a hit on Columbus forward
Gustav Nyquist during action Saturday at Enterprise Center.

"We've been having a tough time last couple games, we didn't play great, I think it was time to turn around things and play simple, hard, and that's what we did in the second and it looks like the game turned around and it was good to win the game," Barbashev said. "Yeah, it's been tough. For sure. It's been tough, but I think if we will keep playing the same way the next few games, it'll be really nice."

Not just the next few games, but the each time out. It would make this group tough to beat.
"Like I said the consistency is like the biggest question for us," Tarasenko said. "We need to obviously win more games but play better, play full 60 minutes. That’s what we’re talking about working on."

A day of rest on Sunday, followed by a practice day on Monday, something the Blues haven't had since the start of November, getting two days off between games, will help kickstart the next tough stretch of games against Floridian teams Tampa Bay and Florida.

"Well, we need it, the guys need a day off and then we need a good practice and then we got Tampa," Berube said.

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