Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Blues allow two points to slip away against worst team in NHL with 3-2 loss to Coyotes

Performance ranks up there with among the worst in recent memory, 
certainly under coach Craig Berube, falling to team with one win in 15 games

ST. LOUIS -- If the Blues aren't embarrassed after Tuesday's latest edition of hockey night at Enterprise Center, they should be.

Heck, they better be.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Torey Krug (left) said the Blues at times on Tuesday against Hudson
Fasching (left) and the Arizona Coyotes "played stupid."

That was a debacle of epic proportions that transpired in that dismal 3-2 loss to the lowly Arizona Coyotes that sent them to their fourth straight loss.

There's no denying that the Blues, at 8-5-2, have a solid hockey club, but losing to a team that hadn't won on the road all season (0-9-1) and had one -- ONE! -- win, period, all season (1-13-1) while being a minus-37 in goal differential is absolutely inexcusable.

Blues coach Craig Berube warned before the game following the morning skate not to take the Coyotes lightly, that they'll work hard and that the Coyotes will give it everything they have.

Somehow, that memo was lost in the shuffle, even though there was all the talk of the cavalry coming to the rescue with defenseman Torey Krug returning after missing five games in COVID-19 protocol, forward Oskar Sundqvist making his long-awaited return following left ACL surgery and hip surgeries, his first game since March 19, and the debut of defenseman Scott Perunovich.

The Blues were dismal with the puck, they were dismal in their decisions, they were outworked, they were ineffective on special teams, and they were just downright dismal. No other way around it.

"I thought at times we worked hard and we did the job," said Krug, who was one of the players who played solid with a goal. "I thought at times we just played stupid. 

"... Every team in this league is good enough to win every single night. Every player that jumps on the ice to play in the NHL has some pride. The compete level, everyone's going to show up. ... There's no secret formula. We've just got to go out there and stick to what makes us a good team and I think more often than not we're going to beat the team that lines up across from us. It has nothing to do with the opponent. It's all about what's going on in the room."

So what was missing? How could a team that had three near-misses the past three games (all one-goal losses and all late, including one in overtime) not show up to a game it absolutely not only must win but should win?

"Yeah, maybe a little energy, a little emotion," Krug said. "We came off two tough games on the weekend where we feel like we should have come up with some points. We left empty-handed. Good teams find a way the next game to show up and drag each other into the battle. I don't think we did that enough tonight. Unfortunately, the thing keeps rolling. We've got to stop this before it gets out of hand, and we will. That's the resiliance of this group. A big game on Thursday.

"I mean, not really sure to be honest. I obviously haven't been around the last 11 days. I'm sure the schedule wears on people. You're coming off two emotional losses on the weekend. Maybe you walk in and good teams just find a way to stop it before it gets out of hand. Just dragging each other into the battle, like I said, I know I'm repeating myself, but that's what it is. It starts with the leaders, the older guys in the room and bringing the young guys and then everyone shows up and we win games, but we've got to find a way to grasp it."

Krug certainly had the energy, finishing with 21:34 ice time playing with Justin Faulk. There were many others that were too worried about making the fancy plays, trying to dangle the puck through traffic, making blind, behind-the-back passes to nobody, or simply trying to force pucks where it shouldn't be forced.

All recipes for disaster.

"There was just not a lot of energy or life the first two periods," Berube said. "So that was the choice they made. Third period we had a ton more and controlled most of the period. But you can’t go out and just not play – you’ll lose to any team in this league if you don’t show up and (play) with any desperation or urgency in the game."

No desperation. No urgency. From start to finish. 

Think of it, the Blues never for one second led in the hockey game against, by far, the worst team in the league that was missing nine regulars (seven to injury and two in COVID-19 protocol). But you know what? That team fielded a team, and that team came to work, whether the opposition wanted to join in on the competition wasn't the Coyotes' fault. 

"Yeah, definitely not (any energy)," said captain Ryan O'Reilly, who had two assists to give him 400 in the NHL. "It wasn't kind of the start we wanted to have. That happens sometimes when you see these teams at the bottom of the standings, you think it's going to be easier, we kind of just missing that little jump there that makes all the difference and we give them confidence. It’s a tough league to win in and we have to be better. Everybody in the room knows we can't be doing that, a chance to win a hockey game there and get back on track. It’s disappointing but the energy has got to be a lot better. So we'll make our adjustments."

That's yet to be seen, obviously. But on this night, the Blues thought they could get away with a poor performance and cut corners for two points. So the game plan was to wave through the waters, make casual plays with the puck and play pond hockey.

"Oh, absolutely," O'Reilly said. "We had some bad turnovers where, we have to be sure, especially when we don't have momentum, and all that energy, we have to earn it the right way and we just got away from it tonight. There's no secret to winning. We know we got away from our game, and adjust, even myself, so many turnovers in the offensive zone where not coming up with pucks, not making plays. And it's frustrating. That's my thing I have to improve on and generate more, but as a group is got to be a lot better."

Also consider in this four-game slide is that the Blues have not once faced a bonafide No. 1 goaltender (sorry Edmonton fans, Mikko Koskinen isn't the idea of a No. 1 goalie). 

The Blues have faced David Rittich, Alex Lyon, Koskinen and on Tuesday, Scott Wedgewood.

Scott. Wedgewood. 

The same Scott Wedgewood the New Jersey Devils didn't want. The same Scott Wedgewood the Arizona Coyotes claimed off the scrap heap.

"I don’t know how many times, there have been a few games this year where we had a ton of quality chances and we don’t get anything out of it," Berube said.

Wash. Rinse. Repeat. 

It's happened often. It happened Tuesday after the Blues pumped 36 shots at Wedgewood. Not Nikolai 'The Bulin Wall' Khabibulin

Maybe the Blues are good enough. Right now, they're good enough to lose, because they've found every recipe on how to lose. 

With Thanksgiving around the corner, maybe it's a recipe to throw in the garbage can.

One thing holds true though, good for Bill Armstrong, the former assistant general manager of the Blues, now GM of the Coyotes. That group, pieced together somehow, had his identity written all over it, the kind of identity Armstrong learned when he was ... here? 

There's a lot of season left, but boy, does this leave a foul odor with people -- namely the fanbase, and it should leave the foulest odors with the Blues, because that downright stunk.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Ryan O'Reilly (90) said the Blues didn't have any energy in a 3-2 loss to the
Arizona Coyotes on Tuesday.

So it's now time for someone to rise, whether it be a leader, or leaders, to lead by example, or say something that will help lead the Blues out of this funk.

And it better happen soon.

"A little bit of both. Like you mentioned, if we knew the answer, we'd just be done and be over with," Krug said. "I think it's got to be a little bit of both. The better players on the team need to step up and lead by example and the older guys need to step up and talk in the room and bring that energy. If you're not bringing it on the ice, then you've got to find a way to bring it in the locker room and show up to work and push each other. It's a little bit of both."

"You've just got to go and work," Berube said. "To be honest with you, like confidence and momentum and all those things come from just hard work and really good team play. That’s the bottom line. So Thursday, we need to turn it around. But you've got to just go and trust the process and go play, and play for 60 minutes and not let your foot off the gas. We didn’t do that tonight. We played for 20 minutes in my opinion.​"

1 comment:

  1. Berube had better figure it out. I know he's not the one playing but that performance was tough to watch. At times, I don't see our "identity" at all. We seem to be scrambling and not driving the play, very reactive hockey.