Saturday, October 1, 2022

Players trying to win a job did themselves no favors for the Blues in 5-2 preseason loss against Stars

Dallas brought young, hungry lineup against a St. Louis lineup mixed 
with veterans and skaters hanging in balance in first exhibition loss

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. -- This was one of those nights in the middle of the preseason where fringe players, guys trying to win an NHL job out of training camp to make a favorable impression.

For those trying to crack the Blues lineup, Saturday did them no favors. 
(St. Louis Blues/Scott Rovak)
Blues defenseman Nick Leddy (4) moves the puck while trying to fend off
Stars forward Joel Kiviranta Saturday in Independence, Mo.

The Blues did bring a veteran-laden group to Cable Dahmer Arena, home of the Kansas City Mavericks, to face the Dallas Stars but they also brought a number of skaters that needed to continue to catch the coaching staff's eye. 

There would be no steps forward. In fact, they may have taken a step back in the first loss of the preseason, 5-2 against the Stars, who brought a strictly young and hungry lineup aside from goalie Jake Oettinger, before a loud, boisterous and sellout crowd of 5,800 in the suburbs of Kansas City.

The Blues put forth a dud for the second season in a row here; they lost to the Chicago Blackhawks, 5-1, last season here, but this game on Saturday presented a chance for guys like forwards Matthew Highmore, Josh Leivo (who in fact did generate some quality scoring chances in the game) and Zachary Bolduc and defensemen Calle Rosen, Tyler Tucker and Matthew Kessel to make any more favorable impressions.

It didn't happen.

"It wasn't good. It wasn't good enough. That's for sure," Blues coach Craig Berube said. "Not enough. We didn't do enough all around. It wasn't a very good game."

That goes for the veterans that came over to play in the game, including the top line of Pavel Buchnevich, Robert Thomas and Vladimir Tarasenko, Brandon Saad, Ivan Barbashev, Colton Parayko, Nick Leddy and Robert Bortuzzo, guys that will be mainstays in the lineup and looking to get in sync and their timing down.

"I felt that a little bit," Parayko said. "Just some of the system work, getting on pucks quick, just getting the first guy and then the second guy in quick, things like that. Just continue to work on and tweak a couple things in the d-zone that maybe we just kind of hesitated a little bit, just reading off players too playing with different people. We're trying to get through this as quick as possible. Obviously halfway through preseason now, we have to start looking in the right direction.

"They played well. Obviously credit to them, they played fast, got on the puck quick, won a lot of battles. Credit to them. They played a good game."

Buchnevich did score a power-play goal, and Logan Brown added his fourth preseason goal but it wasn't enough to support goalie Joel Hofer, who allowed five goals on 28 shots and in all likelihood finished his preseason playing in five periods; he allowed three goals on 12 shots in two periods in the preseason opener against Arizona.

"I think it's been all right," Hofer said of his training camp. "Obviously, every guy in here wants to come in and push for a job. Tonight and the other night (against Arizona) were good teaching points. I've definitely got room for improvement."

The Stars, who outshot the Blues 28-17 in the game, were more hungrier for pucks, they won more puck battles, won more loose pucks, competed harder. It was a group that Dallas brought that was filled with players looking to win a job on the Stars roster.

"They won more battles and checked and worked. They played well," Berube said. "I think from a competitive level, more competitiveness, heavier and winning more puck battles and things like that, just playing a team game. We just didn't do it tonight.

"It just wasn't good tonight all around. Again, we didn't play a good team game, didn't win puck battles and just weren't competitive enough."

When the Blues were able to gain offensive zone time in this game, they just didn't generate much offense. Of their 17 shots on goal, 11 of them came from Leivo (five), Tarasenko (three) and Buchnevich (three).

"Obviously getting pucks in deep, I think we deviated a little bit away from that," Parayko said. "Just didn't hold onto pucks and get pucks to the net. Getting pucks to the net makes it hard on the other team and hard on the goalie, their defensemen when we've got guys crashing the net when we're getting pucks to the net. That's something we've got to focus on, getting pucks to the net and working hard."

Rest assured when the Blues resume practice on Monday, there will be points of emphasis that were certainly missing here.
(St. Louis Blues/Scott Rovak)
Vladimir Tarasenko (91) shoots the puck in a game on Thursday at
Enterprise Center against the Columbus Blue Jackets. 

"There's things you can take from this game and show them that it's not good enough, going into a corner and they're coming out with the puck every time, beating us to pucks all over the ice, not making good plays with the puck, not playing fast enough," Berube said. "That's all part of it. 

"It's an exhibition game. I'm going to do what I need to do to fix it and move on."

The Blues did lose a forward early in this game when Anthony Angello was rocked by Dallas' Mason Marchment, who received a minor for interference at 8:56 of the first period. Angello was attended to on the ice by head athletic trainer Ray Barile and went back to the locker room and not emerge again in concussion protocol.

When asked if Angello was alright, Berube said, "Not really. We'll have to evaluate him tomorrow."

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