The St. Louis Blues are a frustrating bunch. Instead of capitalizing against vulnerable opponents on a swing through Western Canada, the Blues lost two of three games including Sunday’s loss to the bottom-feeding Calgary Flames.
Ken Hitchcock decided to start Jaroslav Halak twice on the trip, and the results were typical. In Edmonton, Halak recorded his 16th shutout stopping all 19 shots and tied the franchise record set by Glenn Hall. But followed by allowing two soft goals against Calgary including Jerome Iginla’s game winner that somehow slid underneath his pads.
With Halak in net, every shot is a scoring chance. His save percentage dropped to a 43rd worst .887. In 13 starts, opponents average 17.69 shots on goal compared to 28.1 shots when Jake Allen starts. The 10 shot differential speaks to a varying mindset depending on whose in goal. The confidence in Halak is not there.
This game comes down to two things: 1) goaltending and 2) converting on special teams. It takes great, not good, goaltending to win in this league … and Allen is the only goalie capable right now of making those game-changing saves.
Meanwhile, the once prolific power play unit has gone completely dormant. The unit owns four goals in their last 51 chances. The drought dropped the Blues from a 30% rate down to 22.6%. They went 0-11 on the road trip. Once a crutch, now M.I.A.
The overall energy on Sunday was terrific. Nobody sulked after going down 2-0 and it sparked a comeback. Unfortunately, Alex Tanguey’s stretch pass found Iginla who erased the Blues efforts. Once again, Halak couldn’t stop the puck that somehow trickled underneath his pads. Iginla now owns 28 goals against St. Louis.
How good are the Blues? Nobody knows because they can’t sustain momentum for any length of time. A three game win streak never evolves into a legit run, but rather two aggravating road losses. After starting 6-1, the Blues are 11-11-2. Think that’s good enough? I don’t.
This is the stretch run. St. Louis plays six of their next nine on the road including two stops against a red-hot Minnesota club, a trip to Chicago, and a visit to Joe Louis Arena in Detroit.
- Why can’t T.J. Oshie bring the sort of energy he played with after his terrible turnover, which led to the Flames second goal? That switch can’t get turned off.
- Miikka Kiprusoff had his classic glove hand swag. He stopped 36/38 shots including a 19-shot onslaught in the 2nd period.
- In both Vancouver and Calgary, a Blues player took a penalty down a goal with under five minutes left. Roman Polak’s call was unfortunate, and Vladimir Sobotka’s boarding penalty was baloney — but those throw any late heroics in the trash.
OIL COUNTRY IN TOWN
The Oilers were booed off the Rexall Place ice after Saturday’s 3-0 loss to St. Louis. They got embarrassed in front of a sold out crowd on Hockey Night In Canada. Edmonton has lost three in a row overall, and looks to salvage one win in their third and final meeting with the Blues.
These track meet games are always full of speed and strange, but expect the Oil to bring some heat into the Scottrade tonight.
Prediction: Oilers 4 Blues 2