PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 23: Kris Russell #4 of the St. Louis Blues and Jordan Staal #11 of the Pittsburgh Penguins battle for postion in front of the net on November 23, 2011 at CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. St. Louis defeated Pittsburgh 2-1 in overtime. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
The Blues haven't gotten any help from the schedule makers. They lost to the Red Wings last night, and tonight they have to deal with Malkin, Fleury, and the rest of the red-hot Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Pittsburgh Penguins are hot. Evgeny Malkin has nine goals and 14 assists in the Penguins six game win streak, which came on the heels of a string of losses that saw them sitting out of a playoff spot for a while. Injuries had to catch up with them sooner or later, but with more and more guys -- still not captain Sidney Crosby, though -- coming back and feeling pretty good, the Pens are up to their old tricks again in the Eastern Conference.
Luckily for St. Louis they have been doing pretty well against the East this year, with the only loss being a 3-2 shootout loss against the Toronto Maple Leafs back on November 10th. Since then, it's been smooth sailing for the physical Blues, who can tend to overwhelm opposition. The Pens aren't shrinking violets, however, and I'm fairly sure that the Blues would like to not lose their tempers in key situations like they did in last night's 3-1 loss to the Detroit Red Wings. Blues alternate captain Jamie Langenbrunner summed it up thusly:
"We played good in stretches, but we crumbled when things got tight," right wing Jamie Langenbrunner said. "We got those retaliatory penalties. That takes away our momentum and gets us out of our comfort zone."
Well, there you go. That's the cause of the Blues' downfall in a nutshell. If they can't control the irritation at playing good teams, then it's going to be an issue in the future. Also another issue is consistently scoring a high number of goals, especially against quality opponents. They scored just one last night, but when they defeated the Pens back in November, they managed to net three. That's what they're going to have to do tonight.
Hopefully the focus is there for All-Star Brian Elliott and the rest of the team as they head into their last game before the All-Star Break. They don't play again until February 3rd, so it'll be a while before they can fully get the momentum back after their loss. They stand a chance at a head start tonight.