Fifty-four seconds into the first period, Marian Hossa scored his second goal of the game, sealing the deal and killing any momentum that the Blues could have tried to regain. They never regained the punch from the first period, left out any of the frustration they felt in the second, and just played through sludge in the third. Perhaps it was the fact that they played last night and are tired and jet-lagged, but whatever the reason they should not have played as poorly as they did tonight.
The Blues’ power play was, as always, terrible, going 0-for-4. It’s even more frustrating when you take into consideration the fact that the Blackhawks have the league’s worst penalty kill. Ray Emery gave the Blues many good scoring chances, on the power play and off, but in an effort to score high on him the shots went too high and wide.
The Blues were outshot 35-25, and Brian Elliott’s four goals allowed is the first time this season he’s given up more than two. Just the second loss in Ken Hitchcock’s tenure isn’t cause for worry, though with what was riding on the line tonight, it is disappointing. A win and St. Louis could have taken tops in the Central. As it stands, it’ll be a battle for second place Tuesday night against the Detroit Red Wings. The Blues’ll benefit from a few days rest, but whatever they do they cannot play as sluggishly as they did tonight – and they have to stop putting themselves in positions where penalties can be called. Six minors are six too many.
The intensity of the first period has dissipated, at least on the Blues’ part. Open net chances against the Blackhawks’ goaltender Ray Emery, being far out shot 14-9 in the period, turnovers, you name it. Frustration has taken the place of intensity, with the Blues and the Hawks mixing it up and David Backes being squarely in the middle of both big skirmishes. First it was the beginnings of a fight with Jonathan Toews and at the end of the second period a rough-up with Dave Bolland which got both of them two minutes off of the ice.
Three third period goals from Toews, Hossa, and Sharp should give coach Ken Hitchcock cause to raise holy hell in the locker room — especially as Hossa’s goal was shorthanded and Sharp’s was a power play goal. The Blues need to take advantage of who is between the pipes for Chicago. Emery has been leaving wide open nets that the Blues can’t get anything inside. Thankfully Chris Stewart figured him out by going high here:
A few more of those, along with the intensity that fans saw in the first period, should get the Blues back on track. Frustration and letting the Hawks get under your skin — the Blues start the 3rd on the penalty kill because of a T.J. Oshie slash — won’t win you hockey games.
Welcome back, David Perron. The Blues have an obvious spring in their step, and a decent bit of it is coming from one of their missing pieces being back on the ice and scoring the only goal of the first period.
The other spring is coming from who they’re playing. For the 277th time, they’re facing off against the Blackhawks, and they’re playing this game like it was a playoff game. Within seconds of each other, David Backes laid out Jonathan Toews with a monster hit and Barrett Jackman leveled Ben Smith. Not to be left out of the checking, Chris Stewart plowed down Duncan Keith with his best freight train impression.
Watching this game is like watching a playoff game. If the Blues continue playing how they are right now, this could very well be on our TVs in late April. Blues and Blackhawks fans have both missed the playoff rivalries. It’d be welcomed back with open arms, with or without Ed Belfour.
It took David Perron a whopping 2:08 of ice time to do this:
Top shelf agains Ray Emery, in and out off the crossbar. Perron fought for the puck and roofed it, which is how a few of his four goals against the Hawks last year happened. He hasn’t shied away from working hard so far this game, and if this is how he’s going to play all night, Blues fans shouldn’t be concerned at all.
The former piece of news has the non-silver lining of Chris Stewart being knocked down to the third line, but the non-silver lining has a silver lining as Stewart will be on a line with Vladimir Sobotka and Jason Arnott. Jamie Langenbrunner is on the fourth line with Ryan Reaves and Scott Nichol. With the first line remaining intact, there are no weak spots in this line-up. The problem of where to place a returning Andy McDonald whenever he gets back in is a good one for coach Ken Hitchcock to have, as it shows how well put together this team is.
The other piece of good news is that Razor Ray Emery is starting in net for the Blackhawks. Emery, in one of the feel good stories of the pre-season, won the Blackhawks’ starting job. So far, though, it’s been rough going for him. He’s 3-1-1, but those three wins came against the Winnipeg Jets (4-3 on October 13th), Columbus Blue Jackets (5-2 on October 29th) and the Calgary Flames (4-1 on November 11th). His GAA is a whopping 3.52, and his save percentage is .877. He allowed five goals against Tampa Bay in the Blackhawks’ 5-4 overtime loss on November 4th, and he let seven goals in on 27 shots against the Edmonton Oilers in their 9-2 drubbing of the Blackhawks on the 19th.
To compare: Emery’s November save percentage was a .851. Tonight’s starter for the Blues, Brian Elliott, has a .961 SV% with two shut outs. Hopefully the Blues can use this to their advantage.