Time and time again this season the St. Louis Blues have shown up for a game and then inexplicably failed to compete for the full 60 minutes. This poor effort was evident again Thursday night as the Blues gave up three second period goals to the Philadelphia Flyers in a 4-2 loss at Scottrade Center.
Good start falls short
While the Blues played well for the first 21 minutes, keeping the Flyers off the scoreboard and taking a 1-0 lead at 1:35 of the second period by Robby Fabbri. That’s where the good news ends as St. Louis simply stopped playing the style of hockey that has brought them what success they’ve had over the last couple of seasons. They managed to pick up the pace again in the third period, picking up a power play goal from David Backes to draw within one but it ended up being too little, too late.
“We stopped checking,” St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock said. “I’m sure the players said the same thing. Stopped checking. Stopped checking, opened up gaps, had some soft plays in the scoring areas against us, and that gave them the three goals.
Early on in the game the Blues were controlling the tempo, moving the puck up the ice well and limiting most of Philadelphia’s chances to shots from the perimeter by being physical and strong on the puck, allowing Brian Elliott, making his second start in their last four games, to stop all 10 shots he faced.
Fabbri on 3rd period: “It would be fun to watch to see what happened if we did that for 60 minutes.” #stlblues
— Lou Korac (@lkorac10) December 11, 2015
When soft defense in front of Elliott allowed the Flyers to tie it up less than 2 minutes later the wheels appeared to fall of the St. Louis bus. The remainder of the second period was marred by a lack of communication and defensive zone turnovers reminiscent of their self-destructive play over the previous month. Soft defense and poor backchecking were front and center on each of Philly’s next two goals, including this undressing of Magnus Paajarvi by Claude Giroux:
Same thing different day
The point here is not to re-live another can of garbage offered up by the Blues in front of their home fans. St. Louis has been unable to consistently put together 60 minutes of hockey on any given night for 2-3 seasons now and you’re not going to win on a regular basis in the NHL by letting up or taking entire periods off. The Blues amassed 37 shots on goal Thursday versus the Flyers and yes, Michal Neuvirth gets a lot of credit for an excellent showing, but St. Louis essentially lay down and allowed their opponent to skate over them for the better part of 20-25 minutes, a trend that simply cannot continue if Ken Hitchcock hopes to remain behind the bench. Hitchcock and the Blues apparently know what the problem is but it’s an ongoing issue and a solution doesn’t forthcoming.
“It’s a common denominator for four of the last six games. This is a league, the more you check, the more you have the puck, the more you stay on the hunt, the more you play on your toes, the more you close gaps, the more you have the puck … when you’re inconsistent in that level, you open it up. This has been an ongoing theme for a little while, and we’ve got to get it solved. We were really good in the first and we really dialed it up in the third, but you’re coming from behind, you’re mounting comebacks all the time.” ~ Blues Coach Ken Hitchcock
To hear the coach identify the problem and yet watch the team continually make the same mistakes over and over, game after game, makes it evident that there is something wrong with the Blues that more practice simply isn’t going to fix. How many more partial efforts will we see before Hitchcock is relieved of his position? Should that be the remedy?