The St. Louis Blues started the month with five wins and earned points in their last nine games. They lost the last three, albeit one in a shootout and the other in overtime, but the 4-1 loss to the Anaheim Ducks at home on Nov. 16 was just poor play. What’s the cause and what should fans expect?
What and Who are Missing?
Vladimir Tarasenko dislocated his shoulder in the game against the Los Angeles Kings on Oct. 24 and required immediate surgery. He pulled through just fine, but his injury requires months of rehabilitation. It is questionable whether or not he’ll return for the regular season.
After an awkward collision on Nov. 6 with Edmonton Oilers Alex Chiasson, Alexander Steen was knocked out with a high ankle sprain. He’ll be re-evaluated in a few weeks. Although Steen wasn’t producing much, he tallied five assists in the 17 games this season.
Even after losing their top sniper, the Blues have managed a 7-2-2 record. Something shifted after the Robby Fabbri for Jacob de la Rose trade. Granted, Fabbri wasn’t playing much, but the change may have caused an imbalance. In a recent article, my colleague Stephen Ground noted, “Berube was likely hoping for an additional defensively responsible forward for a fourth line and penalty-killing role, and de la Rose will provide that.”
Unfortunately, we haven’t seen that from him in his first three games. He’s played 31:02 and is a minus-1 with zero shots. Head coach Craig Berube replaced him with rookie Klim Kostin on the third line for the Ducks game and he notched four hits and two shots on goal in 11:45 of ice time.
“We had some opportunities and we didn’t bury it. They got the lead and it was tough,” Ryan O’Reilly told NHL.com correspondent Louie Korac after the game. “All they did was just shoot the puck out of the zone and chase it down and try to kill momentum, but we have to find a way to put the puck in the net.”
Oscar Sundqvist’s hit on Ducks goaltender John Gibson didn’t help the momentum either. He was subsequently fined the maximum amount allowed by the CBA which was $7,392.47. The Blues were already down 3-1 and an undisciplined hit like that made the team look desperate and vengeful.
Tarasenko’s absence has been felt on the offensive side but both Steen and his presence in the locker room are factors. Although it’s never easy being on a back-to-back away and home schedule, there is no excuse for the loss. They need a boost. “There’s no panic, it’s not even close to being panic,” David Perron told Korac after the Ducks game. “It’s just a little bit of a wake-up call. We have to re-focus here in the next few days and get our game back.” Hopefully they can get centered and get back on track.
The Blues remain at home for the next three games then hit the road for the following three and are home to end the month. They face off against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday and Patrick Maroon, who now plays for the Bolts, will be presented with his championship ring prior to the puck drop.
This will be their first of two contests against the Lightning, who the Blues swept with one-goal wins last season. It will be bittersweet for Maroon to play against his former team in his hometown, but the electricity in the building will be at a max with his return.
The Calgary Flames come to town on Nov. 21 and they’ll be looking to even out their series with the Blues after an overtime loss in Calgary on Nov. 9.
The Blues then drop the puck on Nov. 23 at the Enterprise Center against division rival Nashville Predators and then again versus the Predators in Nashville on Nov. 25. The Predators are 1-5-1 for the month of November and lost three in high-scoring games.
In their similar series last November, the Blues lost in Nashville on Nov. 21 but won at home on Nov. 23. They faced each other three other times last season and the Blues won every game.
After a rematch against the Lightning in Tampa Bay on Nov. 27, they head to Dallas to face the Stars for the second time this season. The Stars have heated up, with only one OT loss in the month, but they were 5-8-1 in October. The Blues won their first contest against them at home on Oct. 5 with a 3-2 final.
To finish off the month of November, the Blues play their first matchup against the Pittsburgh Penguins, who they split their series with last season. It’ll be interesting with their star Sidney Crosby out of the lineup.
The Blues outshot their opponent in two of their last three losses but couldn’t find a way to post a point in the W column. However, Berube has a way of getting his team to win. “I don’t think we had the energy that we needed to have the last couple games,” Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said after the loss to the Ducks. Whether they need to chug some energy drinks or just find some chemistry, they need a spark to get some wins in the next few games.