There was a lot made during the regular season of how strong the Blues were defensively. They allowed limited shots against which led to limited scoring chances and eventually to the Blues leading the league in goals against.
Most focused on a young group of D-men led by Alex Pietrangelo for the success the team had. Sure the Blues defense played a big role as did exceptional goaltending from Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott.
So far this series it’s been a different story. Defensively it’s been a struggle as Los Angeles has had their way controlling the play in the Blues zone.
Is it the size of the Kings players that’s creating issues for St. Louis? The Blues are chasing in their own end more than were used to seeing but for the most part they’ve been sound positionally. Coming out on the losing end of one on one battles and 50/50 pucks will need to change if St. Louis has any plans of getting back into this series.
The reality is the forwards protected the defense all season with zone possession and zone time. It’s easy to play defense when you have the puck in the offensive end most of the game. It’s entirely different when you’re on your heels running around in your own end. The Blues have been in their own end way too much and it’s lead to defensive breakdowns.
Is the Blues defense being exposed in this series?
GM Doug Armstrong looked to upgrade this area at the trade deadline but came up empty. The lack of resources financially with the team being for sale certainly didn’t help.
The Kings are beating the Blues at their own game. St. Louis is used to dictating pace and how the game will be played for 60 minutes. That hasn’t happened for most of the first two games. The Blues have had their moments but it obviously hasn’t been enough.
The pressure is on the forwards, not the defense, to get the Blues back into the series. Certain players have been absent and haven’t shown the ability to adjust when the temperature is turned up. The bailout plan won’t advance you in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
The Blues looked tired Monday night. Was it because of the late start or do certain players still need to take their conditioning to another level? These are questions that only pop up when you lose.
I know we want to blame the referees for the Blues being down 0-2 in the series but that should be the least of people’s concerns. I’ve yet to see a ref win or lose a game in the playoffs.
Personally I thought the team looked tight early on. Ken Hitchcock disagreed with my assessment but you could sense the nervous energy even before the game started. The team played tentative early on and it cost them.
I’m not going to make excuses for Kevin Shattenkirk but people might forget this is his first taste of the playoffs and just his second season in the NHL. It’s a learning process for this guy and he knows he hasn’t played well. He told me he felt he was pushed out of Game 2 and he has to be stronger. This kid is a good hockey player and he’ll be better moving forward because of this experience.
Barret Jackman needs to help stabilize Shattenkirk’s game.
Look for the Blues to play a simpler game on the road.
The Blues haven’t reacted well to the pressure the Kings applied on the PK. Both units looked a little disoriented on Monday and some of this may have to do with new personnel playing with one another. There was some mix and match taking place as the coaching looked to find some combinations that worked. Knowing which routes to skate even seemed to be a struggle.
Jason Arnott was kept off the PP late in the game.
I’m told Kent Huskins will likely replace Ian Cole in the lineup Thursday night. Ken Hitchcock will want some experience and reliability in the lineup especially if Alex Pietrangelo is unable to go.
Look for D’Agostini to replace Alex Steen and stay with Andy McDonald and David Backes. The fourth line of Scott Nichol, Jamie Langenbrunner, and B.J. Crombeen will also stay together. We should probably be calling this the third line based on how they’re playing.
Many are calling for Ryan Reaves but Hitchcock doesn’t see the physicality up front being an issue. The coaching staff is considering putting Chris Stewart back in the lineup for Game 3.
There will be some changes on the second and third lines for the Blues.
Pietrangelo by the way will be evaluated as week progresses. Obviously it’s a positive sign if he practices on Wednesday.
Reason for Halak News….
Ken Hitchock tells me he wanted to rule Jaro Halak out for the series as quick as possible to eliminate any potential distraction. People now know this is Brian Elliott’s job until further notice.
More to come,
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