On New Year’s Eve, the Blues ended the year with an uncharacteristic type of failure for this season, playing well while losing a close game at home. The Blues struggled to solve Henrik Lundqvist, losing 2-1.
Like many games this season, Monday’s game will go down as a blown lead. The Blues are the 5th worst at winning games they lead after the 1st period. Of course, they are 2nd worst (10%) a winning when losing after the 1st period.
Ryan O’Reilly opened the scoring with a beautiful one-timer from a very good David Perron pass around 10 minutes into the game. Of course, the Rangers got back even with just 20 seconds left in the period on yet another Blues failed penalty kill. The penalty kill has been killing this team for a couple of weeks now. The Rangers then took the lead for good just three minutes into the 2nd period on a goal from Boo Nieves.
I didn’t have to clip the highlights but you can see them here
. On the Rangers power play goal, Jay Bouwmeester kicks the puck to Alex Pietrangelo who can’t do anything with the puck creating the turnover. Brayden Schenn doesn’t recognize the situation as Pietrangelo has effectively rotated to cover the high left slot and Bouwmeester has rotated down low to cover the front of the net. Schenn needs to rotate down low but doesn’t, leaving Mats Zuccarello open for the easy goal. On the Rangers 2nd goal, the Blues get caught with 4 skaters between the face-off dot and the half wall and never recover. Ever watched a pee wee game where the players all chased the puck? The players are all left chasing as Nieves cuts to the middle and to the net. Bouwmeester screens Jake Allen and doesn’t even come close to making a play on the puck.
The two goals were all the Rangers needed other than some strong saves from Lundqvist. Jaden Schwartz had 6 shots on goal and at least two glorious chances. Brayden Schenn had 7 shots on goal. Vladimir Tarasenko had 6 shots on goal. In a different season, fans would like chalk this up to a hot goalie and some bad puck luck (Fabbri hitting the post for example). Unfortunately in this season, this just adds to the already built frustration. If the Blues put forth that kind of effort and game consistently, winning and scoring will come.
I know fans are frustrated with Tarasenko but I’m surprised that I haven’t heard the same level of frustration about Schwartz. Don’t look now but Pat Maroon has tied Schwartz in goals (a paltry 3). Of course those two are behind, Oskar Sunqvist, Ivan Barbashev, Zach Sanford and Alex Pietrangelo while only being tied with Vince Dunn and Robert Thomas.
The Blues will hope to end some of this frustration when they host the defending Stanley Cup Champion Washington Capitals. The Capitals have the 3rd best points percentage in the league, are 12-5-1 on the road, are 8-2 in their last 10 games and have won 5 in a row on the road. This will be their 1st game back after the holiday break.
The Capitals’ key to success has been scoring, hitting the net at the 4th highest rate in the league while only having the 9th best power play.
As you would expect Alex Ovechkin leads the way with 29 goals and 45 points in 38 games. Nicklas Backstrom isn’t far behind with 44 points and John Carlson is having a great season with 38 points. Tom Wilson and Evgeny Kuznetsov are also averaging a point a game. Braden Holtby is playing well, stopping 91.2% of the shots he faces. Former Blue Pheonix Copley is also doing well stopping 91.4% of the shots he sees. Holtby has been confirmed by the Capitals as the starter.
For those of you who can’t remember, Ovechkin loves playing the Blues, averaging well over 1.5 points per game and almost a goal a game.
Earlier in the week, the Blues sent Chris Butler and Jordan Nolan down to San Antonio and activated Carl Gunnarsson. Earlier today they recalled Zach Sanford. Some might be mad that the call up wasn’t the red hot Jordan Kyrou (more on him later) but the Blues want Kyrou to keep getting a lot of minutes and development, something that would be unlikely to happen if he was called up today.
Tarasenko is sick and doubtful to play tonight. Even before he was going to be out, the Blues were expected to go with seven defensemen. With him out, expect the lines to look like this:
Schwartz - Schenn - Thomas
Steen - O'Reilly – Perron
Fabbri - Bozak - Maroon
Barbashev - Sundqvist
Edmundson - Parayko
Bouwmeester - Pietrangelo
Dunn - Bortuzzo
San Antonio Rampage
The Rampage may not be in a playoff spot currently but they have gone 13-5-1 in their last 19 games as they try to inch closer to a playoff spot. A lot of that success is due to Jordan Kyrou. Kyrou has a 12 game point streak during which he has 20 points of which 14 have been either a goal or the primary assist.
World Junior Championship
Klim Kostin scored two goals last night at Russia advanced to the semifinals. Kostin has 2 goals and 3 assists in 5 games while potentially having the quote of the tournament. In between periods of their game against Canada, Kostin had this to say about Comtois: “in his previous life, he worked at the circus. Didn’t you know that? Perhaps he watched the world cup of soccer? Neymar is probably his best friend.” The quote was in response to Maxime Comtois’ embellishment on this play:
Speaking of Comtois, he missed a penalty shot in last night’s quarterfinal overtime loss to Finland. His Instagram account appears to have received a plethora of hateful and ignorant comments. As Faizal Khamisa said on twitter, I’d implore all of you. Do not be these people. As a side note, Comtois had 5 goals and 1 assist in 5 games.
Failing to come from behind
Only the Carolina Hurricanes and Los Angeles Kings have yet to win a game when they entered the 3rd period losing. Of course the Kings have had more opportunities (18 vs 15).
NHL Champions for Charity
We’ve gotten some traction on the charity wager among the Central Division bloggers. More on that to come.
It’s a great day for hockey.