57 Seconds from a Win
Vote for FrozenNotes!
The Blues had a win and two points in the bag…but gave up on proceedings a bit too early. With 57 seconds left and the netminder pulled, the Blues allowed Detroit to tie the game at three, sending things to OT. How frustrating. Two out of the last three games have seen the Blues squander a lead late to a team with an empty net. Good teams close out games. Teams that are still building give points away to conference and division foes then wonder why they are not in the playoffs come year’s end. Also, FrozenNotes is in the running for best Blues blog, so be sure to vote over at NHLArena!
57 seconds. This might have been the margin between the Blues allowing the Red Wings to level the game and the final horn, but the downward spiral in tonight’s game started much earlier.
Things started out great. David Backes. Roman Polak. Two goal lead in the first, just like that. Great and exciting first period of hockey in front of another sell out crowd.
Cue the harsh officiating. Now, I’m not one to make excuses for myself or my team, but the officiating tonight was pretty questionable at times. That point aside, the Blues started the second period in what I would label “defense mode”. Dump the puck in, skate back and protect your zone. Rinse and repeat. Most of the said dump ins occurred within the Blues’ end of the ice, resulting in countless icing calls. I struggle to remember a time where I have seen so many icing calls in such a short period of time.
Cue the checking line. Here are some numbers for you. Perhaps my focus was skewed, but this line seemed to be on the ice for crucial situations in the second and more specifically in the third that simply didn’t warrant them. The checking line struggled tonight, most notably B.J. Crombeen and Brad Winchester who seemed to be involved anytime Detroit looked threatening. The Blues big guns, Boyes, Backes and company excelled in this game but the rest of the team looked out of gas against Detroit’s big line. However, the Blues worst line of the night (the checking / third line) were constantly sent out to match the big line of the Red Wings. You know how the story ends.
Lines used aside, the entire team shrunk into a defensive shell late in the game. Most fans know, this usually ends in disastrous results. The best way to defend in hockey is to keep pouring on the pressure. Don’t allow the other team out of their end and especially don’t let them earn the blueline time after time. The Blues instead shrank back, let Detroit walk in, then made a series of bad pass after bad pass as if they wanted Detroit to win this game.
Tonight’s game was a tale of two teams which has really been the story all season long. A fantastic first period. A less spirited second. A shaky third. An invisible OT. Game over.
One has to wonder how well this team can do this season if they can’t protect a lead. We saw this exact scenario in Dallas the other night. Sure, the Blues picked up one point, but they should have had two – and more importantly Detroit should have had zero but left with two instead.
I wish I had brought a stop watch to the game so I could time just how long Detroit spent crashing the Blues into the boards deep in the Note’s zone – trust me, it was a lot. The game plan to protect the Blues’ lead seemingly called for huddling over the puck as Detroit runs you into the ground until you cave – pretty far from what the Blues should have done which was keep pouring things on.
Chris Mason was solid once again, but saw a win slip away as red jerseys swarmed in front of the net and the Blues were caught on numerous occasions watching the puck.
This was a tough loss for the Blues and perhaps they just ran out of gas late following a game in Nashville on Friday night. Perhaps the coaching could have deployed a better strategy and used better line combos late in the game. Perhaps the Blues could have linked a few passes together late in the game and cleared their zone instead of dishing the puck right onto the blade of the enemy. Perhaps the Blues should have converted on numerous scoring chances that somehow came and went without any red lights flashing.
Regardless. Teams that blow leads late and hand two points to a rival have a tough time making the playoffs. There is a lot of season left, but it is starting to appear that the Blues will need another huge run late in the season to make the 2nd season.
Be sure to vote for FrozenNotes as best St. Louis Blues blog over at NHLArena.