Lighting the Lamp with Rick Ackerman
Tonight's match up with the visiting Winnipeg Jets should be quite an interesting contest as both NHL clubs are reeling after horrific, embarrassing losses Saturday. Add to the mix that both teams engaged in quite a bit of unruly, pugnacious behavior, including fighting, boarding and illegal shots to the head. Both teams' recent frustrations will easily play out with more contentious, confrontational aggressive behavior on the ice tonight.
The Jets were blasted in Nashville, 7-0, only managing 20 shots on Preds' goaltender Pekka Rinne. Halfway through the game, the Jets' frustration boiled over and a major fracas saw the Jets' Chris Thorburn fight Barret Jackman and the Jets' Adam Lowry battle Colton Scissons. Both Thorburn and Jackman were ejected from the game. Early in the third period at 4:44, six Jets and seven Predators received minor penalties (most for unsportsmanlike conduct) after a scrum. Roughly two minutes later, after an interference penalty to the Jets' Mark Stuart, four players, two from each team, were hit with 10 minute misconducts. And then a minute and a half later, both players were hit with 10 minute misconducts after Winnipeg's Ben Chariot interfered with Mike Riberio. And then two minutes after that, the Jets' Tyler Myers was assessed a four minute high sticking penalty and a misconduct. A total of 156 penalty minutes was handed out. Wow!
The Blues suffered a deflating 4-2 loss to the arch-rival Chicago Blackhawks, who ended a five game losing streak. St. Louis was in control of the game after Vladdy Tarasenko gave the Note a lead with his second goal of the contest almost half way through the second period, yet inexplicably, the Blues went to sleep and Chicago got seven of the last eight shots on goal in the period (after being out shot 11 to six) and scored two goals, including the game winning power play goal by, who else, Patrick Kane. It was the first time this season that the Blues have lost two games in regulation in a row.
The standing room only crowd of 19, 808 was ecstatic and went ballistic when Tarasenko scored the first power play goal at the TradeStocks Center this season and St. Louis finally took the lead. Unfortunately, the Blues are now an anemic 1-27 on the power play at home, while doing much better killing off 21 of 26 short-handed situations. Overall the Blues are currently ranked 25th (15.5%) in the NHL on the power play and ninth (83.1%) killing penalties.
Yet, it was all downhill after that beautiful goal from the Russian superstar and including an empty net goal by Artem Anisimov, the Blues fell 4-2 to the Hawks even though they out shot Chicago 10-4 in the third period. Anisimov, acquired from Columbus along with Marko (Book 'em) Dano for Brandon Saad, also assisted on Kane's go-ahead game-winning goal. Somehow The Blackhawks were able to clog up the middle of the ice and keep the Blues on the perimeter of Chicago's defensive zone during the third period, frustrating Blues' shooters and enabling goaltender Corey Crawford to make easy saves. And despite being out hit by a whopping 25 to six, Chicago was able to withstand the physical pounding and keep the Blues at bay. Ryan Reaves led the Blues with six hits, followed by David Backes and Troy Brouwer with four each and Colton Parayko with three. Winger Brandon Mashinter led Chicago with only two hits.
To say the least, it is quite perplexing to see the home team stumble in such a big game with such a big archrival in front of a boisterous capacity crowd. The Blues' first period woes continue to haunt them and stifle their play, forcing them to once again come from behind. After Tarasenko stepped up and gave the Blues the lead, except for Jake Allen and some spectacular saves, not a single one of the Blues' big guns was able to make a difference by making the big play at the right time. Instead, three or four critical errors by normally dependable Blues veterans led to Blackhawks making the big play at the right time and the Note's fifth loss of the season, second in a row at home.
All that being said, it is not the end of the season (or the world) for Blues Nation. Actually, this kind of adversity and strife (including major injuries to three regulars) can be a good thing, especially at this point of the season. Thank the hockey gods these trials and tribulations are happening now instead of in March or April. Although every lost point is precious, there is nevertheless plenty of time now to get the USS Blues battleship back on course and make corrections to eliminate costly errors, including figuring out how to score on the power play. And the Blues will certainly benefit having Paul Stastny, Jaden Schwartz and Patrik Berglund back in the lineup at some point.
Yes, sometimes it is quite demanding and exasperating being an ardent fan of the St. Louis Blues. The loss to Chicago was quite distressing and troublesome. Getting over this painful experience, though, is much like crossing monkey bars on the playground. One has to let go at some point in order to move forward.
The Blues are still second in the division (albeit tied in points with Nashville and Minnesota), only five points behind streaking Dallas. Things could be a lot worse, after all.