Before Saturday night, the Blues hadn't lost two regulation games in a row all season. Blowing Saturday's winnable game against the Blackhawks and digging a first period hole against the Rangers speaks to a couple of issues that the team has been having as of late: slow starts and half-assed defensive efforts. When pressed about Saturday's loss, Ken Hitchcock had this to say to Tom Timmerman:
"Eventually," said Hitchcock, "if we expect to win, we’re going to have to make big plays at the right time. That’s what (the Blackhawks) have done. They make big plays at the right time. That’s why they win championships. If we want a piece of the pie in this division and this conference, we’re going to have to have more people make big plays at the right time."
The Blackhawks also were gifted big plays by a lack of situational awareness. The Jets may be on a five game losing streak, but situational awareness is also something that's important to have against them. Their top line of Blake Wheeler, Bryan Little, and Andrew Ladd, have combined for the third highest point total for a line in the league.
Considering the fact that the Jets have been shut out twice this losing streak, you would think that they'd be left together, but coach Paul Maurice is shifting Ladd down a line tonight and bringing Mathieu Perreault up to spread the scoring out a little bit.
The Blues are also tweaking some lines, moving David Backes up between Alexander Steen and Vladimir Tarasenko, and moving Jaskin up from the fourth line to the second with Troy Brouwer to be centered by Jori Lehtera. Says Hitch (via Lou Korac):
"It's less based on Backes and more based on more secondary scoring," Hitchcock said. "We've sat on one line.
"David can play anywhere. He can play there, he can play the next line, whatever. We want to get an identity with the Lehtera line. That's a weighty line [with Dmitrij Jaskin and Troy Brouwer], that's a line that can really cycle the puck. We've got to get more secondary scoring. Our goal is to help other people find an identity with a line like that that brings a lot of weight and size to see if we can create more offensive zone time. It's not going to be long before teams can sit on one line and then we lose the impact of having some versatility. We've been kind of based on versatility here. We need to make sure we've got other people that can contribute offensively."
The Blues need to watch out for Adam Pardy and Dustin Byfuglien. The former hasn't played since October 18th, and the latter plowed over Jay Bouwmeester last month. They're together tonight. Half of that duo is actually good, but both of them have the potential to be assholes. Ask Jay.
Michael Hutchinson will start tonight fresh off of a game in which he only played 12:01 and allowed three goals on seven shots.
Try as they might to say "we're not panicking," the Jets at the very least have room for concern. A loss tonight extends their streak to six straight losses. They're not the most confident team. The Blues should be able to smell blood in the water the same way that the Predators did Saturday night, if not more so.