All the Blues need to do tonight is win in regulation or extra time, and they're in the playoffs again. Of course, they'll be doing it without Alexander Steen, who is resting a bum knee for the evening. Chris Porter, who was filling in for a flu-stricken T.J. Oshie, got popped in the chest with a shot from Steen, and as Steen headed to the locker room, Porter was in obvious discomfort.
"I was trying to draw attention to myself, so nobody was watching Steener," Porter joked. "I honestly didn’t see it (the shot). I got pushed into the net and I was just trying to stay out of the way of the goaltender. I knew the puck was coming in behind the net and I was just trying to stay out of the way, and the next thing I know, I have a sharp pain in my chest. Got me just under the ribs. We all know how hard Steener can shoot. Just stunned me for a minute."
Well, at least Porter didn't go down too. The loss of Steen threw the lines into discombobulation; going into tonight, Oshie is back, but another unfortunately timed injury could be an issue again. The mixing of the lines leads to mixing of messages - the Blues haven't been playing the cleanest of games recently, and yesterday's practice focused on getting rid of that clog. Said Hitch to Jeremy Rutherford:
"Too much indecision, too much hesitation, not enough straight lines," Hitchcock said. "This time of year, everybody is packed in defensively. (Saturday’s) game was a perfect example. When we played really smart with the entries, we had good results. When we were loose and careless, we had bad results.
"So (practice) wasn’t necessarily reinforcing how we play, it was reinforcing how you have to play at this time of year. It seems to be a given on the road and a struggle at home right now. I think we’re just too loose. We’re giving the opposition too many freebies. It’s the same on the power play and five on five. You can’t create offense if you give up the puck easily."
The first and second period Saturday night wasn't the sharpest. The third was better, but it was too little, too late. The team hasn't been the most effective at clamping down on competition at the start. Going 3-2-2 in their last seven games, the Blues haven't been able to put away Winnipeg and Detroit, both teams with goaltenders that the Blues should be able to get a puck past. They let sloppy play doom them in Minnesota. They didn't play a consistent sixty minutes Saturday, and squandered two points to a team that they outshot handily.
The Blues are going to be in the playoffs sooner or later; clinching tonight would go a long way to getting back on track and establishing some pressure going into the postseason. We hear a lot about "the right way to play," and the Blues have played the right way this season, but not consistently. The Canucks are trying to do the same thing, adding some padding onto their slot in the Pacific. They have a tough road trip through the Central beginning tonight. Scottrade has not been kind to the Blues recently; they have lost four of six at home. Without Steen, the Blues need to focus on playing their game to keep it from being five of seven.