(photo Associated Press)
A new era began for the St. Louis Blues with Craig Berube at the helm when the Blues traveled to Nashville for the first of a home-and-home series with the Predators sandwiched around Thanksgiving Day.
With injuries to several key players and some shifting of players by Berbube, the lines looked like this:
- Sanford – O’Reilly – Tarasenko
- Fabbri – Schenn – Thomas
- Perron – Bozak – Blais
- Sundqvist – Barbashev – Soshnikov
The defensive pairings were:
- Dunn – Pietrangelo
- Edmundson – Parayko
- Bouwmeester – Schmaltz
Jake Allen was in net.
The first period started with a familiar turnover deep in the Blues defensive zone by an unlikely player. Just 30 seconds into the game Joel Edmundson had trouble deciding what to do with the puck. As a result, Ryan Johansen grabbed the puck and skated right in on Allen. Johansen dished to Filip Forsberg for a point-blank wrist shot but Jake managed to stop the shot. Thirty seconds in. PHEW!
About three minutes in, a second turnover out near the blue line in the Blues offensive zone, this time by Alex Pietrangelo led to a clean breakaway by Kevin Fiala. Fiala tried a backhander over the glove of Allen. His shot was deemed to have hit the goal post so the turnovers didn’t turn into goals, at least not yet.
Three minutes later, at the 6:14 mark Frederick Gaudreau scored his first NHL goal on a rebound stick-back. A shot from the point resulted in a rebound in front of the net. Gaudreau got at least 2 whacks at it, and possibly three before poking it past Allen.
The Blues didn’t seem to have much “net front presence” on this play. It looked to me like Edmundson got caught out of position on the play and then found himself on the wrong side of Allen and unable to defend the Nashville goal scorer. Here are some screenshots of the play.
The setup and initial shot
Out of position
The Blues have had two opponents score their first career NHL goals against them in as many games but, they got one of their own tonight. Robert Thomas scored his first at the 12:39 mark over the shoulder of last year’s Vezina trophy winner, Pekka Rinne. Brayden Schenn, doing what he does often, stole a pass in the offensive zone and found Thomas with a lot of open space on the other side of the ice. The rookie’s shot found the top right corner of the net and knotted the score at 1-1.
The game got more physical as it wore on. It was good to see a little more ‘grit’ out of some Blues, a trait that’s been missing so far this season.
The Blues got their third power play opportunity at the 11:30 mark on a too-many-cats-in-the-jungle penalty. But, instead of cashing in the Blues were paying the piper. An errant pass by Robby Fabbri out near the blue line led to a breakaway for Filip Forsberg. He skated in all alone on Allen and beat him under his glove to give the Predators a 2-1 lead on their first short-handed goal of the night. Yep. I said their first one. It would not be their last.
Austin Watson scored his first goal of the season after another Blues turnover. Nobody was excluded in the turnover category. The defense turned it over early. The forwards turned it over, and this time it was the goaltender. Jake played the puck behind his net with a lot of Nashville players in the zone. It looked risky however, it always does to me. I’m a fan of goalies staying in the net.
Jake sent the puck up the right boards but it was too hot for Edmundson to handle. The puck got to the half boards to Austin Watson. His wrister found the net over the left shoulder of Allen, top shelf. It was the 2nd goal by a 4th liner for the Predators in the game. I watched the replay several times. It looked like Jake was screened by the referee and Nikita Soshnikov and was tipped and redirected by Soshnikov. It was no doubt, a difficult puck to see and stop.
With more than 5 minutes left in the game, the Blues got a 4 on 3 power play. Berube pulled Allen in favor of five attackers, a bold move with so much time remaining. The gamble did not pay off.
Pietrangelo wound up for a hard slap shot from the top of the right faceoff circle. His shot missed the net, circled the boards and found it’s way to center ice. Ryan Ellis beat everyone to the puck and managed to get it past a sliding Pietrangelo for their 2nd short-handed goal of the night and accounted for the final score of 4-1.
- There were still some of the same mistakes being made with turnovers, and that’s frustrating. I expect some of that could be due to confusion over different strategies and schemes. They should get some of that cleaned up as the players get used to whatever changes are being implemented given the coaching change.
- As I said above, I saw more grit in their play tonight. David Perron was showing some heart. Brayden Schenn was stepping up for his teammates. Other guys started to show that they care.
- I love the participation of the Nashville fans but I thought it was funny that they were chanting “Allen, Allen, Allen” and “It’s all your fault” after the empty net goal. Really? Are you that stupid?
- We get these guys back in St. Louis the day after Thanksgiving. I’d love to see us come in there with some real physicality and take one back from them.
- Lacking…..Net Front Presence! The absence of Pat Maroon and Alex Steen is becoming more evident as we struggle on the power play and in scoring goals in general. We have to get to the dirty areas in front of the net and we just aren’t doing that. Those guys lead the way when they are in there. Both were skating in practice this week so let’s hope they are back on the ice soon.
- Robert Thomas looks great out there and he’s getting better every game. Keep it up, kid!
- Back to back on Friday and Saturday night coming up in the Lou against these Preds and then the Jets. Ouch! This doesn’t get any easier, does it? But nothing worth fighting for comes easy. Let’s go Blues!