It's becoming trite to mention it, but the Blues are struggling to score goals right now. Attentive to the quandary, Ken Hitchcock did some tinkering with line combinations for Saturday’s game against the Kings. It didn’t really influence the goal only goal the Blues did score, as the tried-and-true STL line cobbled that one together.
Assisted by Vladimir Tarasenko and Jori Lehtera, Jaden Schwartz buried the game’s lone goal from close range early in the third period, sending the Blues to a shutout of the Kings. The line that stayed together was the one to provide the spark as the only source of offense for either side.
“(Jori) and Vladi, sometimes I think that they don’t see me, but they still see me,” Schwartz joked about the goal, his first of the season. “It was a great play by them and it was nice to see it go in.”
Beyond that play, the rest of the game was another slog offensively. Saturday marked the fifth game in the past six in which the Blues have scored only one goal. It’s a discouraging sign after the quick start to the season St. Louis enjoyed. While it doesn’t necessarily mean the Blues will be a poor offensive team, the longer this stretch ensues, the easier it is for it affect the team’s mindset.
“You can’t keep playing well and not get points,” Hitchcock said. “We were on the verge in these last two games, if we don’t get points in these games, then you start trying to play possibly a different way. You lose confidence in the way that you’re playing. But we’re continuing to get points and playing well, so the belief system is starting to grow.”
“I think today was a big step for our team because our belief system of being able to stay with it won us a hockey game. It’s hard when you’re not scoring and you’re playing well and you think you’re doing a lot of thing well. It’s hard to stay on the program. They stayed with it today.”
For however long the scoring drought continues, the Blues are hoping benefit from strong play in other areas. If you can’t score, hopefully you can stop the other team from doing so. Jake Allen did that Saturday, stopping 27 shots en route to his first shutout of the season and 12th of his career.
Allen evidently prescribes to Hitchcock’s belief system, and feels it will only be a matter of time before goals start going in. Until then, the Blues will keep grinding out points any way they can.
“Find ways to get points with one goal,” Allen said. “You see the chances we had tonight, it’s just one of those little stretches where pucks are either hitting a stick or hitting the post when most of the time they usually they go in. That’s gonna turn for us soon. We just gotta work through it, and the goals will come.”
Despite scoring just one goal in each game on the three-game homestand, the Blues managed to squeeze out three points. In addition to firm goaltending, St. Louis has thrived behind its penalty kill, which stood tall again Saturday.
The Blues killed five penalties against Los Angeles, including three in the first period, to preserve the shutout. For the season, St. Louis is now 31 for 33 in successfully killing penalties, a major reason for the Blues’ continued presence among the top of the Central division standings.
It’s an element of hockey that, unlike goal scoring, is less susceptible to flukish slumps.
“Killing penalties is just work,” Jay Bouwmeester said. “You gotta be smart, be in the right positions, that sort of thing, but more often than not it’s just work, winning battles and getting pucks down the ice. I think we’d like to take a few less penalties, but it’s good when you’re killing them off."
With Allen sharp, the penalty kill humming, and the Blues continued trust in the core principles of their game, the Note should be able to shatter the glass ceiling encasing its offense before long. Even if they don't, St. Louis is navigating its punchless period as well as anyone could hope.
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