The Blues needed something good to happen. Saturday’s 8-4 debacle in Columbus left the team in a daze, and though reports of a strong showing in practice Monday were encouraging, putting together a more inspired performance on game night was the next step.
Against a mediocre Buffalo team, the Blues underwhelmed for most of the opening forty minutes Tuesday night. It took time to find separation from the Sabres, which Ken Hitchcock chalks up as an indication of the state of the league, where every team is grinding this time of year.
“If you think this was at a temperature today, the one on Thursday’s going to be higher, and the one on Saturday’s going to be through the roof,” Hitchcock said. “That’s how strong teams are, that’s how equal teams are, and everybody knows it. Everybody knows that staying over .500 is going to get you a lot of accolades because it’s going to be hard to stay over .500 for everybody.”
Despite a rocky start, the Blues emerged with a 4-1 win Tuesday, distancing last weekend’s poor display further from the memory bank. During the first couple periods, though, you didn’t have to look far to notice that recent concerns with the team—inefficient scoring, uneven goaltending, and inconsistent tenacity—had not disappeared entirely.
The Blues had 24 shots on goal in the first two periods, but just one finish, a Robby Fabbri burial into a wide-open net late in the first. The lone goal St. Louis surrendered couldn’t have been softer, as Jake Allen failed to corral a bouncing puck after his mates offered little more than shrugged shoulders as it danced through the crease and into the net.
As a result of he Sabres grinding the Blues offensive attack to a halt in the second period, St. Louis lashed out and mucked it up. That culminated with Fabbri provoking—then losing—a fight with Josh Gorges during the second period
“I think if I do it again, I’ve got to practice,” Fabbri said. “I may take some pointers from ‘Reavo.’”
Enforcer Ryan Reaves has had trouble finding willing participants to fight him lately. So after Gorges delivered a borderline hit on Alexander Steen, someone had to step up to the plate in his defense. Fabbri decided it would be him.
“I don’t know what got into me there, but I just felt like I wanted to be that guy,” Fabbri said. “When I went out on that shift and asked him, the funny part was, then I went up to him again and he’s like ‘are you serious?’ and I’m like ‘well yeah, kinda.’ So that’s what happened.”
The Blues found motivation in Fabbri’s display of support, and came out like gangbusters in the third. Just after the open to the period, Dmitrij Jaskin weaved through the right side of the Sabres defense to set up the go-ahead goal. Though he couldn’t get the shot off, Jaskin’s efforts left a loose puck in front of an inviting net. Jaden Schwartz introduced the two parties, putting the Blues ahead for good.
“That was a great play by Jask,” Schwartz said. “He had a lot of speed and made a good power move. Yeah, fortunate bounce for me, I think anyone could have put that one in.”
Kyle Brodziak added his first goal of the year after boasting some net-front presence, a rarity for the Blues of late. His tip-in made it 3-1, and Scottie Upshall sealed it with an empty netter late.
So the Blues needed something good to happen. Instead of waiting around for it as they had in recent games, they took charge. They forced the issue.
“I think we needed to be better with the puck everywhere,” Schwartz said. “Especially through the neutral zone and tighten up defensively a little bit, check for our chances a bit more. I thought we did a good job of that.”
Emphasized in Schwartz’s comment are the tendencies innate to toughness. Playing a different style doesn’t have to imply going soft. Tuesday was an example of the Blues grasping to keep hard-nosed hockey in the blueprint—something they hope to continue beyond a November win over Buffalo.
Copyright 2016 KMOV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.