With the team off to such a roaring start to the season, there haven’t been many recent Blues games like the one they had Friday night at Scottrade Center. But even the best teams are susceptible to an off night on occasion, especially when bringing less than their best against a quality divisional opponent.
Proof of that statement was written all over St. Louis’ 2-0 loss to the Nashville Predators Friday, as the Note failed to conjure much in the way of quality scoring chances, while the ones they did were snuffed out by Pekka Rinne and the Predator defense.
Defensively, the Blues held serve, allowing just one goal prior to a late empty-netter that sealed the victory for the Predators. That goal came early in the proceedings, as a defensive breakdown led to a scoring chance just 2:32 into the first period. The shot by Ryan Johansen was the only one all night to get past Carter Hutton, who got the home start on the front-end of a back-to-back against his former team.
“I saw it, but it’s pretty much a perfect shot,” Hutton said of Johansen’s goal. “You obviously want to save every one, but… I guess we kind of lose coverage there. Guys score good goals, it’s a good league.”
With that lone goal as the only blemish on Hutton’s record for the night, Mike Yeo was impressed with his play.
“He was great,” Yeo said of Hutton, who stopped 26 of 27 shots on the night. “He gave us a chance tonight. You give up one goal at home, you’re winning those games most of the time.”
Yeo pinned the breakdown that led to the early go-ahead goal on his team coming out flat, while the opposition displayed their hunger from the jump.
“We started on our heels,” Yeo said of his Blues. “They were more aggressive and they jumped on a loose puck. They won a race, and we were just a little slow reacting to it.”
Despite that first-period moment gaining so much attention as the only relevant goal of the contest, the most evident deficiency for the Blues in the loss came offensively, and more specifically, on the power play.
St. Louis whiffed on three power play chances for the game, and never came particularly close to executing a successful one. Even with a man-advantage, they struggled to consistently command the offensive zone. When they were able to do so, passes weren't crisp enough, and shots weren't timely enough to catch Rinne off-guard in any circumstance. A lack of quality chances meant no second chances off rebounds—and what Rinne can see, he can stop with relative ease.
“We had a couple looks, but that was it. We have to get better,” Alex Pietrangelo said. “Those are opportunities where we’ve got to find a way to score goals. We have enough talent out there that we should be scoring.”
Yeo felt the Blues were the better team throughout the second and third periods, but that sentiment does little to negate the fact that the power play—and the offense in general—looked disjointed for much of the game.
“Execution was a problem all night,” Yeo said. “We had open guys, whether we didn’t see them or didn’t hit them, I think that was evident. And it showed up not just in the passing—I think you see some opportunities where we’re missing the net. You see some times where we have an opportunity to get in on the forecheck but we’re dumping it into the goalie.
“Those were the little things, the execution plays, that I thought we weren’t sharp enough with to try to create some offense against a team like that.”
Nashville remains competitive in what is shaping up as the toughest division in hockey, though the Blues maintain their lead atop the Central despite the loss. But with most clubs in the Central legitimately vying for a playoff spot, it will be important for St. Louis to perform better in those divisional battles than it did Friday. There’s no rest for the weary, as Minnesota will be in town Saturday night.
“We had some opportunities, we didn’t capitalize,” Yeo said, evaluating the shutout loss. “I don’t know that we made it real hard on their goalie tonight. But we did enough good things to give ourselves a chance. Again, we’ve got to finish and we’ve got to be sharper.”