ST. PAUL, MINN. • Sellers rather than buyers at the trade deadline, it certainly looks like Blues management is throwing in the towel on the 2017-18 campaign.
As for the actual team?
“I think that a lot of people are ready to sort of determine how our story ends here,” coach Mike Yeo said Tuesday morning. “But the beauty of the game is that we’re the ones that get to decide that. We still believe we have the group to do it.”
A nice sentiment to be sure, but the Blues couldn’t flip the script Tuesday, getting smoked 8-3 in their first game without departed center Paul Stastny. Their longest losing streak in eight years now stands at seven games (0-6-1) after a defensive meltdown of near-epic proportion against the Minnesota Wild at Bridgestone Arena.
“You know what? It’s a matter of pride as far as I’m concerned,” Yeo said. “You give up eight goals, c’mon. We’ve given up 16 in the last three games. We’ve always been one of the top defensive teams. The turnovers that we have and the lack of respect that we have for our goaltenders and for the game of hockey _ that’s ridiculous.”
A fuming Yeo mentioned Alex Pietrangelo, Jay Bouwmeester, Jaden Schwartz, Brayden Schenn, Alexander Steen, Vladimir Tarasenko, Kyle Brodziak, Scottie Upshall and Dmitrij Jaskin as players who he had no problem with on Tuesday.
Everybody else, he said he was not happy with.
“I like what those guys brought,” he said, referring to the names he mentioned. “But we have too many guys that didn’t match that. . . .The level of play of some players needs to come up, it’s that’s simple. Too many guys right now that aren’t giving us a chance to win hockey games.”
But how do you bench, oh, six players?
“We’ve obviously got a couple extra bodies,” Yeo said. “Quality of play, caliber of play, what they can bring offensively, that’s one thing _ but it’s a matter of showing that you care.”
After absorbing back-to-back shutouts against Winnipeg and Nashville, the Blues finally ended their scoreless streak at 150 minutes 23 seconds. They got two goals by Tarasenko, and just the third goal by Pietrangelo in his last 43 games. Not that he got much help, but goalie Jake Allen looked jittery before being pulled after one period for Carter Hutton.
The Blues’ play in the back end was looser than the slots at your favorite casino. On Monday, after trading Stastny to Winnipeg, general manager Doug Armstrong bemoaned the team’s deteriorating defensive play.
“The quality chances we give up are staggering _ two-on-ones, and breakaways,” Armstrong said.
That was the case once again against Minnesota as it is becoming painfully clear that the Blues miss injured defensemen Joel Edmundson (broken forearm) and Robert Bortuzzo (knee).
Even so, as Bouwmeester put it, “When you let in this many goals, you can’t point at one or two guys. It’s usually a group effort. Different games it’s been different things. I mean, some games we’ve been playing too much in our end. Other games it’s been turnovers. . . .For us that’s very uncharacteristic because we’ve always prided ourselves on being a good defensive team. And that goes right through our lineup.”
After allowing a season-high eight goals Tuesday, the Blues have been outscored 25-6 since taking that now-infamous 3-0 lead into the third period Feb. 13 in Nashville _ a game they lost 4-3 in overtime.
“It’s unacceptable,” Pietrangelo said. “It’s the reality.”
About the only thing that went wrong for the Wild en route to tying a franchise record for goals in one game was a hat trick misfire, or miscalculation. After Eric Staal scored on a breakaway at the 7:46 mark of the third period, the crowd threw the obligatory hats to the ice, unaware that a scoring change had taken away a first period goal from Staal, awarding it to Mikael Granlund instead.
Didn’t matter. Just 3 minutes 8 seconds later, Staal scored again for a hat trick that counted. (The crowd of 19,261 at Bridgestone still had some hats left, which found their way to the ice for this one.)
It is now 18 days and counting since the Blues’ last won a hockey game _ a 5-2 victory in Winnipeg on Feb. 9. Their seven-game losing streak (0-6-1) matches their longest skid since the 2009-10 season.
On Tuesday, they completed a telling 10-game stretch against playoff contenders at 2-7-1, a skid that has pushed them down to 10th place in the Western Conference.
Bouwmeester has seen a lot of things in the game of hockey, but he looked about as close to shellshocked as one can be who’s played in 1,100-plus NHL games and participated in two Olympics.
“Right now, we’re so disconnected,” he said. “But we’ve got one tomorrow, so (bleep) it.”
That would be the Detroit Wings, Wednesday’s foe at Scottrade Center. Now 34-26-4 and still at 72 points, the Blues then play their next four on the road.
Tarasenko, who scored his 25th and 26th goals of the season, was similarly at a loss to make sense of things.
“Trust me, everyone is frustrated,” Tarasenko said. “I don’t know, it’s way more than frustrated now. I don’t know what to say. It’s embarrassing, and like I always say it’s all about our goalies. We can’t put those two guys in this spot.”
Making his third consecutive start in goal, and his sixth in the last eight games, Allen struggled again. But again, had next to no help. For starters, Vladimir Sobotka took a foolish holding penalty in his own end after losing the puck less than three minutes into the game.
Just six seconds into the power play _ that’s right, six seconds _ Minnesota was on the board when Jason Zucker tipped in a shot from Ryan Suter with the puck trickling into the net behind Allen.
Less than 4 1/2 minutes later, Granlund scored on the goal originally credited to Staal. St. Louis briefly got some life on Tarasenko’s first goal at 9:59 of the period. That ended the Blues’ scoreless streak, which dated back to a Tarasenko goal late in the second period against San Jose one week ago.
The Blues did have some energy offensively, but whenever they scored, the Wild always countered with a goal or two. . .or eight.
“Everybody knows we gotta be better,” Bouwmeester said. “For whatever reason, we can’t get over that hump right now.”
Statsny, by the way, had a goal and an assist Tuesday in his debut for Winnipeg.