There were plenty of things to be excited about when the Blues took on the Philadelphia Flyers in Philadelphia. First, it was Brayden Schenn’s first return to the city where he had played for 7 years prior to his trade to St. Louis in the offseason. Since moving to St. Louis, Schenn is on pace to break his points record of 59 in 80 games, as he already has 42 in 43, nearly a point per game. He is also on pace to break his season goals record of 26 in 80 games, as he already has 17 as the Blues cross the early point of the second half. Brayden Schenn has certainly excelled with St. Louis, and a return to Philadelphia could be good for the forward who has helped keep the Blues afloat this season. More about Brayden Schenn’s success in St. Louis will be coming soon. Next, the Blues had decided to go with Jake Allen in net today rather than Carter Hutton, who has started the last three games and won all three due to his stellar performance. This is not because the Blues are looking to give Allen the starting job back. It is because the Blues were to take on the Washington Capitals the next day, and they would rather Hutton start against the tougher team in Washington. This weekend of Blues hockey was destined to be a great time, and the Blues certainly were not looking to disappoint.
For the first time in two games, the opposing team scored first. The Flyers took the 1-0 lead when a shot by Scott Laughton in the slot went over the shoulder of Jake Allen, who was hugging the post and did not move to react to the shot like expected. This goal was scored on the first shot of the game by either side, which did not bode well for Jake Allen to start off the game. The Flyers scored again, though this was not so much Jake Allen’s fault as Colton Parayko’s. A shot by Claude Giroux in the slot ricocheted off of Parayko at the last second, and Jake Allen did not have time to adjust to the quick deflection off of his own teammate, causing the puck to flail into the net for the Flyers’ second goal of the game. The Blues still had 0 shots on goal at this point in the game. The Blues managed to get a few more shots on goal, though the Flyers got way more, and the Blues were outshot 15-7. The Blues found themselves down 2-0 as the first period came to a close, a big hole to dig out of early on.
The game would continue to spiral downward from that point. Two more goals, one by Weal and another by Couturier would put the Blues down 4-0 in the second period. The Blues did get some relief from Ivan Barbashev, whose first goal of the 2017 made it 4-1. His goal was scored on a 2-on-1 breakaway. Paul Stastny carried the puck into the zone, before passing it across the center of the ice to Barbashev, whose back-handed shot flew just under the open glove of Flyers goalie and former Blue Brian Elliott. The Blues found themselves in an even larger hole as the period ended, and went into the third period with hopes of an unlikely comeback.
Early in the third period, Paul Stastny tallied his ninth goal of the season. Vladimir Tarasenko entered the zone with the puck on his stick while being chased by a Flyer the entire way. Tarasenko risked a no-look pass across the ice, and thankfully, Stastny was right on Elliott’s doorstep and deposited the puck into the wide-open net. This made it 4-2, and through ten minutes of the last period, it seemed as though the scoring was done for both sides. Then, Wayne Simmonds made it 5-2 with his fourteenth of the year. Claude Giroux originally had the puck, though after getting knocked to the ice by Stastny, he managed to get a pass to Sean Gostisbehere, who fired a shot from the red line. Simmonds was standing in front of the goal crease, and was there to tip Gosisbehere’s shot past him to add to the Flyers lead. Colton Parayko gave the Blues a bit more hope when he scored his fourth of the year, his slapshot from the red line finding a hole in Elliott’s stance and landing right into the net to make it 5-3. However, Couturier would get his second of the game and his twenty-first of the season with an empty netter that made it 6-3, ultimately ending the Blues’ efforts to attempt a comeback. The first game of the weekend did not go so well for the Blues, and the Flyers swept the season series between the two clubs. The Blues were looking to gain a bit more life with Hutton in net against the Capitals the next day, and learn from the game they had let get away from them so early.
The Washington Capitals are, in terms of standings, a better team than the Flyers. The Capitals lead the Eastern Conference Metropolitan Division, while the Flyers were seventh. However, this is a division that is very tight, last place only being out of first place by 9 points and three teams tied with 46 points for last place. The Blues are more evenly matched with a team like the Capitals, but after facing a worse team and losing the day before, many were uncertain the Blues could pull this one off. However, the Blues must have had different thoughts towards this game than the one against the Flyers.
The Capitals opened the scoring, the first time that Hutton has allowed the other team to score first in his last 3 games. This was late in the first period, when a shot by Capitals captain Alexander Ovechkin was aimed towards the goal. Brett Connolly cashed in his ninth of the season when he tipped the puck past Hutton to give the Capitals a 1-0 lead, a lead that they took into the second period as the first period closed without the Blues recording one goal. Even though they were down early, the Blues were not in nearly as big a hole as they had been in the game the day before, which may not have been much of an improvement, but it was an improvement nonetheless.
Early in the second period, the Blues got the life they needed when assistant captain Vladimir Tarasenko scored his eighteenth of the season. Joel Edmunson entered the zone with a puck, and after running into a Capitals player, he chose to pass the puck back to Ivan Barbashev, who caught a glimpse of Tarasenko open in the slot and passed it to the Blues star. Tarasenko’s snap shot went past the blocker of Capitals goalie Braden Holtby, tying the game 1-1 in the second period. Soon after, Alexander Steen would give the Blues the lead, recording his sixth of the season. Vladimir Tarasenko had the puck at first, but after getting harassed by a Capitals defender, he managed to get the puck to the wide-open Alex Pietrangelo, who set up the play. He passed the puck to Brayden Schenn on the left side of the Blues offensive zone, and Schenn shot the puck towards the goal. The puck deflected off of Steen, who was in front of the crease, and went into the net, giving the Blues the 2-1 lead, which they carried into the third period. The Blues had a lead for the first time in 5 periods.
This lead was short-lived when Alexander Ovechkin tied the game with his twenty-seventh of the year. The Capitals won the faceoff in their offensive zone, and the puck went to John Carlson, who would add to his team-leading assists total when he passed the puck to Alexander Ovechkin, who the Blues had accidentally left wide open. His slap shot sailed over the glove of Carter Hutton and into the net to tie the game 2-2. Ten minutes later, Lars Eller would give the Capitals the 3-2 lead with his sixth of the season. T.J. Oshie entered the zone with the puck, and he fired it towards the net. Hutton made the pad save, but he gave up a big rebound right to Eller, who fired the puck past Hutton and into the net to give the Capitals the lead once more. The Blues found themselves stuck in a hole late in the third, and it began to feel like déjà vu. This time, though, the Blues didmount a comeback. Carl Gunnarsson tied the game with his fourth of the season. Patrik Berglund left the puck for Gunnarsson near the red line, and Carl sent a wrist shot towards the net, hoping for a deflection or a tip in. He got the deflection, but not from one of his fellow teammates. The puck deflected off of Capitals captain Alexander Ovechkin and went under the pad of Holtby, tying the game 3-3.
The game took more than regulation to decide, and each team got a point when the game went into overtime. The Blues dominated for the majority of overtime, but a slash to Colton Parayko caused his stick to break as he was fighting for the puck. As Parayko had to quickly skate back to the bench to get his stick, his man, Nicklas Backstrom, was left wide open. The puck was passed to Backstrom by Oshie, and he was handed a breakaway. Backstrom shot the puck just under the right arm of Hutton, sealing the win for the Capitals in overtime.
Though there was speculation as to why the slash was not called on Parayko, and also speculation as to why the Blues chose such an inopportune time for a line change, out of the two games this weekend, the Blues only got one point out of it. If the Blues want to be a serious contender and want other teams to take them seriously as well, then they need something to change. The way they are playing is not gaining them any ground in the standings. We know this team is capable of great things. We saw these great things in October. This team is capable of performing to that level again, and it is not unreasonable to believe that their problem is with their mindset and not their efforts. The Blues play again tomorrow against the Florida Panthers at 7:00 PM Central, a game the Blues should win. If the Blues focus on one game at a time, it may help them in the long run.