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A Little More Blue- St.Louis 2, Red Wings 1

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The Blues grind their way to a must-win over the Red Wings

Minnesota Wild v St. Louis Blues Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

Puck Drop

The Red Wings head to St.Louis tonight, as the Blues continue to their surprise free fall in the standings and the Wings, well, aren’t going anywhere.

Last night the Blues lost in Minnesota 8 to 3. Yes, you don’t need your eyes checked, the Minnesota Wild scored 8 goals in one game vs. a team that supposedly had one of the better defenses entering the season and at one point seemed to have a top tier goaltending tandem between Jake Allen and Carter Hutton. In allowing 8 goals Allen was chased and it put a likely exclamation on their 7 game losing streak and their first game since trading team leader Paul Stastny.

The Wings will be playing their first game since trading Tomas Tatar to the Vegas Golden Knights for three draft picks including a 1st rounder. This leaves a massive 25 goal hole in the line up. Tonight it’s a matter Tyler Bertuzzi getting a bump up the line up and Martin Frk being reinserted after a smattering of healthy scratches and injuries. I can’t say this will exactly be the new look Red Wings despite Tatar’s impact but I’ll be watching to see if Bertuzzi relishes a larger role and Frk steps up in getting another chance.

First Period

St.Louis is clearly looking agitated and more energized after last night’s embarrassment. Who knows what Wings team we’ll be getting tonight, if they’ll be up to the challenge. Will it be a Helene St.James “these boys wont give up” special, or the dull numbed feeling this team gives you by the end of the 1st some nights?

Detroit has been countering well, bending not breaking. Already the Larkin line with Bertuzzi is really buzzing with a couple quick shots. Athanasiou seems to like having Bertuzzi clearing out some ice for him. I can see some chemistry developing between these two down the stretch.

Frk has already blasted off a couple shot attempts. He’s trying to get himself more engaged in the play instead of just getting in position to fire one-timers. Frankly I wouldn’t mind if he set himself up to keep firing that shot but I understand Blashill wants him to be an even-strength player.

And now he definitely wont be on this special teams shift as he goes off for tripping on Nikita Soshnikov. It’s worth remembering, Soshnikov was acquired from Toronto when the Blues were still buyers on the trade market....just the other week. The Wings have a great, aggressive penalty kill. The Blues are beginning to taper off again.

The period ends with Kyle Brodziak getting a couple quick scoring chances on a rush as Howard confidently plays it away.

Good period for the Wings that ends scoreless but them nearly doubling the Blues in shots 15-8.

Second Period

Wow this period gets off to quite a start St.Louis blocking a shot and Very Large Hockey Boy Colton Parayko jumping up in the play to start the rush. He fights off Zetterberg driving the puck straight into Howard. After another rebound attempt, Scottie Upshall (who, yeah I forget is still in the league too) is able to bang it in through the scrum. 1-0 Blues on a huge defensive breakdown by the Wings.

The very next shift the Blues get a couple more scoring chances with Schwartz crashing the net. Good aggressive hockey by a team that desperately needs a win. The Wings are struggling to protect the puck and their goalie early in this period.

Larkin is driven hard into the boards by Soshnikov after trying to enter the zone against him and two other Blues. Larkin will be drawing a penalty instead of taking one for once—as much as I love Larkin it’s unfortunately become fair criticism. What worries me is Larkin went into the boards awkward and got up favoring his shoulder. Hopefully it’s just sore. He’s right back out there on the power play so it appears that’s the case.

Hutton makes a beautiful shoulder save on a power play chance by Nyquist who had room and a screen alone beneath the circle. That ends up being another failed power play. What’s new?

The Wings end the period back on their heels with St.Louis really taking control following their successful penalty kill. They have Detroit pinned in the zone and seem to be doing the little things right; winning corner battles, controlling both fronts of the net, getting in shooting and passing lanes. It culminated in a scary chance for Schwartz inside the circle that may’ve been blocked just enough by Glendening to send it wide. This period as a whole was a great response compared to a 1st where they started strong and fell off. The Wings still hold the edge in shots by the Blues are certainly controlling play as we stand.

We’ll go to the 3rd period with the Blues up 1-0.

Third Period

It’s been a pretty quiet start to the period until the Wings finally get some sustained pressure around 4 minutes in. Daley gets a quality scoring chance short side on Hutton, really one of the very few times he’s truly been tested despite Detroit getting so many pucks to the net.

Howard has maybe a skate break or has gotten some cramps, but like Kronwall, he’s fallen and he can’t get up. Somehow after three or four swings St.Louis had at a flailing Howard with an open net, Mantha knocked away a puck that was heading over the line, saving a goal. On the replay it appears Jaskin was pushed into Howard by DeKeyser. Wow, imagine the lost challenge by Blashill had the puck gone in.

What a stop by Hutton as again Nyquist is dangerous around the net setting up Zetterberg who made a gorgeous move thwarted by a slightly more gorgeous toe save. That was huge. Maybe the play of the game.

The Blues finally break the Wings solid minute of possession and just like that, Schwartz, who’s been looming deep in the Red Wings zone the entire game makes a strong move on the puck around the net setting up Alex Pietrangelo for one-timer beating Howard high short side. Schwartz seemed due to either create or score a goal. He’s been around the net all night and definitely been the Blues best forward. It shows there, 2-0 Blues with just under five minutes left in regulation.

Aggressive move by Blashill to pull Howard with over 3:30 remaining. The Wings get a draw in the Blues zone but it goes nowhere. Larkin was able to start the play back up almost two minutes later driving the zone again vs. three Blues defenders. Bertuzzi rang his set up off the post then Athanasiou ripped the rebound in past Hutton. AA is beginning to heat up at the end of the season just like last year.

Now Athanasiou tries to draw a trip on Schwartz and they both end up going to the box. AA for embellishment and Schwartz for the trip. I guess he tried a little too hard. This brings us to a 5 on 4 for the Wings with 1:20 away.

And now Doc Emerick is talking about how badly the Wings need these 2 points. So anyone who might’ve been missing FSN’s coverage tonight, there’s your fix.

The Wings have multiple shots blocked and a couple pucks trickle through the crease. It looks like the Wings will come up just short. Huge win for the Blues breaking their 7 game losing streak....maybe a good loss for the Wings?

Final

Blues-2

Red Wings-1

Tonight the Blues were able getting back to basics. Oddly they emerged as a high volume shooting, possession team last season. This year they’ve slipped back into looking like a traditional Ken Hitchcock Blues team (or a Mike Yeo coached Wild team). Tonight that grinding, gnashing, slogging style paid off in this match up. The Wings got beat in the corners and in front of both nets, were held to the outside moving and shooting the puck, St.Louis blocked 23 shots. All this with the Wings outshooting them by 11 shots (36 total), however the quality of shots weren’t there. Hutton made a handful of big saves when he needed to but he far from stole this game for them.

Positively for the Wings, Zetterberg’s line was fantastic as him, Nyquist and Mantha combined for multiple scoring chances and controlled the puck most shifts. Larkin again shined as a better forward for the Wings, setting up the only goal with a great entry, and while he struggled to get to the middle most shifts, he was giving the Blues defense all they could handle.

At this point I’m focusing on individual performances and while this was another loss, I did see some good things to keep looking forward to.