The St. Louis Blues opened regular season action Saturday night against the Nashville Predators. The game, a disappointing 4-2 loss, featured David Backes in his debut as captain. Despite the roaring crowd inside Scottrade Center, turnovers, bad penalties and failure to capitalize on the power play doomed St. Louis’s effort.
The most glaring problem of the night for St. Louis was Jaroslav Halak. Halak, brought in to be the crease savior in a trade with Montreal prior to the 2010-11 season, was abysmal. Halak faced just 15 shots on goal, allowing three goals through three periods. The Predators added an empty netter in the last two minutes of the third, squashing any hope the Blues had of tying the game. This past offseason, the Blues spent significant money and energy courting free agents Jamie Langenbrunner and Jason Arnott to join the squad and mentor the younger players. Unless Halak performs at a higher level, the offseason moves will not help the Blues win any games.
The Blues suffered a blow in the second period when Carlo Colaiacovo went into the boards after being tripped. Blake Geoffrion went to the box, and Colaiacovo left the game with an undisclosed upper body energy. Head coach David Payne commented in his postgame interview that Colaiacovo would be reassessed in the morning to determine the severity of his injury.
Even though the night was full of bad luck and bad performances, several positives emerged. Payne has found success with his line combinations; the T.J. Oshie/Patrik Berglund/Chris Stewart line generated scoring chances, cycled the puck well, and connected for the first goal of the season for the young team. With speed, size, and exceptional puckhandling skills, every player on the Oshie/Berglund/Stewart line looks poised to break out. The chemistry between the three is off-the-charts; blind passes were executed tape-to-tape, and Oshie and Berglund looked like they have been playing together for years.
Another notable duo with chemistry: Alex Steen and Jason Arnott. Slotted next to each other on the third line, Arnott and Steen read each other’s moves all night and consistently worked the offensive zone successfully. Arnott used his size to maneuver around the net, and Steen’s gritty play along the boards created several scoring chances for himself and Arnott. Payne should look to keep the pair together.
All in all, Blues fans should not get worked up over one game. There is room for improvement, and the St. Louis coaching staff will look to address the Blues’ shortcomings moving forward. On paper, the Blues are a deep and talented team; if they want to convey that on the ice, their performance must be amped up to a level different than what was displayed at home Saturday night.