Pivotal points slip away as Blues bit by early deficits, home struggles

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ST. LOUIS – The St. Louis Blues missed out on a massive opportunity to gain ground for a playoff push, and the timing does not particularly play well in their favor.

St. Louis wrapped up a seven-game homestand Tuesday with a 5-3 loss to the Buffalo Sabres, winning only three times during their longest stretch of the season on home ice.

The latest setback moves St. Louis to 10-12-2 at the Enterprise Center this season and puts the Blues on pace for their worst production at home (17 projected wins) in a non-shortened season since the 2008-2009 campaign.

Frustration has mounted following back-to-back losses to non-playoff-picture teams in the Sabres and Chicago Blackhawks.

“Those are the games you need to win,” said Blues forward Brayden Schenn. “Four valuable points. Obviously, it’s not good enough.”

In both cases, the Blues fell behind quickly in the form of a three-goal deficit.

“You can’t do it in this league, doesn’t matter who you’re playing against,” said defenseman Torey Krug, who just returned from a weeks-long injury Tuesday. “You give anyone three or four goals, it’s too tough to come back. I know we showed some fight and at times we’re capable of it, but when points are at a premium, we can’t put ourselves in that position. We definitely need a better start.”

The Blues eventually rallied back in both games, trimming their deficits to one goal late in each contest. The late pushes weren’t enough, and St. Louis closed out its last homestand before All-Star break with carbon-copy narratives in identical 5-3 losses.

“You can’t do that two games in a row and expect to come back,” said Schenn. “Obviously you can make pushes, but the reality is it’s hard to come back from 3-0 or 4-0 in this league.”

Slow starts and large deficits have plagued the Blues throughout the 2022-23 campaign, well prior to their latest pair of losses.

  • On Oct. 31, the Blues allowed five unanswered goals to the Los Angeles Kings before the game’s halfway point.
  • On Nov. 25, the Blues allowed four goals and scored just once against the Buffalo Sabres before the game’s halfway point, with Buffalo leading 18 seconds into the contest.
  • On Nov. 25, the Blues allowed three unanswered goals to the Tampa Bay Lightning less than 12 minutes into the games.
  • On Dec. 3, the Blues allowed four goals and scored just once against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first period, plus some spare change.
  • On Dec. 21, the Blues allowed four answered goals to the Seattle Kraken through the first two periods.

“It’s frustrating with the starts more than anything, the mistakes,” said head coach Craig Berube. “It’s not being prepared to play. [The Blues] prepared to play, and they prepare themselves to play. It’s just mistakes at the start of games that’s in our net. We got to stop doing that. We got to be smarter than that.”

“I think you never question the character or how hard guys work, but you got to be smarter and understand what’s going to happen right from the puck drop,” said Krug. “It’s frustrating for sure because we are in those games. You just can’t put yourself in that position to begin.”

“It’s got to be better,” said forward Ivan Barbashev after Saturday’s loss to the Blackhawks. “It happens quite a lot when we play teams in the bottom of the league. We just got to be more prepared.”

The Blues are 11th in the Western Conference with a 23-33-3 record (49 points) and currently six points out of a playoff spot. Some contenders around them hold up to two games in hand.

After some spoiled opportunities at home, the Blues play three more road games before the All-Star break, starting Thursday against a non-playoff team in the Arizona Coyotes.

“We need to gather points and chase teams,” said Schenn. “Teams are winning ahead of us. We’ve got three games to bridge the gap before the break and we’re able to play hard on the road.”

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