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Well this was a game of “if only’s”. If only the Blues hadn’t presented the Hawks with a 2 goal lead in the first period. If only the officials hadn’t made so many bad decisions. If only the Blues could have solved the Hawks goaltender, Niemi, who had a stunning game. If only the Blues wouldn’t give up so many turnovers.
The game was never boring, never routine. The Blues weren’t embarrassed by the Hawks – they stayed with them, creating enough chances to win the game but being denied by a combination of superb goaltending by Niemi and some very strange if not downright absurd officiating. Patrick Sharp scored the Hawks first goal, following a turnover by the Blues. An out of position Chris Mason had no chance as Toews found Sharp in front of goal.
The Hawks second goal was a bit like watching a comedy routine – except the joke was on the Blues. Roman Polak and TJ Oshie both went for the puck and Oshie tripped over Polak. The puck broke free and the Hawks broke away with Toews scoring past Mason. The first period was also graced by two fights – with rather unusual players being involved. Barret Jackman squared off against Cam Barker – not a great fight because Barker decided he’d rather be involved in a wrestling match and tried to hug onto Jackman the whole time. Jackman managed to break an arm free and land a nice punch on Barker who fell to the ice.
The second fight occured near the end of the period when Eric Brewer took exception to Andrew Ladd trying to hastle Chris Mason. Brewer took charge, dropped the gloves and after a brief battle, ended up on one knee before getting up and landing a final punch that caused both of them to end up on the ice. Good to see the Captain leading from the front.
A hard fought but scoreless second period once again saw the Blues outshoot the Hawks only to be denied by the acrobatics of Niemi. This period also saw one of the strange officiating decisions – when the Blues actually scored only for the goal to be waved off. A perfectly good goal denied because the referree was very poorly placed and thought the play was dead. He was the only one in the building who thought so. We also had a blatant interference on Brad Winchester that went uncalled. Add this to the first period drama when Winchester was tripped and, as he fell to the ice, his stick came up – the official insanely called a high stick penalty on Winchester – then you start to get an inkling of the idiocy that seems to happen as regards NHL officiating. However. That’s as maybe because the Blues went in at the end of the second period still 2-0 down.
The Blues pulled a goal back in the third period whilst on a 5 on 3 powerplay – Oshie and Perron combining to get the puck to Steen who unleashed another of his trademark lasers that Niemi had no chance with. It was too little too late though and the Blues hard work came to nothing. They deserved at least a point in this game – but due to a combination of Niemi, turnovers, poor decisions by forwards… not forgetting awful officiating – they didn’t get it. However, if the Blues lose out on a playoff spot, it won’t be the officiating that gets the blame. The Blues put themselves in a poor position by, once again, giving up two early goals to high quality opponents. You can also point to the Blues utterly abysmal home record, their previous inability to hold onto a lead (how many games were the Blues up by 3 goals only to lose the game?), the excessive turnovers, sloppy defensive play, forwards unable to score…the list goes on and on.
For most of the season, the Blues have not been getting scoring by players whose job it is to put the puck in the back of the net. You can forgive the youngsters – Oshie, Berglund etc because they were fast tracked to the NHL, didn’t spend time in the AHL learning their game and have gone through the classic “sophomore slump”. David Perron is building up the points though – and Oshie and Berglund are now playing much better. The youngsters are getting there. We just need a little patience. The issues seem to be with the older players. Kariya – came back from surgery pronouncing himself better than before yet hasn’t scored on home ice for an eternity. Brad Boyes – can’t seem to buy a goal at the moment. The Blues need a scorer – and I’m not sure that Boyes is the answer. Management, thankfully, appear to recognise the needs of the team – being revealed earlier this week as being the “mystery” team involved in the bidding for Kovalchuk. Quite rightly, the Blues balked at giving up too much for a “rental” player. Free agency is another matter – it’ll be interesting to see how the trade deadline pans out for the Blues … not to mention the off season.
Anyway – your game reports:
And if, like me, you’re still not in a happy place following some of the incidents in last night’s game then here’s a little something to cheer you up. Our Captain. Leading from the front (courtesy of hockeyfights.com):