This road trip is off to a rough start for the St. Louis Blues.
After losing Wednesday in Chicago, the Blues dropped another road game Saturday afternoon in Philadelphia, 4-1, after scoring the game’s first goal.
Yes, that was four unanswered goals against St. Louis, which has already been outscored 8-1 after the first two stops on its four-game road trip that continues with games in Pittsburgh on Sunday and then finishes up in Toronto on Tuesday.
The Blues (47-16-7, 101 points in 70 games) fell to 22-11-3 away from Scottrade Center this season. If there is a silver lining to these back-to-back defeats, it’s that following this road swing St. Louis will play seven of its remaining 10 regular-season games in the Gateway City.
MORE LINEUP CHANGES
Ken Hitchcock continued to juggle his lines, Tony La Russa-style, to try to find the most effective groupings with his roster.
The Blues’ coach went back to his old reliable No. 1 line of David Backes, Alexander Steen and T.J. Oshie, a trio that even when they didn’t start games together would be on the ice together late in third periods if the Blues were chasing a goal.
Jaden Schwartz moved down from the first line and was joined by Vladimir Sobotka and Patrik Berglund, who played right wing. The third line was Steve Ott, Derek Roy and Magnus Paajarvi, who returned from an injury. During the second period, Hitchcock flipped Berglund and Paajarvi between the second and third lines.
The fourth line had rookie Dmitrij Jaskin and Ryan Reaves on wings with Chris Porter playing center.
Brenden Morrow, Maxim Lapierre and Ian Cole were healthy scratches. Carlo Colaiacovo took Cole’s spot in the lineup.
Even though the Blues recorded 33 shots on goal Saturday, it’s safe to say more line changes are in their near future as Hitch continues to search for the most effective lines.
St. Louis got off to a great start Saturday when Schwartz scored a short-handed goal, assisted by Kevin Shattenkirk and Sobotka, in the first period. It was his 22nd goal of the year and his second shorty this season.
The Blues have only four short-handed goals this season, and Schwartz has scored half of them. Steen and Oshie have the others.
That was a good start for St. Louis’s penalty-killing units, which had allowed two goals on three chances in Chicago. But then Philly scored a power-play goal in the first minute of the second period to tie it up.
The Blues did kill four of the Flyers’ five power-play opportunities in the game, but have now allowed three power-play goals on eight chances during the first two games of this road trip.
While St. Louis was able to score a short-handed goal, it has had six power-play opportunities and seven shots on goal with the advantage Saturday that it wasn’t able to capitalize on. The Blues had a five-on-four advantage for 10:27 but weren’t able to sneak one past Flyers goalie Steve Mason.
St. Louis ranks among the best in the NHL in power-play percentage and penalty-kill percentage, but when those units aren’t getting the job done the Blues are in trouble.
Ryan Miller debuted his new mask Saturday, but his struggles on this road trip continued with his second straight loss.
After allowing four goals on 27 shots in Chicago, which led to him being yanked in favor of Brian Elliott midway through the third period, Miller surrendered three goals on just 18 shots on Saturday.
Statistically, those are his worst two starts with the Blues.
After going 7-0-1 in his first eight starts, he’s now lost two straight.
It’s not time to panic, but surely the anxiety level of fans is rising as the new St. Louis goalie hits his first rough patch with his new team.