Blues search for offense continues vs. Blue Jackets
COLUMBUS, Ohio — The St. Louis Blues take on the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday at Nationwide Arena to close out the season series between the two teams.
The Blues (7-5-3) dropped a 3-1 decision to the Central Division-rival Nashville Predators on Thursday. They have only scored twice in their last two games, with the paucity of goals beginning to be an issue that needs to be addressed.
“I think after a while you start living on one goal, you're not going to win many games,” coach Ken Hitchcock told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
The Blues have scored one goal or fewer in eight of their 15 games this season and two goals just twice in the last 12 games. St. Louis has allowed six more goals than it scored.
“We had chances to score more than one goal,” left winger Jaden Schwartz said to the Post-Dispatch. “We couldn't find a way and only end up scoring one. It's tough to keep winning when you only score one or two goals.”
In addition to low goal-scoring, the Blues are taking too many penalties. They've taken two too-many-men-on-the-ice penalties in the last two games, and are getting called for delay-of-game penalties for flipping the puck into the stands as well.
“Scoring goals is hard and it's a matter of sacrificing your body,” St. Louis right winger Scottie Upshall said. “It's a matter of going to the net and winning puck battles, things we've been good at doing. Right now, we're taking the easy way out.”
The Blue Jackets (6-4-2) are coming off a 5-2 loss at the Boston Bruins on Thursday. Boston scored four goals in a span of 4:01 in the first period, chasing goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky after making five saves on nine shots.
Uncharacteristically, Columbus committed numerous unforced turnovers and saw errant passes by both the forwards and defensemen.
“It was forwards, it was defensemen … and the worst part is we hang out Bob in a game like that when he's been playing so well,” Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno said to the Columbus Dispatch. “We hung him out to dry.”
The Blue Jackets are hoping the loss at Boston can be marked as an aberration, and not a precursor of a deeper issue. They have been playing consistent hockey and getting some fortuitous puck bounces through the 11 games played prior to Thursday's contest.
“We're out of the game pretty quickly,” coach John Tortorella told the Dispatch. “We haven't been in very many of those games this year. We take our medicine (in Boston), regroup on Friday (an off day) and start again on Saturday.”
Columbus has offensive firepower with center Alexander Wennberg, rookie defenseman Zach Werenski and left wingers Foligno and Brandon Saad all with double digits in points. The Blue Jackets have scored nine more goals than they've allowed this season.
Wennberg has a league-leading 13 assists in 12 games entering play on Friday. He also leads the team in points (14), with Foligno leading Columbus with five goals. Werenski has three goals and eight assists and Saad has four goals and six assists.
Among NHL rookies, Werenski is second in assists and third in points entering play on Friday.