In a fitting final act to the Blues’ 4-1 loss to Anaheim on Friday, David Perron chased Anaheim’s Derek Grant down the ice, trying to prevent an empty-net goal that sealed the Blues’ fate.
After Grant put the puck in the net, Perron took his stick and whacked it against the goal, leaving his blade sitting forlornly just outside the crease.
The Blues scoring troubles continued, and they have reached a seemingly critical level. While the Blues avoided their second consecutive shutout, they couldn’t avoid their third consecutive loss and they have won just two of their past 10 games, one of them coming in a shootout. They have scored one goal or less in six of their past seven games.
Times are tough and they keep getting tougher. In the past two games, the Blues have 71 shots on goal and one goal. Anaheim’s win was its first in regulation since Feb. 11.
“It’s not from the lack of trying, or a lack of effort,” said center Brayden Schenn, who also got in his second fight in as many days. “When things aren’t going your way offensively, the shots are there but I don’t think we have enough high-quality shots or second chances, and getting guys and pucks to the net at the right time.”
“It’s traffic,” coach Craig Berube said. “We need more traffic. We need to go to the net harder. You’ve got to make it more difficult on the goalie than we are right now. We’re getting good quality, lots of quality, but it’s two nights in a row where the goalie out-competed us. That’s kind of how I look at it.”
The night began with memories of Bobby Plager, the beloved Blue who died on Wednesday of a cardiac event while driving on Highway 40 (Interstate 64). And after 54 years with the franchise, there were no shortage of memories when it came to Plager.
The Blues players took the ice for warmups in the team’s powder blue heritage jerseys, all with Plager and No. 5 on the back. The team’s game jerseys for the remainder of this season will have a 5 inside a heart on the right breast.
Kelly Chase, a Plager disciple, narrated a tribute to his former minor-league coach and long-time friend on the scoreboard before the game, as both teams stood on each end of the rink, watching, and the crowd of about 4,000 in Enterprise Center responded with a standing ovation. That segued into a moment of silence for Plager. When that was done, members of the Plager family, who were assembled in the stands on the concourse level, were introduced, and the Blues players came over to the glass to salute them. The Blues alumni suite seemed more crowded than usual.
Throughout the game, at most stoppages of play and in both intermissions, it was a steady tribute to Plager. Retired NBC hockey broadcaster Mike Emrick recorded a message, part tribute to Plager, part inspiration to Blues fans that the sadness will be fleeting and the memories of the good times will win out.
There haven’t been many good times for the Blues lately. After a scoreless first period, the Blues fell behind early in the second when a puck caromed into the net off the skate of Sam Steel. But the goal that did the Blues in came with 53 seconds to go in the second. Torey Krug had the puck in the corner but Anaheim’s Ryan Getzlaf got it loose. The puck went to Max Jones, who with a little bit of stickwork got the puck around Jordan Binnington, who played both ends of the back-to-backs, and into the net.
“Take away my dumb play there in the second period and it’s a one-goal game going into the third,” said Krug. “That’s a tough play by me. I’ve got to make that, especially for our team. We were rolling there. So I’ll take ownership on that. Just got to be better.”
“It’s an unnecessary goal, all around,” Berube said. “It’s just a lack of urgency at a critical moment in the game.”
The Blues avoided the shutout — and ended their scoring drought at 144 minutes, 8 seconds — when Ryan O’Reilly put in a rebound on a delayed penalty with 9:10 to go, but a second goal never seemed very imminent. The Blues couldn’t get Binnington out of the net until there was 1:13 to play and 10 seconds later, Grant scored to clinch it. Anaheim then got another empty-netter to make it look lopsided.
There was one shred of good news Friday: there was an addition to the Plager family with the birth of a great grandson to Barclay Plager, Bobby’s brother and another Blues legend, Sullivan Barclay Hecht. The birth came on what would have been Barclay’s 80th birthday.
Defenseman Colton Parayko is closer to getting back in the lineup. “He is making progress,” Berube said. “He skated again today. He’s feeling better. I’m not sure the return on him, that’s up in the air still, so we’re going day by day with him right now.”
• Tyler Bozak was back in the lineup after missing three games with an upper-body injury. He played on the fourth line with Jacob de la Rose and Kyle Clifford. Niko Mikkola came in for Jake Walman. With Dakota Joshua and Walman back on the taxi squad, Sammy Blais was the only healthy scratch.
• David Backes, on the Anaheim taxi squad, did not play.
• The Blues’ temporary AHL affiliate in Utica had its two games for this weekend postponed because of COVID protocols within the team. The Comets, who the Blues are sharing with Vancouver this season, have had seven games postponed and have been off since March 10. Their next scheduled game is Wednesday.