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A Tough Road For the Blues

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So remember the first couple games of the season, when I was positively giddy over how the Blues started out for 2010-2011? They were playing outstanding defense, shooting the puck aggressively, and the acquisition of Jaroslav Halak looked like a masterstroke by the front office. Best of all, the Blues had won their first two home games of the year, seemingly spitting in the face of last year's biggest bugaboo, when they couldn't buy a win at Scottrade Center despite being a formidable squad on the road. 

Well, apparently when I was going through my little cheer routine ("Ready? O-Kay! Give me a Bee! Give me an Ell!"), I neglected to specify for the Blues that playing better hockey at home did not mean they should reverse the trend fully and start losing on the road this season. 

On their recent road trip, the Blues went winless. Three games, three losses, two to divisional foes, and the Blues suddenly find themselves sitting down at the bottom of the division once again. 

Like so many of their bad stretches over the past couple seasons, this one started in Nashville. Why exactly the Blues can't beat the Predators I don't quite understand, but that certainly seems to be the way the wind is blowing these days. The one real saving grace of this rough patch for the Blues has been the fact that two of the three losses have been of the overtime variety, so at least they gained the one point for each. 

So what has been the culprit in the Blues' sudden losing streak? They've played tight on both offense and defense, but the biggest issue has been downright mediocre play in the net. After the brilliant start at home, in which he allowed just two goals in the first two games, Halak did not look good at all against Nashville. Ty Conklin, getting his first start of the year, didn't play all that well against Dallas. Worst of all was his shootout performance, in which he let in one of the weakest goals I've ever seen in my life. Halak did play better against the Blackhawks, shutting them out for the first two periods, but then allowed Marian Hossa to go off for two goals in the third period to tie it up before Patrick Sharp plugged home the game winner in overtime. 

Overall, Halak has still looked very good, but the production has been decidedly mediocre, with a .909 save percentage. Those 4 goals allowed on just 22 shots against Nashville definitely doesn't help matters any. Conklin is alright as a backup, but I don't want to see any more of him than we have to. 

I don't think there's any reason to be concerned just yet about the Blues, but they certainly haven't looked nearly as confident or assertive since going on the road. In the end, though, they aren't going to score five goals a night; no hockey team does. I think they'll certainly score enough to win, so long as the goaltending is closer to what we saw at home than the performances at Nashville and Dallas. 

And maybe some home cooking will help with that; the Blues are back home for a two-game set Friday and Saturday. They'll get another shot at those pesky Blackhawks, and then see the ultra-talented Pittsburgh Penguins. If they plan on getting back on track to being the team they looked like those first two games of the season, the Blues are going to need a fresh infusion of confidence and some better net play. 


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