It was one of those nights at Enterprise Center. A game that got away. A point left unclaimed. But can a loss be a win? Well, probably not. Technically, no. But with the Blues, the answer on Wednesday night was Yes.
To briefly recap: the Blues took an early1-0 lead on a Justin Faulk power play goal, lapsed and fell behind Philadelphia 3-1, rallied with their usual display of champion-pedigree character, but succumbed 4-3 in OT.
The Blues were shooting for a franchise-record 10th straight win at home, but came up short for several reasons including the failure to build on their 1-0 lead, a second-period deflation, an abysmally inept power play, and a blown line change in OT that set up the Flyers’ winning goal.
So in their last game at Enterprise until Feb. 4, the Blues couldn’t make home-ice history despite outshooting the Flyers 33-25 overall and 27 to 18 at 5-on-5.
And yet …
The Note’s third-period rally was yet another hardy display of their championship steel, with the Blues drawing even on late goals by Ryan O’Reilly and Alex Steen.
The defending Stanley Cup champions didn’t shut down. They turned up their work rate and desperation and erased a two-goal deficit.
This has become so routine that we expect it from the Blues by now. But I don’t take it for granted. The Blues can be worthy of admiration, even if the night is tinged with disappointment.
The Blues salvaged a point that elevated them into first place overall in the NHL, a skate blade ahead of Washington (68 points to 67.)
The Blues seized nine of a maximum 10 points on a 4-0-1 homestand, outscoring opponents 20-10 over the five games. The Blues still own the most home victories than any Western Conference team.
When the Blues returned to set up in St. Louis after an 0-2-1 road stumble they had 59 points in the standings. They led Vegas and Colorado by five points in the West standings. Dallas (52) and Arizona (52) were seven points back.
After turning out the arena lights Wednesday, the Blues led Dallas by 10, Arizona by 11 and Colorado by 12.
Vegas — which slapped the visiting Blues with a stinging loss on Jan. 4 — has lost four in a row since them and just fired coach Gerard Gallant.
(Side note: I wonder if Ryan Reaves is still chirping? After scoring a goal and putting on the predictable tough-guy act in Vegas during the victory over St. Louis, Reaves has no goals, no assists, and is a minus 2 during the Golden Knights’ four-game losing streak. And while Colorado is a superbly skilled and deep team that stormed the visiting Blues for a 7-3 win on the last road trip, why are the Avs spinning out during a 3-6-3 stretch?)
It wasn’t a perfect home stand for the Blues. So what? But it was damned impressive. Bottom line is, they widened their lead in the conference standings. With other acclaimed teams unable to play consistently well, the Blues remain ruthless (and steady) in their pursuit of points. They’ve exhibited a demonstrable ability to quickly rebound, recover and refocus.
After getting bitten Wednesday in overtime, coach Craig Berube and the boys were steamed after picking up only one point instead of two.
When the group of coaches and players hold each other to the highest of standards, and is tougher on themselves than anyone, it just reaffirms the special nature of the 2019-2020 Blues.
Don’t you love it that the Blues expected more, wanted more, and demanded more of themselves? Why settle for collecting a point when two were available?
“It’s a great home stand, no doubt about it,” Berube said. “But listen, we want all of it.”
And this from O’Reilly: “This is frustrating. We’re a better team than what we showed tonight. It’s disappointing. We could’ve had an extra point. I don’t think anyone’s happy. We need a response going into the next game. Tonight wasn’t good enough.”
Onto Colorado for Saturday’s matinee.
Even in defeat the Blues continue to entertain, encourage and earn respect. That’s rare.
Thanks for reading …