Perhaps a road swing toward a warmer climate is what the St. Louis Blues need to distance themselves from a recent cooling trend.
Before heading to Vegas on Thursday, the defending champions will pay a visit to California on Tuesday to face an Anaheim Ducks team they defeated soundly 4-1 at home on Jan. 13.
At the time, there was no reason to think trouble was ahead. The Blues extended their home winning streak to nine games with the victory over the Ducks, and backup goalie Jake Allen was a star for the day with 20 saves. Brayden Schenn had two assists.
Yet, troubles managed to start from there.
St. Louis followed that victory with a 4-3 overtime defeat to the Philadelphia Flyers, and the downturn began. The Blues are just 2-5-2 over their last nine games, although they did earn a point in Saturday’s 3-2 overtime defeat to the Dallas Stars.
Despite their recent woes, the Blues still lead the Central Division, and their 73 points are the most in the Western Conference.
“We’ve been playing good. We’ve had our chances,” the Blues’ Colton Parayko told reporters after Saturday’s OT loss. “We’re just in the middle of a little bit of a grind right now. That’s the way it goes. It’s a long season. We have a group in here that knows how to respond, and we know what to do. We’re in a good spot still. Nothing to be worried about, obviously.”
Parayko scored two goals Sunday against the Stars.
The Blues certainly know how to recover from a tough situation. It was far worse last season, and the Blues went from the bottom of the NHL to Stanley Cup champions in a matter of a few months.
“When we’re good, we’re hungry around the net,” Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. “We just got away from that.”
The Ducks have struggled for two seasons now, but they have been racing back toward a break-even record after a 3-0-2 road trip. It is the first time they have recorded points over five consecutive games since 2018. Over its last 10 games, Anaheim is 6-2-2.
The Ducks ended their road trip Sunday with a 3-2 victory at the Buffalo Sabres. Anaheim is 23-26-7 on the season after they were 17-24-5 as recently as Jan. 13.
Like the Blues, the Ducks’ turnaround came immediately after the teams played each other at St. Louis.
In the victory over the Sabres on Sunday, the Ducks leaned on their stars as Jakob Silfverberg and Ryan Getzlaf scored in the first period. Nick Ritchie also had an early goal as the Ducks squeezed all of their production into a 5:45 stretch of the first period.
Veteran goalie Ryan Miller stopped 31 of 33 Sabres shots in his return to Buffalo, including 15 in the third period. Miller spent his first 11 seasons with the Sabres.
“I think we’re learning lessons, for sure,” Ducks coach Dallas Eakins said, according to NHL.com. “To have a lead going into the third is something we haven’t been afforded a whole bunch of this year. It’s not like we’ve had great practice at protecting leads, and so that certainly is a positive, even though I’m not sure our third period was the greatest one. But we will learn some lessons there.”
–Field Level Media