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Same old song and dance for Blues with mistakes, poor puck plays that resulted in another home loss, 5-3 against Sabres

Team falls behind 3-0 in first, 4-0 in game, ends seven-game homestand 3-4-0
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ST. LOUIS -- Brayden Schenn was the first to step to the media scrum again on Tuesday, trying to explain another loss -- another home loss.

Blues forward Ivan Barbashev (49) takes a shot under the watchful eye of Sabres defenseman Owen Power during Buffalo's 5-3 win over St. Louis Tuesday at Enterprise Center.

Blues forward Ivan Barbashev (49) takes a shot under the watchful eye of Sabres defenseman Owen Power during Buffalo's 5-3 win over St. Louis Tuesday at Enterprise Center.

And after another hard-to-explain 5-3 loss to the Buffalo Sabres, one in which the Blues (23-22-3) once again dug themselves a hole, only to tease the home crowd before succumbing to defeat, it seems like things all boil down to the same mistakes, same blunders, same mishaps -- whatever you want to call them -- are what players and coach Craig Berube are trying to explain afterwards.

It's either turning pucks over, giving up the slot for Grade A chances, not making good puck plays, can't move the puck from zone to zone, inability to make crisp, tape-to-tape passes ... you name it, the Blues seem to allow it.

For the second straight game, the Blues fell behind early in the game. Saturday was as a result of mistakes against the Chicago Blackhawks despite outshooting them 9-0 to start, when they fell behind 2-0 in the first, eventually 3-0 at one point and 4-1 before a 5-3 final despite outshooting Chicago 32-18.

On Tuesday, it was a case of not being prepared to play and puck-watching.

Now one might ask, 'How does this happen,' to a team in desperate need of points? And how does it happen after fumbling two points away to the second-worst team in the league?

They're good questions to ask, but when it comes to the 2022-23 Blues, it's par for the course.

"It’s starting on time," said forward Brayden Schenn, who scored in the second period to make it 4-2 after the Blues fell behind 4-0. "You can’t do that two games in a row, and expect to come back from 4-0 and 3-0. Obviously, you make pushes, but the reality is it’s hard to come back from 3-0 or 4-0 in this league. We, myself included, gave up the slot early there in the first two minutes. Before you know it, it was 2-0."

Let's break down the breakdowns:

When Jeff Skinner made it 1-0 at the 1:00 mark of the game, the Blues had started their fourth line against Buffalo's fourth line. The Alexey Toropchenko-Nathan Walker-Tyler Pitlick line put together a decent start to the game, but once the puck was put into the Blues' zone, Buffalo got its top line (Jeff Skinner-Tage Thompson-Alex Tuch) on the ice. The Blues couldn't get their fourth-liners off.

"I thought the line, they went out, forechecked hard down in their zone, had a little time there and they came back, they were ready to go, come back in our zone," Blues coach Craig Berube said. "We do a good job breaking a play up in the slot, we get a puck, we don't get it out (Pitlick), they battle it and they make a play and it's 1-0 that quick. Tage Thompson coming off the bench."

Pitlick, instead of sliding the puck out of the zone immediately on his backhand, tried to stickhandle and got stripped. Four skaters collapsed on Thompson, the Blues' first-round pick (No. 26) in the 2016 NHL Draft, before he fed Skinner open in the high slot.

Again, the Blues are chasing the game, but instead of working their way back, they regressed again. And again, it was Buffalo's top line.

A puck would find its way behind the net to Skinner, who found Tuch coming down the slot uncontested -- where have we heard this before? -- and he made it 2-0 at 1:25.

"Same kind of thing. The slot's open," Berube said. "We're running to (the) outside and not stopping and just protect that area where the puck is. Puck's behind the net, bad stick (Schenn), no slot awareness by the winger (Tarasenko) or the centerman, 2-0."

"That’s on us players," Schenn said. "It’s preached in our locker room and it’s stopping in the house and helping out 'Binner.' Like I said, we gave up – I don’t know the rest of the game, I can’t really remember – but obviously, early on, we gave up some. Before you know it, we’re chasing the game."

And they were chasing it even more when Owen Power came down the backside and beat the coverage of Robert Thomas, who aside from winning nine of 12 face-offs, did not have an efficient game.

The Sabres had the puck on a string before JJ Peterka slotted a streaking Power to the backside and he scored his second goal in as many nights at 9:07 to make it 3-0.

"You can't do it in this league; doesn't matter who you're playing against," said defenseman Torey Krug, who had two assists and played 21:15 after missing 13 games with a lower-body injury. "Give anyone three, four goals, it's too tough to come back. I know we showed some fight, I know at times we're capable of it, but when points are at premium, we just can't put ourselves in that position. We definitely need a better start."

What amounted to be the dagger goal came off the stick of Thompson, who took advantage of an egregious Colton Parayko giveaway in the neutral zone near the Sabres blue line.

Parayko had the puck on his stick and instead of dumping it into the offensive zone and allowing the Blues to go to work, he gets it poked off his stick, the transition game of the Sabres is underway and Thompson dangles to his left and slides it past Binnington for a 4-0 lead at 1:10 of the second.

"You dig yourself a hole, it’s pretty tough to come back on," said defenseman Justin Faulk, who also had two assists. "Two goals, three goals, four – teams get a lead, and you start playing a little bit tighter. ... It’s tough to ask a group to score five on a night – any given night. That just puts us in a bad (way)."

Parayko was demoted late in the second period to play with Tyler Tucker and finished with a season-low in minutes (16:15) and was a minus-4 in the game playing just 6:35.

"Did not have a good game. Tentative, seems like he's a little bit tentative and just not assertive enough, not assertive enough with the puck.

"It's not all the time, but he's definitely not had the year that we expected him to have or he expects."

The Blues started to skate and elevated their game, scoring twice in 3:23 (Ivan Barbashev and Schenn) to pull within 4-2, and when Jordan Kyrou sniped one 47 seconds into the third to make it 4-3, one might think the Blues would find a way.

Not this time.

"We felt good between the second and third, getting two goals and getting ourselves rolling," Krug said. "Obviously, we get one (the) first shift (in the third) and feel good about it, but we came up short."

The Blues were set up to tie the game when they got a bit of a fortuitous break when Peyton Krebs was called for a face-off violation/delay of game with 1:14 remaining. But instead of tying the game up, Robert Thomas, who didn't have one of his best games, throws a blind, backhand into the slot area before it's picked off and Dylan Cozens to put the game out of reach (5-3) with 59.8 remaining.

"We threw the puck away blindly and then they got it and we should have got right on the guy and killed it and we didn't do that and they got the goal, 6-on-4," Berube said. "Don't need to throw it away at that point."

The loss ended a very disappointing season-long homestand at 3-4-0. The Blues needed to realistically go 5-2, 5-1-1 or better to call it a successful homestand. Let's face it, they're on the outside looking in and really no one to blame but themselves.

"We have to make this a tough place to play," Faulk said. "Teams can’t come in here and think that it’s going to be an easy night. Realistically we don’t even want them to be comfortable coming in here at all. You want it to be hard on them, and we haven’t been able to do that yet this year and that homestand followed right up with what we’ve been doing early."

"Those are the games you need to win," Schenn said of the past two. "Four valuable points and I don’t know. Obviously, it’s not good enough and we need to gather points and chase teams. Teams are winning ahead of us. We’ve got three games here to bridge the gap before the break, and worry about playing hard on the road here."

Right now, the Blues are on the outside looking in when it comes to the playoffs. They're a middling team and as I've continued to print, this is who they are, and the mistakes that keep happening are continuous throughout the year, so why should anyone expect anything different?

"Yeah, it's frustrating," Krug said. "Guys are working hard in here. That's never been an issue. You never question character or how hard guys work, but we've got to be smarter and understand what's going to happen right from the puck drop, so.... frustrating for sure because we are in those games and you just can't put yourself in those positions."