St. Louis Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk (22) takes a shot against the Nashville Predators during the second period at the Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-US PRESSWIRE
(KSDK Sports) -- The Blues were in no mood to celebrate their first Central Division championship in 11 seasons Saturday night.
That's because they had a chance to clinch the title themselves with a win over Columbus, but the Blues fell 5-2 to the last-place Blue Jackets. Before the loss wrapped, however, Nashville fell 5-4 to Chicago, allowing the Blues to backdoor their way to the franchise's first championship since 1999-2000.
Asked if Saturday's clinching meant anything in the wake of a dismal performance, Blues forward Alex Steen said: "No, not really. I think we've talked about it for a while. If we play the way we should be playing, the way that has made us successful, we'll clinch and we'll (be) where we want to be. Tonight's performance wasn't very good, and we've got a few games left here where we need to pick it up."
The Blues will be off until Wednesday, when they host the Detroit Red Wings at Scottrade Center. This will the sixth and final meeting between these Central Division rivals. In 2012, team on its home ice has won all five previous matchups. St. Louis started out winning a pair of games at Scottrade Center, but Detroit took three games at Joe Louis Arena in the span of under a month. The teams haven't met since Jan. 23, but with the playoffs coming together as they are, the two clubs could theortically match up again in the second round.
But for now, there is still work to do during the regular season. The Blues may have backdoor clinched the Central but are still in the running for the No. 1 seed and Presidents' Trophy, while the Red Wings are in a battle with two other division rivals, the Predators and Blackhawks, for the fourth seed and home-ice advantage in the first round. Detroit suffered consecutive losses to Columbus and Nashville threatening their chances of opening the playoffs at home, but then won a key 2-1 shootout victory Sunday against the Panthers.
The Blues have lost six of its last nine, and with three games remaining look to build up some positive momentum heading into its first playoff series in three years. The Blues clinched the Central on Saturday despite a 5-2 loss to the Blue Jackets in which Jaroslav Halak stopped 28 of 32 shots. Since a 10-game stretch in which he didn't allow more than two goals in a start, Halak has given up either three or four goals in four of his last five starts. But the problems ran far deeper against Columbus, as coach Ken Hitchcock said the Blues had "some people who didn't show up from a compete standpoint."
"We've talked about it the whole time," forward Alex Steen said in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "If we play the way we should be playing and the way that has made us successful, we'll clinch and we'll get to where we want to be before the playoffs (start) and go in with a good buzz. (Saturday's) performance wasn't very good and we've got a few games left here where we need to pick it up. Our goalies are playing great. The rest of us need to pick it up."
--The Blues had their complete roster healthy Saturday for the first time in 160 games, dating back to March 3, 2010. The final pieces added to the puzzle Saturday were Andy McDonald (shoulder), Matt D'Agostini (concussion) and Roman Polak (knee). That pushed Jaden Schwartz, Ryan Reaves and Carlo Colaiacovo out of the lineup. Some were wondering if the unfamiliarity with all of the new faces Saturday contributed to the lack of cohesion.
"I think some of it is bringing in new players," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "But I think it's deeper than that. We'll just have to address it and get better from it. ... I think we addressed it tonight."
--The Blues took 12 penalties for 41 minutes in Saturday's 5-2 loss to Columbus, including nine in the third period, when their emotions got the best of them. Three straight penalties put Columbus on a 5-on-3 power play for two full minutes, and the Blue Jackets scored on the two-man advantage to go ahead 4-2.
"It seems in games like that where we get really involved physically, we seem to take the bad penalties," Blues forward Andy McDonald said. "Obviously if we want to be a good team, we can't play like that. That's what the playoffs are going to be like ... it's going to be a little chaotic at times and we have to find a way to tailor that emotion. We got really worked up about the officiating and we weren't able to reign it in. It spun out of control and it cost us the game."
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We were a reactionary team. When the temperature got turned up, we were the team reacting. Not going to win hockey games like that. Bottom line." -- Blues coach Ken Hitchcock, after Saturday's 5-2 loss to Columbus.
--C David Backes scored his team-leading 24th goal of the season in Saturday's 5-2 loss to Columbus. Backes had six of the Blues' 36 shots in the game, but even with that much offense, the team couldn't beat Columbus rookie G Allen York.
--RW David Perron has proved to have good chemistry with linemates Andy McDonald and Patrik Berglund. But on Saturday, Perron's 19th goal of the season and seventh in 11 games came easily. He somehow sneaked a puck short-side on Blue Jackets G Allen York.
--G Jaroslav Halak made 29 saves, but lost for the first time in 11 games (10-0 previously) at Scottrade Center and for the first time in regulation since Nov. 22. The Blues gave up five goals to the opposition for the first time in 53 games and only the third time all season.