Originally posted on Fox Sports Midwest  |  Last updated 1/24/12
The Blues appear to be on the verge of consistently competing with the NHL's big boys, but as they showed in Monday's 3-1 loss to Detroit, they're not quite there yet. With a chance to jump over Detroit into No. 1 in the NHL standings, the Blues failed to withstand a Red Wings charge for the third straight time the teams have met in the last month. The Blues led 1-0 on Scott Nichol's second goal of the season, but Detroit answered with two power-play goals, including a dandy by Pavel Datsyuk. "Obviously these guys are one of those teams that you try to measure yourself against, and in this building especially, they're a very good team," Blues forward Jamie Langenbrunner said. "We've played with them in stretches. But in the end, we've kind of crumbled when the boys got a little rough. The game gets turned up a notch and we take awhile to catch back up to it. It's caught us. We start reacting instead of initiating the play." Datsyuk deked Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo before lifting a backhand shot upstairs on goalie Jaroslav Halak. "You've got to give credit -- it's a good play," Pietrangelo said. "It happened. It's just one mistake that you have to move on from." The Blues had outshot their last eight opponents, but they were outshot 28-22 by the Red Wings on Monday. Trailing 2-1, they had only three shots on goal in the first 12 12 minutes in the third period. Chris Stewart had a breakaway shot but was stopped by Jimmy Howard. "Facing an NHL all-star ..." Stewart said. "You're obviously going to have to bear down when you get chances like that. He definitely played well tonight, and he made some big saves for them." The Blues will go back to the drawing board. "We had our chances when it was 2-1 in the third," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "But you're going to have to score more one goal on the road to win. It was a playoff game. Their best players scored when they needed to score. We didn't get it done." The Blues will be home against Pittsburgh on Tuesday in their final game before the All-Star break. Road performance must improve --The Blues probably can't wait to play somewhere on the road outside of Detroit. After improving to 21-3-3 at Scottrade Center last week, including 13-0-2 in their last 15 games, the Blues couldn't wait to find out how their game would look on the road. A 3-1 loss to Detroit on Monday came in the Blues' third trip to Joe Louis Arena in their last four road games. For the Red Wings, they extended their franchise-best mark to 17 straight wins at home. The Blues will play their next two games at home but after that will play 19 of their next 27 on the road. "We're going to have to (be better on the road)," Blues forward Jamie Langenbrunner said. "We've got a lot of road games coming up in February and March. If we're going want to be hanging around with these guys at the end, we better start winning some games on the road. You can't just win at home. We'll find out." --The Central Division appears stacked this season with four teams -- St. Louis, Detroit, Chicago and Nashville -- all among the top six teams in the Western Conference standings through Monday. Only five points separate the four teams. Normally, divisional play doesn't mean much because the playoff seeds are based on the top eight club in the conference, but in this case, the number of remaining games against the quality teams in the Central will be a factor. The Blues have eight of their 33 games left against the division. "It's always scary when four teams from the same division are in the playoffs in the hunt," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "This is very unique, what's going on. You've got four who are fighting for the division lead. There's what, (five) points difference between the four teams? That's incredible. It's just going to make for unbelievable games when you're playing each other." QUOTE TO NOTE: "Now I don't have to push the two beds together and make (his roommate) sleep in the bathtub anymore." -- Blues center Scott Nichol on reaching 600 NHL games Monday, which according to the NHL's collective-bargaining agreement entitles him to his own room on the road.
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