COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The final audition for the baby Blues was Tuesday night in Columbus, with players getting one final crack at leaving a lasting impression to show what they've got in hopes of being on the opening-night 23-man roster.
A first period against the Columbus Blue Jackets left little to be desired, but the Blues got better as the game moved along before falling 5-2 at Nationwide Arena.
Once again, Samuel Blais put his best foot forward to be among those that make the team; he scored, as did Tage Thompson. Wade Megan had another solid game and was another who has given coaches something to think about, which leaves coach Mike Yeo something to think about before cuts are made Tuesday and the Blues (3-3-0 in the preseason) get down to one practice group from here on out.
"There were some good moments," Yeo said. "Those three showed some of those moments tonight. I think they probably factored into the offensive chances that we had even with some of our older players. That's a good sign there."
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But the bottom line, the Blues were not sharp. Whether it was nerves or not, it was telling to coaches wanting to get a last look at some guys and maybe got their answers.
"It looked like maybe there were some nerves," Yeo said. "We looked very hesitant, on our heels. I thought second period started to get going a little bit, but a lot of what I would consider young mistakes tonight, some decisions with the puck and some play without the puck that wasn't good enough for this level."
The first period was not one the Blues would call one of their best this preseason. They fell behind 3-0 and allowed 17 shots, did very little with the power play and left goalie Jake Allen, who faced 40 shots, hanging at times despite the Blues' goalie allowing a goal trying a clearing attempt that was intercepted by Markus Hannikainen for the second goal.
Allen got in another big workload, making 35 saves after stopping 34 of 38 in a loss to Dallas on Saturday.
"The last two games, been getting some shots," Allen said. "Scores are a little crazy right now, but besides thinking I'm Bobby Orr back there, I've honestly felt good.
"The next two games, we'll be more team-like. We'll be more of our full roster, more structurally knowing what's going on. Some of these guys are trying to make an impression, trying to make a stamp here. That's what their goal is to do. Next two games, I'm sure we'll play with our full lineup and get back into systems we're all used to, especially myself and get going again."
Yeo wasn't too thrilled to see Allen get such a workload.
"It was a poor game with and without the puck in a lot of areas," he said. "Obviously it's an inexperienced group that we have."
Allen will be the opening night starter in Pittsburgh on Oct. 4, and while he was trying to help those trying to make the roster, there were different goals in mind.
"For me and for them, it's a little different scenario, you could say," Allen said. "I'm just trying to be sharp, get some action, get some work, almost get the conditioning. There's a lot of penalties in these exhibition games right now. At this rate, it's probably going to be like that in the regular season."
Blais, who scored a pretty backhand goal to put the Blues on the board in the second period, has to goals and one assist in five preseason games and seems to have planted himself into the conversation of making the squad.
"I tried my best and I think I gave it everything I have," Blais, a 2014 sixth-round pick, said. "If I stay, I just got to keep going like that and if not, I've just got to keep improving and show them that I can play in this league.
"Offensively, for sure, I think I produce and I was making things happen on the ice. Defensively, I was trying my best to improve and I think I did pretty well. Now I've just got to keep going. Tomorrow's another day and I've just got to keep playing the same way."
Thompson scored his first of the preseason in the second to cut the Columbus lead to 4-2 and it was a culmination of a good camp for Thompson, who earned his goal with his play.
"We just started to try to play as opposed to watching," Yeo said of the second period. "You can't be hesitant, you can't be reactive in this league. You've got to go out there and try to make stuff happen. It's one thing to try and not make mistakes, it's another thing to try and make a difference. It's a fine line and that's what you have to learn and that's what experience brings. When the door is open, you have to try an take advantage of that and make something happen. We've seen some guys do that. When it's not, you have to try and manage the puck the right way and put it in places where you can get it back. Those are learning moments."
Now comes the part where the Blues whittle their roster down to a reasonable number where they work as one group. Cuts will come either late Monday night or Tuesday morning, but the organization is pleased with the progress some of these prospects have gotten in these few weeks of camp.
"We've been trying to use all of training camp," Yeo said. "What you see is the level gets harder. This is what we've talked about. Some guys are able to keep up and some guys start to drop off a little bit. We've got a lot of really good, young players here and a lot of guys that we are really confident that they are going to play in the league. It's one thing to do it now, it's another thing to see that you still have some development left and that's what we're trying to process through right now.
"It's getting close to decision time here."
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