Coasting to a Skid
The Blues hold a 7-6-1 record over the past 14 games, which equates to a 0.536 points percentage. Comparing that to the first 13 games of the season, in which the Blues toted an impressive 0.778 points percentage, allows reason for confusion. During the first two of the past three “competitions”, the boys in blue had shown no resemblance of the team that holds the best start in franchise history (quotes necessary being that the word competition implies that two opposing parties are competing for victory). In the current three-game skid the Blues only have four goals, two from Berglund and two from Brodziak.
Goal Tending Issues
There isn’t a whole lot to say here in my opinion. Jake Allen and Carter Hutton are putting almost the same product on the ice as they had during games 1 – 13. Jake may seem a little less confident, but losing streaks and bad games will do that to a goalie. Despite his performance against the Kings, I still think Carter Hutton is the best back up goalie in the league. One glaring issue with Jake is that he seems to be developing a bad habit of being lazy with his rebound control, and subsequently over compensating. A few wins will reset him. Hopefully this isn’t the cusp of a funk circa last January when a few bad games turned into a bad month.
Secondary Scoring Issues
The absence of production from Schwartz, Schenn, and Tarasenko during this losing streak looks bad for two reasons. The first, that the Blues aren’t getting much scoring help from the rest of the team. The second, these three have mostly played on the same line during this losing streak. For the former reason, Schwartz, Schenn, and Tarasenko have 32, 30, and 29 points respectively. Pietrangelo and Stastny have 20 points, but the point totals drop off rapidly from there. For the latter reason, putting your top three scorers on the same line can work out great. The line could really light it up, which it did, but then it didn’t. It would seem that the opposition figured out how to shut them down. This is especially bad when there isn’t much secondary scoring. Thankfully Yeo is a smart coach and knows when to adjust. Tonight’s lineup against Montreal has the SST line split up in a likely effort to distribute the point getters across a few lines. Secondary scoring needs to start happening on a regular basis for this team to get back to form. With that said, praises can be made to Berglund and Brodziak over the past three games for trying to pick up the slack.
Special Teams Issues
In the first ten games article I mentioned that sub-par special teams were going to haunt this team if not fixed. Well, the special teams woes have not been fixed, and it shows. The Blues power play percentage is 17.53%, and their penalty kill percentage is 77.91%. Both are below league average. With how well the boys do at even strength, the power play doesn’t hurt all that much. Although, when it comes down to nails and brass tacks, a hockey game can be lost via missed opportunities on the man-advantage. At the other end of the spectrum, it is abundantly clear that the penalty kill is highly passive. The penalty killers hardly move their feet except for the strong side forward/defenseman. This strategy works great when passing and shooting lanes can be effectively clogged. Unfortunately, that is not happening with any regularity right now. When you look at most other teams around the league, especially the Kings, their penalty kill is very aggressive, taking away space from the puck carrier. The Blues might think about emulating that same aggressiveness when short-handed.
Tonight, the Blues take on the red-hot Canadiens at Bell Centre in Montreal. This is going to be a tough test as Montreal has won five straight, a 10 – 1 drubbing of the Red Wings being the most recent. The Habs have scored 24 goals during this win streak, 16 of which have come over the past two contests. As if all that scoring isn’t daunting enough, Habs goaltender, Carey Price boasts a 0.960 save percentage and a 0.80 goals against average over that five game span. A blue note victory tonight would be just what the doctor ordered to boost the Blues’ confidence.
The next three contests after Montreal have the Blues at home against Dallas, a trip to Detroit, and back home against Buffalo. Even with a loss to Montreal, as much as that would sting, don’t hit the panic button.