The Blues started the season with a bang, winning 6-0 over the Detroit Red Wings. Many people assumed that this is how the whole year was going to go; the Blues as of late have been dishing out harsh reality check after harsh reality check. People are unhappy, and the team effort hasn't been there -- unless you want to consider not playing as a team a team effort. Good things have happened, though, I promise. If the Blues could revert back to those positive aspects of play, they can get back on track.
The power play has been outstanding. They (in the form of Alex Pietrangelo) have scored the only two goals in the Blues last two games. Overall this season, the Blues' powerplay leads the NHL, scoring spot on a third of the time. It's a great turn-around from last year, when they ended the season 19th in the league with a 16.7% effectiveness.
Vladimir Tarasenko deserves mention in the good category all by his lonesome. He's consistently busted his butt every game to make a difference. While the rest of the squad has been loafing about, waiting for someone to do something, Tarasenko has been the one doing something. He's second in rookie scoring with 10 points, is a +3. and leads the team with five goals. The January rookie of the month has been a bright spot in even the dankest losses.
Finally, when the team plays as a cohesive group, good things happen. The defense is there, the goaltending is there, and the scoring is all over the place. This is what the Blues need to focus on to get back on track.
Something that people had been choosing to ignore until the Nashville game on February 5th was the amazing ability of the Blues to just not play. In their third game of the season against the Blackhawks, they were MIA for the entire first period and part of the second. They looked disinterested -- like if they just waited long enough, they could start playing and everything'd fall into place like they did in their second game against the Nashville Predators.
The Blackhawks are a very different team than the Preds, and the "oh, we'll score goals in the 3rd period!" technique didn't work. Too little, too late, and a loss. You would think that's what would make the team look at things from a "we need to play as a team for a full 60 minutes" perspective. But when you have the very next game against the Dallas Stars reward them with a win despite falling behind in the first period, well, that lesson learned evaporated into thin air. They fell behind in the 1st against the Stars specifically because they backed off the defensive awareness and felt like they already had the game in the bag. Nope. It doesn't always work that way. They adjusted, and then they won.
And then the next game against the Wild happened, and they had to fight back up an even bigger hill thanks to their desire to let the game come to them instead of controlling the game themselves. When they took full control in the 3rd, they managed to back off again, necessitating an overtime period to decide things.
Obviously this trend manifested itself early in the last two games against the Preds and the Wings; the Blues sat back on their heels and waited for things to go their way, and that's not how life works. They wanted other people on the team to pick up the slack, and of course when you do that a weird little phenomena called social loafing happens, where everyone is waiting on everyone else to do something. That basically means that the defense stands around waiting on the forwards to score, the forwards want the defense to pick up the slack, and Brian Elliott gets hung out to dry.
Proof of that is the fact that the Blues now all of a sudden have the second worst save percentage in the NHL. Wow, what a turnaround from last year. Their PK is 25th in the league at 74.4%, wheeras last year they were 7th overall with 85.8% effectiveness. They're not getting the job done in the situations that they did last year, and that's in defense. The most effective defenseman in defensive situations has been Barret Jackman, who has a +4 on the year. He, Kevin Shattenkirk, and Ian Cole are the only defensemen who are on the positive side of things. The last two games, the Polak/Russell pairing has been a clunker.
Several of you guys pointed out in the recap how terrible the Blues've been as of late on faceoffs. They're only winning 48% of them this season; this needs to be fixed ASAP.
I can't tell if you've picked up the big problems (sarcasm alert) but they're defense and playing as a team. I'm not in the locker room; I can't tell what's going on as far as the team dynamic goes or accountability or whatnot. The Blues have a lot of positives that they can build upon, but they have to be cohesive to do so. I'll leave you with Hitch's presser from last night. Everything he talks about is fixable, but they better fix while the fixin's good.