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Tuesdays With Hildy: What's The Major Malfunction?

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Ahh, it seems like only just a few days ago that we were all writing posts about how wonderful the Blues were doing, and what a great season it was. And now, here we sit, just a few weeks removed, wringing hands over injuries and lack of scoring, games in which it seems like Halak's mind (and glove) have been elsewhere, and games where goofed plays that were intended to help wound up to bite the Blues squarely in the arse. The team's wound up playing against hot goalies and guys who think it's cool to tackle and fall on people during fights. They've been forced to leave the friendly confines of Scottrade and wander off to places where people would love to see them fail - and have let negative fan energy get to them, like they did in Detroit. Tonight seems to be a battle for 3rd place in the division, and in all of the Godforsaken places in the world it has to happen in the super loud United Center, where the bandwagon fans in their Kane and Hossa jerseys still show up.

There are lots of things that can go wrong in a short amount of time for a team to go through a bit of a bad stretch. Is it the end of the season for our boys? Absolutely not. Is it frustrating for the fans to watch now, especially after the start that they had? Of course. Fans are trying to figure out what's gone awry, but it's gotta be more than one thing. But one thing always stands out more than the others. Is it the...

Defense?

The team's a little ways removed from the 5-3 loss to Phoenix, the 6-3 loss to the Avs, and the 7-3 loss to the Red Wings. I'm pretty sure that they've been trying to forget that 8-1 whatever that was to the Blue Jackets. Recently, the Blues' defense has allowed ten goals in the past five games - just an average of two goals a game. Obviously, the ship has been righted, and the return of Carlo Colaiacovo to the line-up has been a huge part of that, as well has the return of Barret Jackman. They were both sorely missed and needed, and it showed this month in the gaffes of the young replacements that are up, and even in the mistakes of younger NHL defensemen. Whether we like to admit it or not, guys like Jackman and Colaiacovo are necessary to balance out the defensive crew.

On the flip side, the mini-meltdowns (or in the case of the loss to Detroit, the third period Chernobyl) in the third periods could be looked at as defensive problems. I haven't gotten the chance to watch the past three games thanks to being at hockey games myself here in Atlanta, but I've listened to the third periods on the radio on my way home from the Thrashers and Gladiators games I've been to. Everything seems to be going fine, and then whoops. Bad pass attempt catches the D off guard, and the other team scores. I don't know how much of that is true, because the picture in my mind is probably very much different than what is happening on the ice, but the mistakes seem to come in the third way too often - is this a problem of the defense maintaining focus?

Offense?

Offense is lucky because not only can they be blamed for lack of goals, any ineffective backchecking can also be blamed for goals against. Friday night the powerplay squad allowed a shorthanded goal. Granted, this is the first and only shorthanded goal this season, but it still was allowed to happen. Were they distracted? I believe that this was Johnson's turnover (again, I beg the excuse that I was listening on the radio and driving at the time), but on a powerplay all players have the offensive responsibility to maintain control of the puck in the opposition's zone.

There's the too obvious quibble about scoring. The goals scored this month are only at 30 in regulation for the month. Most have come from the top line. Is there complacency here, and have the secondary scorers just figured, whether intentionally or not, that the top scorers will deal with things themselves? The Blues had success when everything was firing and all lines were contributing. A balanced scoring effort is necessary. Does re-tooling the lines add that spark, or does it muddle things?

Secondary scoring has to be able to pot a goal once in a while, with David Perron and TJ Oshie still out.

Goaltending?

Halak is a funny beast. He can go from a dominant 2-1 win over the Bruins to whatever the hell that game was against Columbus. You see either solidly controlled low scoring games, or a lopsided defeat. November's scores either go one way or the other. Halak had moments during the playoffs where he didn't play well and was pulled, and then bounced back fine the next game. That's been the case during the season as well. The question with the goaltending is this - have there been any games that Halak has lost for the Blues that the Blues should have won? This isn't asking if he let in a soft goal, but have there been any games that the Blues, as a team, were playing well enough or properly enough to win and Halak specifically screwed the pooch?

What say you? What is one area that you feel like the Blues need to look at and improve ASAP if they want the winning ways to come back?