While the focus of preseason talk has revolved around defense and goaltending, I've dared to be different with pinning questions marks that must be resolved to lead to the success of the St. Louis Blues.
It's all about the goal scoring.
Earlier this week I posted an article at Hockeybuzz detailing how putting the biscuit in the basket is all a numbers gameat this point. One that the note is even primed to win.
How homerish... Especially given the loss of Andy McDonald to retirement and David Perron to the salary cap crunch. Still feels odd to talk about the Blues and the salary cap in that context, I digress. Counter points what they are, the support is in the stats.
In summary the Blues are roughly 1% behind the median Even Strength (ES) Shooting % (Sh%) of Conference Finals and Stanley Cup Finals series winners dating back to the 2007-08 season. The dividing line is right at 8%. The additions made over the summer make up the difference between where they have been as a team under Ken Hitchcock and where the personnel subtractions put them. Assuming the newcomers previous production holds consistent in to this season the Blues actually make up the 1% difference. Approximately a 27% increase in shooting efficiency was needed and they're looking at a 29% gain.
That is assuming a lot considering Brenden Morrow has aged a year and isn't on a team with offensive super stars like he was in Pittsburgh and expecting Maxim Lapierre to score as much as he did on an talent filled Vancouver club. That's where Magnus Paajarvi and the growth of the Blues two 1st round picks in 2010, Jaden Schwartz and Vladimir Tarasenko, cover the spread.
It's all fine and dandy to say it now. Prognostications on paper don't always hold up to on ice treatment. So far, so good though.
Through two games the Blues have converted eight ES shots in to goals on 50 attempts for a Sh% of .16. Roughly double the median Sh% as detailed above. There is quite a bit of puck luck involved or at least the numbers would lead you to think so. However, in watching both games there have been far fewer lucky plays than good. Speed through the puck, how the Red Wings have killed teams for years, has opened up more high percentage scoring chances. Opposed to their last playoff appearance they're actually finishing them.
It's not just the ES Sh% that's been above average. The Blues have converted three PPGs on 12 shots for a .25 Sh%.
The scoring by committee approach is actually working thus far. In the home opener against Nashville 13 different players recorded shots on goal. Against Florida Saturday night it was 15 different skaters.
Goals have come from 10 different forwards out of the 12 that have dressed. Only Barret Jackman, Roman Polak, Jordan Leopold, and Lapierre have yet to register a point. The wealth has been spread. Just Chris Stewart stands out as the lone player with a negative Plus/Minus rating.
It's not that I want to say "I told ya so". Well, yea it is. The last two games are proof that this team can produce the offense they need to win games like those who go on deep playoff runs.
Their first major test, and my assumptions as well, comes against the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday. If they can convert in that matchup similarly to how they have in the previous two, I told ya so.