The Blues haven't exactly been a points-producing juggernaut, which is more indicative of their inability to close than their inability to score. In their past four games, they have hung nine goals on the opposition, and have won just one of those games, 2-1, against the Kings in a shootout. All the others have gone to extra time after the Blues surrendered a lead, and all the others have been losses.
The Blues' record in those last four are 1-0-3, good for five points in four games. Not awful, but not ideal, since had the Blues been able to close a game out, they'd have three more points and they'd be tied for second place in the Central Division, with a much more comfortable cushion over the Minnesota Wild. Closing out is key, and it was difficult to do when the Blues were healthy. With five players injured in just two California games, it's going to be even more difficult for the Blues to do what they need to do.
Luckily, the Devils have four goals in their last four games.They only have 98 goals on the entire season, yet are still somehow keeping pace in a very crowded Metro division, in which they sit in fourth place. They're in the last Eastern Conference wild card spot as of the start of today today, which - let's admit this - is not somewhere that they were expected to be. Much of this is on the shoulders of Corey Schneider, who has been one of the best netminders in the league this season. Schneider has a 2.09 GAA and a .926 save percentage. It is difficult to get pucks past him. Luckily the Blues will not have to deal with the Devils' starter, as Keith Kincade will get the job tonight. His 2.42 GAA and .905 save percentage is much less glossy than Schneider's stats.
In contrast to Kinkade, it is difficult to get pucks past the Blues' current starter thanks to injury, Brian Elliott. Hitch has been riding the hot hand in Jake Allen all season, and Allen has played very well. Unfortunately, with the Blues taking their foot off of the gas late in games, it's appearing that Jake himself is gassed. He is now injured, because Magnus Paajarvi feels it's a good idea to shove opposing players into your goalie. Maybe PRV was just trying to get Allen some well-deserved rest. There are other ways to pull that off, PRV, but I guess it's the thought that counts.
Elliott, however, has been pretty stingy himself. He sports a 2.33 GAA and a .919 save percentage, which isn't Schneider level, but it's not bad. It also is more indicative of the team play in front of him this season than his own in many cases. Here's Ells' stats for his last five starts:
LAST 5 GAMES 2015-2016
|DEC||GA||SA||SV||SV%||SO||PIM||TOI||EV GA||PP GA||SH GA||EN GA|
|JAN 9 '16 STL @ LAK||W||1||27||26||.963||0||0||64:55||1||0||0||0|
|JAN 8 '16 STL @ ANA||O||2||27||25||.926||0||0||37:57||1||1||0||0|
|JAN 4 '16 OTT @ STL||O||3||32||29||.906||0||0||62:33||1||2||0||0|
|DEC 27 '15 STL @ DAL||L||2||37||35||.946||0||0||59:19||0||2||0||1|
|DEC 19 '15 CGY @ STL||W||2||38||36||.947||0||0||60:00||2||0||0||0|
Not bad. Maybe using him to give Allen a break on occasion isn't a bad idea.
Tonight's the first of four games at home for the Blues. Their last homestand really could've gone better. This one, if they play well, could get them back up in the Central Division standings. It begins with the Devils and continues with the Hurricanes, Canadiens, and Penguins. All of those teams are immensely beatable right now. Are the Blues' hampered with injuries? Sure, but they shouldn't rely too much on that narrative. They have two call-ups who are more than capable and a back-up who is starting goaltender caliber.