After a 5 game home stand in which the St. Louis Blues earned at least a point in all five games the club is looking to continue their streak on their upcoming road trip. Thanks to a productive last half of November the team’s record now stands at 15 - 7 - 4. Good enough for 2nd place in the Central division and 3rd best in the Western Conference.
After the embarrassment that was the Columbus game, and the players only meeting that took place directly after, the Blues have gone 8 - 1 - 1. Not too shabby considering the 3 - 5 - 2 record the team had in the prior 10 games.
While the Blues have appeared to turn a corner there are still some serious questions surrounding the sustainability of this team’s success. Especially when you consider the fact that their next four games will be on the road with the first two happening on back to back nights.
First off is the teams inability to close out games when possessing the lead late in the third period. Four of their last five games have went to overtime and three of those were because the Blues had surrendered the lead late in the third period. Although the team was able to come away with a win in all but one of those games relying on overtime victories is not a very dependable game plan.
Second is the teams habit for taking stupid penalties at costly times. Granted the Blues seem to be improving but the too many men on the ice violations have yet to stop. These penalties do nothing but allow the other team the opportunity to change the tide of the game and have, on more than one occasion, halted any offensive momentum the Blues had achieved.
Lastly are the noticeable mistakes by veteran players that have continually resulted in goals against. Whether it was Tarasenko icing the puck late in the third period against Minnesota, Pietrangelo getting juked out of his jock and later Stastny failing to clear the puck late in the third against Dallas, blown coverages by three of the Blues veteran players against Winnipeg, or Carl Gunnarsson failing to clear the puck in front of his own net and instead kicking it past Jake Allen for Montreal’s first goal. Every one of these mistakes have ended up in the back of the Blues goal. Not exactly a recipe for success.
This last problem is the most concerning because it is the cause of the first one. Every one of the Blues blown leads can directly be traced to a critical mistake that was made by one of the teams seasoned players. If it were the more inexperienced players making the mistakes or if the lapse in judgment had came at a less crucial time then the problem could probably be a little easier to dismiss.
Maybe the Blues so called veteran players aren’t as experienced as we would like to believe and their lack of experience will definitely be exposed if the team does make it to the post-season. Or maybe this team is still lacking the confidence and killer instinct needed to be a true contender. No matter what the problem is time may prove to be the only decider and by then it may be a case of too little too late.
However, despite these questions, I still remain bullish on this current team.
After some early season woes this is a Blues team that has continually found a way to lock down points and remain at the top of the conference standings. This becomes even more impressive when you consider that four of their last eight games have been against divisional opponents. Games where a loss could mean allowing teams below you in the standings to make a sizable gain.
Despite their mistakes the Blues refuse to give in or allow themselves or their teammates to give up. Something that has not necessarily been the case in past seasons. Instead of hanging their heads or losing their collective shit when things haven’t went their way this team has battled back and more often than not emerged with a victory. Regardless of the score or the circumstances this team always believes it can win. Imagine how important this attribute will be if the Blues do make the playoffs.
The biggest reason I remain hopefully this team can be a serious contender is the fact that they still have yet to play their best hockey. When past teams had to deal with the mistakes this team has had to deal with, more often than not, things did not turn out so well. They would have panicked and deviated from any game plan that had been drawn up. Choosing to try and win the game all by themselves instead of relying on the help of their teammates.
This year’s Blues appear to be different. Maybe it was the addition or subtraction of certain players. Maybe it was last season’s post-season success. Maybe it’s a change in coaching staff. Whatever the reason, this team is not easily rattled. When met with a challenge they attack the obstacle not as a bunch of individual players but as a unit.
This upcoming four game road trip should be a good test for the Blues. Thursday night they square off against a struggling Islanders team (keep an eye on Johnny Travares, its a long shot but he just might be Tarasenko’s new center) before heading to New Jersey the following night. Hopefully the Blues are able to get the trip started right with a couple of easy wins before they return to the Midwest to face-off against Minnesota and Nashville.
The Blues don’t have to do anything special they just need to play their game. Get four lines rolling and grind out some wins. It doesn’t have to be pretty it just needs to be effective.
Thanks for reading. Let’s Go Blues.