Can a team be consistently inconsistent? To find the answer look no farther then the Blues record for the last two months. Win one lose one, win one lose one, win one ... I think you get the idea.
To no one’s surprise their record is a direct reflection of their play on the ice. Play their ass of one game and then look throughly lost the next. Play one period like a five man unit that are all on the same page and the next look like three forwards playing with two defensemen and a goalie that wants to be anywhere than where he is now.
There is no question that this is a team in transition. Moving away from a heavy, hard hitting grinding team to one built on speed and quickness. And at the current time they are caught somewhere in the middle.
Not enough speed to outrun and out gun their opponents. Not enough size to wear them down with a grinding possession game. Sure they are big enough to beat up on the smaller teams as long as they don’t allow themselves to get caught up in a transition game. And they have enough speed to evade their heavier opponents as long as they can keep them on their heels. But that takes a level of commitment that we haven’t seen this team be able to reach on a regular basis.
Honestly, I am really surprised that the Blues have been as successful this season as they have. Which makes it all the more frustrating when they lose they way they do. More often than not their losses have come from a lack of focus and execution rather than a lack of skill or talent.
Surprisingly, those problems have not primarily be attributed to the younger and less experienced players but instead to the veteran core of supposed team leaders.
When he has felt the warmth of the spotlight Vladimir Tarasenko has performed like his contract would suggest he can but too often those performances are followed by a deafening silence from the Blues franchise player. If there is anyone who can single-handedly make a difference in this team’s success or failure it would be him. However, if Tarasenko wants to make the jump from good to elite status then he needs to find a way to contribute on nightly basis. It doesn’t have to come in the form of goals or even assists but he at least needs to be a problem for opposing teams to defend against. To often his play has been underwhelming and lackadaisical.
Alexander Steen has gone from inconsistent to full blown MIA status. Other than notching a couple of empty netters its hard to remember when number 20 has actually made a difference in a game’s outcome. This season Steen was offered a lucrative contract extension when several fellow veterans were allowed to move on. Its no doubt that this franchise is counting on him to be a calming, consistent veteran player on a roster filled with inexperience. Injuries aside, Steen needs to find a way to help his team win night in and night out.
Kevin Shattenkirk has been the absolute definition of inconsistent this year. Ultimately his biggest attribute comes on the Blues power play. However, this is also the most favorable spot for any player to have success. The point man on the team’s first power play unit facing an opponent that is a man short. During five on five play is when problems start to arise. His lack of focus and poor execution has led to as many goals against as his strong offensive play has led to goals for. Either Shattenkirk needs to start playing with more focus and determination or Doug Armstrong needs to strike while the iron is hot. Right now his play is hurting the team as much as it is helping.
In the off-season when the team made Alex Pietrangelo the captain I had my doubts. His persona and style of play did not seem to be a good match for the requirements of the job. And so far it doesn’t appear to be working out. Many people might say that a Captain’s only job is to be the liaison between management and the players. While that is one duty, his main job is to make sure that the team remains committed to sticking with the game plan that he and the coaching staff have agreed is the best course of action to maintain success.
Unfortunately, that is exactly what has been the primary problem for this team. Sure when playing in big games or coming off embarrassing losses this team looks focused and determined, thats when its easy. The hard part comes when the stakes are lower and players have trouble sticking to the script. That is when leadership, which starts with the captain, needs to step up and find a way to get players back on track.
Until key players start to make a difference on a more routine basis the Blues are going to continue to have trouble with consistency. It starts at the top and works down. Be better Blues or things will only get worse.