Last week was a pretty long one for the Blues. 4 games in 6 days is never easy but at the beginning of the season, with a young team, it can be a recipe for disaster.
So when you consider everything that could have went wrong I guess it is fair to say that 4 out of a possible 8 points is not that bad. In fact, when the Blues left on their first real road trip of the new season there was a small part of me that thought they could be returning home empty handed.
However, 2-2 on that kind of road trip with three different start times in a different time zone seems about right. And if it hadn’t been for that stupid back to back on Monday and Tuesday I think the Florida swing might have went a little better.
The truth is that the Blues had been skating on some pretty thin ice since the beginning of the season. They have only had one game (against the Dallas Stars) in which they finished with positive possession numbers (score and venue adjusted) and only two games in which they out shot their opponent [NST.com].
So despite their strong start it was really only a matter of time before they came crashing back to earth. And really it was kind of impressive how well the Blues goaltending held up considering the gluten of shots they were having to face.
Carter Hutton, in his only start of the year, looked great against the New York Rangers. He stopped 32 of 33 shots for a .970 save percentage. Meanwhile the Blues got outshot 17 to 24 at even strength and 23 to 33 in all situations which is not exactly making it real easy on old Hutts.
Jake Allen, on the other hand, started out pretty hot and then began to fade. The fact that the play in front of him was slowly starting to erode just as he seemed to hit the skids is also worth mentioning.
The thing I have noticed about Jake during last season and to start this one is that when there is structure around him, no matter what the score is, he stands tall. When the defense is on their game, when the forwards are back checking like they should, when there is a sense of organization to the chaos around him, he is on top of his game.
However, when guys start getting out of position or start chasing the play, when guys are just a step slow or a little lackadaisical in their play, when Jake feels like the world is collapsing around him and he is truly the last line of defense, that is when some old habits start to creep back into his game.
Over committing on shots, trying to guess were the shot is going instead of reacting to it, getting way out of position and dropping his glove hand are all some little things that add up to a big problem.
I actually don’t think that it is a lack of confidence that gets to him, instead I think it is a feeling that he has to be the one to bail everyone else out and that he needs to do it in some big dramatic fashion like a whirlwind glove save or some diving skate save.
I know nothing about hockey and even less about goaltending but I think if I was Jake’s coach I would make sure that he remembers that it is a long season and their are 18 other players on the bench that are just as responsible for winning and losing as he is. I would tell him that he just needs to concentrate on what works for him and don’t change no matter what the scoreboard or the clock says. No matter what the rest of the team is doing in front of him, just be himself and let the chips fall were they may.
And really goaltending is going to be an issue for every team in the NHL. I don’t care if it is the Canadians or the Golden Knights, things can go from good to bad and right back to good in the blink of an eye. And just like goaltending every team is going to have trouble scoring goals at one point or another. Sure some teams are much better equipped to try and prevent that but at one point or another the goals just will not come. And unfortunately for the Blues they are one of those not very well equipped to handle these droughts.
Thanks to injuries which have depleted their forward depth the Blues are having trouble finding reliable goal scoring from anyone not named Tarasenko or Bray/Jay.
The Blues have five even-strength (non-empty net) goals by forwards this season: Tarasenko (2), Schenn, Stastny, Schwartz. #stlblues— Jeremy Rutherford (@jprutherford) October 15, 2017
Five goals from your forward group in six games is hardly a recipe for success in today’s NHL but the really troubling thing is there is not one single third or fourth line player on that list.
The Blues biggest problem in the last few years has been a lack of depth scoring when the team needs it the most and this year looks to be much of the same.
And I am not sure I would put all of the blame on Doug Armstrong and you can’t say it is all because of the injuries. While this may not be the most impressive roster in the NHL the tools are still there.
No, Magnus Paajarvi, Dmitrij Jaskin, Ivan Barbashev and Vladimir Sobotka don’t belong on the Blues top two lines but all of those guys have had time on the third line and have failed to make any kind of impact. Aside from Barbashev, all of those guys are veteran NHL players and veteran players should know how to get the puck in the net.
Hopefully once Alexander Steen returns Mike Yeo will have a little more talent to work with but no matter how he mixes the lines up if the majority of forwards can’t keep the puck in their opponents zone and can’t find ways to score timely goals then it won’t do much good.
Thanks for reading and Go Blues.