So it has been a rough string of games for the Blues. Bad losses to both the Islanders and Flames are the obvious ones but really their problems started well before that. Maybe not so much the game versus the Devils but certainly the one against the Coyotes and even the one against the Maple Leafs probably left you with an uneasy feeling in the pit of your stomach.
Slow starts have obviously been a problem for the Blues in the month of November but the biggest cause for concern, if you believe there is any reason to be concerned, would have to be how the Blues have gotten away from what was successful for them early on.
Despite our lust for something different, this team is still very much dependent on possession of the puck to generate authentic scoring chances. Regardless of how much we desire for this team to be able to race up and down the ice going blow for blow with any team in the NHL, this group’s bread and butter is still rooted in a cycle and grind it out style of play.
And this is perfectly fine. There are very few teams in the league that make it pay executing a run and gun style of offense. When we look at how teams rank in Corsi For% there is really only one team that is near the bottom of the list but still atop the standings.
The New Jersey Devils rank second to last in 5 on 5 Corsi For% at 45.84, second to last in Fenwick For% at 45.57 and second to last in Shots For% at 45.91. Despite being first place in the Metropolitan division they spend most of their time in the defensive zone, fail to get the better of the scoring chances and are basically always trailing in shots on goal.
How are they able to pull out wins with seemingly every stat going against them? The answer is simple, shooting percentage. According to NaturalStatTrick.com over 10% of their 5 on 5 shots end up in the back of the net, which is good enough for second best in the league. Couple their outstanding shooting percentage with a top five save percentage and you get the number one PDO in the NHL. Which, put simply, means they are dog-ass lucky. A lot of their shots for are going in their opponent’s net while even more of their shots against are not.
Why are the New Jersey Devils important to the St. Louis Blues? Because we see just how lucky you have to be to make that style of offense work. A 10% shooting percentage is simply not sustainable. Maybe, and it is a big maybe, a save percentage of 93 is but when you are relying on over a tenth of your shots becoming goals you are eventually going to be in trouble.
You know what the Washington Capitals 5 on 5 shooting percentage was after 82 games last season? 9.17. You know what the Pittsburgh Penguin’s was? 8.56. In fact no one in the league finished with a shooting percentage north of 9.20. One percentage point may not seem like much but when you take into account the volume of shots a team will take, that adds up to quite a few lost goals.
What has worked for the Blues so far this year is maintaining the pace of play while generating multiple scoring chances off of sustained zone time. And they have done it from the moment the first puck was dropped. Granted, in earlier contests they still had a bad habit of going into a defensive shell during the third period but they were able to survive because they were playing with a lead instead of falling behind early on and then trying to mount a comeback while also still trying to defend.
When the Blues really looked like world beaters they were relentless from the beginning of a game to the very end. They were keeping the puck in the offensive zone for 30, 40 even 50 seconds at a time. Wearing down their opponent while waiting for one of their shots to find a hole.
Only eight times this season has the Blues adjusted Corsi For total fallen below 50%. Four of those resulted in losses, including the one on Monday, and two needed overtime or a shootout to secure a victory.
On the flip side, the Blues have only lost one game in regulation when their Corsi For was better than their opponent’s.
Once the Blues return to possession style game everything will be fine, probably.
Thanks for reading and Go Blues.