The Blues split their pair of back to back games this weekend with a loss to the Nashville Predators on Friday and a win over last year’s first round playoff opponents the Minnesota Wild on Saturday. In case you missed the games Justin42 has your recaps here and here.
Usually this is where I would push the narrative of “a tale of two teams” suggesting how two different Blues teams showed up on two different nights. However, this time I think it was more a matter of playing two very different opponents that happen to be on two consecutive nights.
The Predators gave the Blues fits in the playoffs and that continued again on Friday night. Yes the Blues did not have a good start to the game but they certainly didn’t dig themselves into a hole that was too deep to escape. The problem is still the fact that Nashville has one of the best, most mobile group of defenseman in the league and the Blues still don’t have an answer for that.
This season a lot of the Blues offensive success, from the top line to the 4th line, has been centered around playing off the rush. The Blues are entering the offensive zone with speed and either attack the net with an odd man rush or begin working the cycle until they find a hole in their exhausted opponent’s defense.
That works well when teams give you plenty of time and space to enter the zone much like the Edmonton Oilers did. But when a team like Nashville stacks their own blue line and forces the puck handler to make a move that is when shit gets a little whack.
If the Blues tried to chip it past the opposition Nashville’s speedy d-men would beat them to the puck. If the Blues tried to ring the puck around the boards Pekka Rinne was able to cut it off and often clear the puck on his own or move it to a waiting teammate.
I feel this is the same problem that plagues the Blues power play as well. Very often an opposing team’s penalty kill will stack the blue line forcing the Blues into an uncomfortable situation. In fact, often the puck handler will make it through the first line of defense but is so worried about setting the play up that they get smothered while trying to find someone to make a pass to, instead of just driving hard to the net and getting a shot on goal.
Against Minnesota however, the faced a team with a less talented backend, especially the team’s third pairing. The Blues were able to enter the zone with more easy, thus giving their cycle game time to produce. Same goes as well for the Blues power play which went 3 for 8 versus 0 for 3 against the Predators.
AHL call up Sammy Blais scored his first NHL goal on Saturday night, which was a very good thing because it was his turnover in the defensive zone which led to a Minnesota goal against.
Netting that goal put Blais in with some pretty good company. Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier and Sidney Crosby have all scored an NHL goal. I know right, it give me chills just thinking about the similarities. Now if he can just get that elusive second NHL goal, well, the sky is the limit.
I wasn’t planning on bringing it up but I would rather you hear it from me rather than on the street from some snarky national writer. Jake Allen’s current save percentage of 90.8 and his 2.75 GAA are well below his career average.
According to Corsica.com out of 24 goalies who have played 15 games or more Jake Allen’s save percentage ranks 17th. Out of 51 goalies who have played 6 games or more, he ranks 27th. Carter Hutton, who has played 6 games and has a save percentage of 94.7, ranks first.
There is no doubt that Allen is the Blues starter but if his numbers continue to hover around the meh range, especially if the rest of the team begins to falter, then it won’t be long before people begin calling for Hutton to get more than a fifth of the starts.
So for all of you Jake Allen supporters out there you might want to take a look at this article by Kevin Woodly in which he shows that goalies save percentages are down across the entire NHL. However, in the article he states that this season’s average save percentage of 9.11 is down from last season’s 91.3. Jake Allen’s current save percentage if 90.8 is down from last season’s save percentage of 91.5. Tampa Bay Lightning’s Andrei Vasilevskiy’s current save percentage of 93.0 is up from last season’s 91.7. Sergei Bobrovsky’s, last season’s Vezina winner, current 93.6% is up from last season’s 93.1%.
Don’t shoot the messenger.
Blues continue with their home stand against the Anaheim Ducks on Wednesday at 8:00 CT and against the struggling L. A. Kings on Friday at 7:00 CT (don’t forget to buy a Game Time paper) before heading out on the road to once again face the Wild on Saturday. Another back to back, welcome to the NHL.
Thanks for reading and Go Blues.