After back to back losses to the Tampa Lightning and the Anaheim Ducks that saw the Blues get outscored 6-1, I think that people can be forgiven for having a level of concern. A factor in the two anemic home losses can more than likely be traced back to the absence of Jaden Schwartz, Alex Pietrangelo, and the newly injured reserve listed Jay Bouwmeester.
The Blues have recalled Sammy Blais again to help, but the loss of Schwartz and two key pieces of the Blues’ already lagging special teams isn’t going to be fixed by Blais. They haven’t scored on the power play over the last four games. Dmitrij Jaskin, Kyle Brodziak, and Robert Bortuzzo all skipped yesterday’s practice. Pietrangelo may be back for tomorrow’s game against the Jets; his status for tonight’s game against Winnipeg is questionable.
And yes, you read that right. This weekend, the Blues and Jets will play a home and home series. Raise your hand if you thought before the season began that the Jets would be in a race for first in the Central.
Put them down, because you’re lying.
This weekend’s two games have massive implications for the Blues and Jets. They’re three points behind the now second-place Blues despite being 4-4-2 in their last ten. It probably helps that the Blues are a disappointing 5-4-1 in their last ten. The Jets, like the Blues, last played on Thursday night, and like the Blues, lost. Their 5-1 loss against the Chicago Blackhawks comes during a 1-3-1 streak that the Jets would love to snap.
The keys to the Jets’ success come from young players and a veteran to set them up. Blake Wheeler has 30 assists this season, and the youth movement has been the beneficiary: Nikolaj Ehlers (who’s on a four game scoring streak) and Patrik Laine have 15 goals each so far. Mark Scheifele has netted 14. The Blues’ defense and penalty kill will have to be sharp this weekend to get the wins that they need.
The Blues’ offense will need to find a way to score as well. Vladimir Tarasenko has two goals in his last 11 games, and has been visibly frustrated, to say the least. Instead of focusing on the physicality for this series, of which there will be plenty, the Blues need to focus on putting the puck in the back of the net.