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The Hangover

The three rules of Blues hockey: possession, possession, possession

NHL: St. Louis Blues at Winnipeg Jets James Carey Lauder-USA TODAY Sports

As Wayne Gretzky famously said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”. The St. Louis Blues did a fantastic job of proving that theory correct against the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday.

Since we last talked the Blues have had a good run of bad luck. Jaden Schwartz suffered a lower body injury and will be re-evaluated in February. Alex Pietrangelo also suffered a lower body injury and was placed on IR but was reactivated and played in the game on Sunday. Jay Bouwmeester is nursing what Mike Yeo called a nagging injury and has been sidelined for the last few games.

When it rains, it pours. And when it poured, the Blues found out they have a leaky roof.

As of right now the Blues are desperately clinging to the top spot in the Central division. They are tied with the Nashville Predators in points (46) but have played three more games than the Preds.

While the Blues are still 3 points ahead of the third placed Jets and are 8 points ahead of the final wild card team, there is still not a lot of room for error.

Starting Wednesday the Blues begin a 3 game road trip of western Canada which will take them from Calgary to Vancouver via Edmonton before returning home on the 27th to take on those dreaded Predators.

Sometimes when a team is slumping it is good for them to get out on the road where they can regain their focus but man, this next road trip is going to be rough. Late games, lots of travel and a back to back thrown in for good measure is not exactly a recipe for success.

Right about now is where I wish I had some good news to give you. I wish I had some proof to show you that this recent down turn is anomaly instead of a rule. I wish I had some numbers I could show you that would make you feel a little better as we head into the Christmas break. I wish I didn’t have to wish.

The truth is the Blues have lost their mojo.

Their second leading goal score is hurt and not returning anytime soon. Guys who should be scoring simply are not. Vladimir Tarasenko, Alexander Steen, Dmitrij Jaskin are not producing offense the way this team desperately needs them to and while the first guy will undoubtedly get his grove back, the last two are worrisome.

Jaskin has played well in the absence of Schwartz, he is driving play, using his size to his advantage and showing some glimpses of the player we all hope he can be. However, as Chris Kerber mentioned after the game on Saturday, at what point do those attributes turn in to points? Right now the Blues don’t just need glimpses, they need goals.

Driving hard to the net and creating a scoring chance is great but at some point that chance needs to turn into an actual score. Digging the puck out of a corner is a necessity but if it only results in another turnover then it’s not doing the team much good. Maybe the goals will soon come but it’s hard not to worry that they never will.

While Jaskin is at least trending in the right direction Alex Steen is not. This season was the first of Steen’s new 4-year $5.75 million contract and as of right now he has 3 goals for the season and zero in his last 15 games. Even with his lackluster offensive numbers the most troubling sign in his +/- of minus 6 which is second worst on the team. For a player who is supposable known for his two-way play this looks really bad.

A lack of goal scoring is the most obvious reason for the Blues recent undoing but the root of the problem is a failure to posses the puck.

In their last four games the Blues have only produced 45% of the total shots (blocked or otherwise) recorded in those games. Likewise, the Blues could only muster 116 shots on goal as opposed to 137 by their opponents.

While those numbers may not seem that bad the hallmark of this Blues team when they are winning is their unquestionable ability to control the puck. Limiting the number of shots by their opponents, quick exists out of their own zone coupled with extended shifts on the opposite end are all cornerstones of this team.

While the Blues did produce one win in that four game stretch it was facilitated primarily by a God-like performance from backup goaltender Carter Hutton. Something that is hardly a reliable way to continually produce wins.

It is easy to use the recent string of injuries as a scapegoat for the Blues problems but all teams are affected by injuries, how they handle those injuries is what separates the losers from the winners.

Regardless of who is in the lineup until this current Blues team can figure out a way to get back to their style of play the loses will only keep coming and the gap between the Blues and the rest of the division will rapidly close.

Thanks for reading and Go Blues.