Tonight the Blues find themselves traversing some foreign territory. They are in the middle of a two game losing streak and find themselves trailing the Winnipeg Jets for the number one spot in the division and the western conference.
After going 2-3 against in their last five against conference opponents the Blues now find themselves desperate to secure a couple of points against a divisional foe on the second night of a back to back. Not exactly the position the team would like to be in.
Instead what they witnessed was another lackluster effort which produced one goal, on the power play, off of a Patrik Berglund tip, and not much else.
If there is one root cause in almost everyone of the Blues loses this season it would have to be the team’s inability to match the intensity of their opponents early in a game.
It maybe an old cliché but if the Blues want to get back to their winning ways then nothing short of a full 60 minute effort is acceptable.
The once red-hot line of Jaden Schwartz, Brayden Schenn and Vladimir Tarasenko has failed to register a a point in their last two games together, much less a goal.
The Blues once hyper-active d-men, a group that has been paramount to the team’s success, have been playing catch up for the last 120 minutes.
The always reliable Carter Hutton, who came into Friday night’s game sporting one of the best save percentages in the NHL, looked about as bad as the team in front of him and was yanked before the start of the third period.
In his last five starts Jake Allen, who will be tonight’s starter, has posted a save percentage of 90.3% and a 2.6 goals against average.
Mike Yeo attempted to shake things up on Friday night by moving Dmitrij Jaskin alongside Paul Stastny and Alex Steen while dropping Vladimir Sobotka down to the third line. However, the new line combinations failed to make much of an impact.
Tonight, I look for Yeo to fall back to the team’s default lines while possibly scratching Oskar Sundqvist in favor of Magnus Paajarvi or Sammy Blais in an attempt to inject some new blood into this group of zombies.
Tonight would also be a perfect time to give a struggling Jay Bouwmeester, who doesn’t appear to be quit up to speed yet, a much needed rest.
Truth be told if the Blues come out and look as unenthused as they have the last couple of games then it doesn’t really matter who plays and who doesn’t.
Tonight we will find out if the Blues can turn things around or if they are still in the midst of a dreaded regression back to the mean that we all have feared would eventually happen.
As for tonight’s opponent, one could say the Minnesota Wild are not the power house that they were last season.
The Wild find themselves in second to last place in the central division and two points out of the last wild card spot.
Eric Staal leads the team in assists (13) and points (23) while Jason Zucker leads the team in goals (13).
While once a point of strength, the Wild’s defensive core has been a liability for the team for most of the season. Ryan Sutter and the recently injured Jared Spurgeon have been forced to play huge minutes in an attempt to mask over the team’s inability to find a NHL worthy third pair they can throw out on the ice on a nightly basis. In the absence of Spurgeon Mathew Dumba has been slotted alongside Sutter and has look, well, rather Dumb. Former Blue Nate Prosser is back with his old club but according to the team’s practice pairings will not see any action tonight.
Mirroring the play of his defenseman Devan Dubnyk is having one of his worst seasons as a Wild. His 91.2% save percentage and 2.81 GAA is well below his career averages. Only once in his last five games has he posted a save percentage over 89.0%. It appears the North Wall might have a doggie door in it.
Thanks for reading and Go Blues.