When Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote, “Come, come thou bleak December wind/And blow the dry leaves from the three!” he probably didn’t envision the St. Louis Blues having the hiccups as they transitioned out of November hockey and in to a situation in which a couple of line changes may or may not have affected their play in a fashion that cost them consecutive games.
The imagery is nice, though.
The two fall months of the National Hockey League season remain visible only in the rearview and the second act, if you will, has arrived. No portion of the campaign means more than any other but a club’s results in one sector can affect how it approaches another, i.e. a first-place fall finish warrants a sense of protection versus a third-place finish suggesting an attack-oriented approach.
Coleridge’s line can be used as a metaphor to suggest that the return of Patrik Berglund, along with line shifts such as moving Dmitrij Jaskin up to the Paul Stastny/Alexander Steen line, resembles a necessary shakeup. Not necessary in the typical sense, wherein change is made in the hope that it will improve team play, but in the sense where the opportunity to improve an already-good thing exists. Implementing the change may come with some small immediate risk, and perhaps Blues fans just witnessed said risk in St. Louis’ Golden State-opponent play.
Just as Coleridge’s 18th-century words didn’t have Mike Yeo’s 2017 hockey club in mind, neither did those of Chris Cornell when, as Soundgarden’s front man penned the line, “I’m looking California and feeling Minnesota”. Again, though, it applies to the current situation wherein St. Louis looks roughed up from their two-game skid versus west-coast foes.
Things in the Central Division have spent a portion of the season in flux, and while a bit of recent separation have begun to somewhat solidify, the stakes have risen a bit for those at or near the top. The Colorado Avalanche appear to have fallen off from their early success while the Nashville Predators seem to have regained their form from a year ago. The Chicago Blackhawks continue to remain a mystery as they rise and fall in the standings, and out of nowhere the Dallas Stars have found some noteworthy legs. The Winnipeg Jets have shown the greatest stride of late, usurping St. Louis’ first-place spot, at least for the time being. And tonight’s Blues’ opponent -- the Wild -- are perhaps still trying to pin down an identity.
While Yeo’s lineup changes do have good intentions behind them, it’s up to the players to iron out what said changes will look like in terms of all of the in-game ice-time nuances. This kind of challenge, one could argue, falls in the same category of resiliency that good teams execute when injuries arise. This, in a sense, is the full-circle end of such a scenario, and the players have got to find a way to adjust when players come back, just as they did with Steen, just as they have done with all of their hurt teammates in the last year or so.
The Wild aren’t that removed from solid play, and their six goals against in St. Louis a week ago still surprises. Their early-November results suggested that they had begun to swim upstream as they knocked off the Montreal Canadiens, the Predators, and the Flyers twice for a four-game streak that followed a rough start to the month. Their end-of-month play, however, seemed grounding, as they lost almost every opponent one might have suspected when doing an on-paper analysis.
Tonight’s challenge for the Blues includes some traditional hockey uphill battles. They’re playing on consecutive nights, facing off early this evening after traveling post-game yesterday. It’s their first game on the road after five straight at Scottrade Center, and they’re taking the ice after two straight home losses.
The caliber of opponent the Blues will face for the entire rest of the month rears itself as a two-headed monster. On the one hand, every one of St. Louis’ opponents is winnable. On that same hand, no N.H.L. team is a slouch in today’s game, leaving the biggest obstacle wearing the Note on their sweaters. That is, the largest piece of adversity for this team will be whether or not it can adjust to recent (and perhaps future) roster adjustments and implement the appropriate corresponding pieces of play to their game.
Blues fans have quietly grown accustomed to Yeo’s intelligence when it comes to managing the daily ins, outs, and other details of this club. This two-game setback should be something the team overcomes quickly, perhaps even as early as tonight.
The big takeaway from the loss to Anaheim was the two-goal performance from Kyle Brodziak. The tallies came after an otherwise dismal start from the home team and from a player that hadn’t necessarily produced anything substantial (pointswise) in a contest yet this season. The highlight from the loss to Los Angeles centered on the fact that the lone lamplighter was none other than the guy that had just been inserted into the lineup.
This leaves tonight, the rebound game that will help St. Louis move past the tail end of that five-game home stand that included three losses.
What we usually see from good teams in this type of situation is a big game from its leaders. The best players -- in troubled times -- possess the ability to put their teams on their backs and push things to the next level.
For St. Louis this means noteworthy production from the Brayden Schenn, Jaden Schwartz, Vladimir Tarasenko line, and noteworthy production means that we should some point production from the big three.
Fans should also anticipate impeccable games from not only Alex Pietrangelo, but Joel Edmundson and Colton Parayko as well.
This Blues club has all of the pieces it needs to tackle most challenges their schedule presents. Whether or not they can execute and overcome small changes will be their greatest at-hand task.