Well, this road trip could be going a whole lot worse. So far the Blues have tallied 4 out of a possible 6 points against three of the tougher teams in the Pacific Division and they were just one goal away from picking up at least a pity point in Anaheim.
Really that is about as good as you can ask out of a team struggling to make the playoffs. If the Blues can win two-thirds of their remaining games then I guarantee Scottrade Center will be hosting at least one Stanley Cup playoff series.
Coming up the Blues play the Coyotes tonight and the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday night before returning home on Thursday to face the Vancouver Canucks. Those teams would represent the three worst in the Western Conference. During the middle of the season one could expect the Blues to drop an egg against one or even two of these teams, primarily due to a lack of focus by the more talented Blues team. However, at this juncture in the season and with St. Louis desperate for any and every point they can collect, that kind of mental laps is not allowable. At the beginning of this road trip I wrote about how the west coast swing always gives the Blues fits and how those first three games could be problematic for this team. However, the more I think about it the more I wonder if the real challenge might come in the next three. Instead of the Blues struggling with game planning and matchups they are now going to have to deal with a lack of focus and fighting an urge to play down to their opponent.
It seems that head coach Mike Yeo has taken a rather Hitchcock-like shine to the Blues fourth line of Ryan Reaves, Kyle Brodziak and Scottie Upshall, who scored his eighth goal of the season Thursday night. While some people may find Yeo’s excessive use of this line a little unnerving it’s hard to argue with the energy the bring to the ice every shift. No, they will never be a reliable scoring line but they are playing with a confidence that can be infectious to the other players and if they can keep the puck in the offensive zone for the entirety of their shift than I have no problem with using them in close-scoring road games. Make the other team beat you while taking advantage of scoring opportunities when they present themselves, that is a good formula for winning on the road.
David Perron has been playing his ass off for basically the entire season and deserves a little recognition. His 37 points are good enough for fifth on the team and his 14 goals is tied for fourth but the thing that impresses me the most is his willingness to constantly work his way to the front of the opposing net. For a team that is lacking in the size department players like Perron are a necessity.
Speaking of necessities, how about a young rookie center that is capable of playing with the top two lines. It seems the Blues may have found just that in one Ivan Barbashev. Other than the blown play that led to a Duck’s shorthanded goal, Barbashev is making a strong case for keeping himself in the lineup for the remainder of the season.
Magnus Paajarvi has also been playing much better since his return to the lineup seventeen games ago. He has looked much more controlled and aware while on the ice, using his speed as a secondary attribute instead of his only resource.
It’s amazing how a coaching change to the Chicago Wolves has had this much affect on the Blues prospects. Hopefully this does not go unnoticed by the Blues ownership.
While it is still to early to get a determination of this inconsistent Blues team, one could make the argument that the Blues are starting to peak at just the right time. Hopefully these next three games will only confirm what the first three suggested.
Also, if you happen to be out and about Saturday night please swing by Manchester’s Hotshots Bar and Grill and hang with your fellow Game Timers while we watch the hockey match. There will be fellow writers, publishers and contributors of the Game Time fan run paper as well as some guy in a Patrick Berglund jersey (you have to come to the party to figure out what that’s all about). If none of that appeals to you I promise there will plenty of cold beer on tap. Hope to see you there.