When the playoffs started, I was experiencing zero anxiety about this St. Louis Blues team. They eked out a playoff spot, and everyone had them losing to the Minnesota Wild in the first round. Considering what they had been through this season
- Over abundance of penalties at beginning of season
- Starting the season with a lame-duck coach
- Changing coaches mid-season
- Bringing up younger players who lack significant playoff experience
I was impressed they even made it to the playoffs. I adjusted my expectations accordingly. This wasn’t a team that had a window. This wasn’t a team that had something to prove. This was a team in the midst of a “re-tooling.”
But then they knocked off the Wild. There is nothing like playoff success to breed hopefulness where none existed. And hopefulness breeds anxiety. So here we are once again true believers with the Blues on the brink of a 2nd round elimination. I want to offer a couple of thoughts for you to consider as we wait for tonight’s game.
First, penalties. This team started off the season taking lots of penalties. So many, that it was drastically affecting their play on the ice. Ask anyone who coaches hockey, penalty killing drains a team of energy faster than anything else could during a game. The team finished the season -31 in penalty differential. The penalty differential for their last 25 games combined was -5. They were -3 in the first round and currently -2 against Nashville. This team takes penalties. It is hard to score when you are constantly playing without a player (or two). I know a lot of people are upset about the one bad call last game and I can understand why. But I think the Blues would have a stronger argument about bad officiating if they were not a team encumbered by penalty taking.
Second, goal scoring. Through the first 4 games of the 2nd round, the Blues have a -1 goal differential at 5v5. They out scored Nashville at 5v5 in game one, and tied them in game 2 and game 4. Game three was the only game that Nashville outscored the Blues at 5v5. So this team has been keeping pace (for the most part) with Nashville in terms of goal scoring at 5v5.
This team can win. They can beat Nashville. They are not being out played. If they can stay out of the penalty box and capitalize on the man advantages they earn they can turn this series around. But that “if” is as big as the St. Louis Arch.