The St. Louis Blues lost to the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday night, effectively ending their playoff hopes for the 2018-19 season...or so many Blues fans would have you believe.
It’s no secret around the Lou. The early going this fall has been a rough one for the rogues in blue. The hyped-up retooled roster is looking more like a smoking engine rather than a smoking gun. The defense is allowing an extremely high amount of open looks on net, with Jay Bouwmeester suddenly aging 30 years in the offseason. The breakdowns by Alex Pietrangelo happen at the worst possible time, and the opposition has skated away with a few heartbreaking victories.
A lot of goals are finding their way past Jake Allen, which has brought out the anti-Allen picket group after the losses. Rebounds are being allowed and going in. Penalties occur in a flurry, such as the first period in Chicago on Saturday night. The Blues are blowing leads in the third period, and their lines are starting to juggle like it’s January already.
Head Coach Mike Yeo looks like a guy playing Bingo who can’t hear the numbers and letters being called out. He looks confused, looking around and yelling from time to time...supposedly hockey information that may or may not help his team win. Whatever message he is trying to convey simply isn’t being heard or registering with the players.
Worst of all, the team simply doesn’t look ready to play. They are extremely slow out of the gate and still haven’t played a solid 60 minutes. Instead of controlling the action, the Blues are being pushed around and playing catch-up most nights. It’s gotten ugly already. You don’t have to squint to see it.
And when the Blues get down early, they don’t exactly push back immediately. It takes them too long to know they are in a fight. Did I mention they suck in the third period? Yes. Yes, I did.
Here’s the thing. It’s early. I mean third week of the season kind of early. The Blues have played five games and lost four of them, but they have gained a point in three of them. The last part carries the stink of a participation trophy-touting shouting parent at a PTO meeting, but it’s something to lean on during a tough stretch of hockey. A stat to remember when the bourbon runs out tonight.
The losses sting due to the fact that three of the losses have come against Central Division foes, including two overtime losses to the rival Chicago Blackhawks. They sting harder due to the fact that there were at least two games where the Blues had a lead going into the third period and flunked the closing test. It hurts, but there’s signs that a turnaround is in order.
Let’s go over some bright spots as I slip my optimist glasses on (this Russell’s Reserve is really good, so bear with me) :
*Jake Allen played out of his mind on Saturday in Chicago. The Cursed Snake made 46 saves and earned the team a point. Allen’s save percentage has improved with each game, starting at the paltry .800 SV % against Winnipeg in the opener and ending with Saturday’s .920 SV %. He’s getting better and if he keeps this up, Allen can bail the team’s erratic defense out during the next couple weeks of games.
*The Blues can score and should continue to do so. Their 15 goals sit with the Central Division-leading Nashville Predators. The three-goal-per-game average isn’t stellar, but these boys can score in a hurry and turn a game around. Alex Steen looks better this season and Vladimir Tarasenko is turning shots loose at a high rate. Young guns like Jordan Kyrou and Robert Thomas have impressed with not only their speed on the ice, but their knowledge of the game. Kyrou feeding Steen during a recent game for a goal was wicked. The goals will only pour in more steadily as the linemates get to know each other.
Just wait for Jaden Schwartz to rejoin the team and Robby Fabbri to get a new body in order to stay healthy. The unit will only get better.
*Recognition plays a part. There’s a lot of new faces on this team with big roles. Pat Maroon, Ryan O’Reilly, Tyler Bozak, Kyrou, and Thomas are all wearing the Blue Note for the first time this month. That’s a wild bunch of talent that needs a few weeks to stretch their legs and gel. Just give it time. I can see this team’s offense powering an entire month of play when they get going.
*The Blues aren’t getting blown out. Heartbreaking losses are disgusting, but there’s a flipside to that coin. They do represent that your team was in it until the end and could have won it with a lucky bounce or improvement on a single play. The Blues aren’t getting destroyed. It’s not 2005-06 around here.
I mean, Phil Maroon thinks the Blues are fine and backed his words up with history, so there’s that.
The 17-18 Washington Capitals started with an 5-6-1 October record . Not to forget 3 of the losses 8-2, 6-2, and 4-2 were to non playoff teams.— Phil Maroon (@phillyphilstl2) October 15, 2018
15-16 Penguins started 0-3 with all 3 losses against non playoff teams.
Life’s good! Stop panicking!
Is Mike Yeo’s seat warm? A little, but it will get hot if the losses pile up and the lack of change sticks in the Blues’ play. If this is happening in December and January, he will be gone. Doug Armstrong reloaded this roster in a big way over the summer. He did his job, and Tom Stillman knows it. If any suit is on a hot seat, it’s Yeo, a guy who has failed in multiple locations by failing to get his team to play his brand of hockey.
A month from now, the Blues could be riding a four-game winning streak and the worries will die down. The Blues are losing right now, but I think they can turn the tide fast. Just wait.
Let’s save the bitching and moaning for Thanksgiving. I understand that the Blues lost a playoff berth by a single point last season, but I won’t use that as a crutch every time I feel like whining in October. It gets old fast and makes you more ugly, so be nice to your skin and chill.
Now is the time to celebrate the return of hockey and colder temperatures. It’s not the time to lose your mind. That times comes in May.
Thanks for reading and always buy more bourbon,