This season is off to an interesting start:
In seven games, the #stlblues have given up a lead in six games (including three two-goal leads) and trailed in every game. Yet they still have a record of 3-1-3 and they have earned nine out of 14 points. https://t.co/NVqyoJI1DG— St. Louis Game Time (@StLouisGameTime) October 18, 2019
That isn’t good, but it’s not particularly bad for right now either, at least when you look at the outcome. Nine points after six games is fine! It’s perfectly cromulent.
But without taking their foot off of the gas, those three OTLs are wins. The losses against the Capitals, Islanders, and now Canucks all were the result of the Blues failing to be able to do something that fans have been yelling at them to do for the past, oh, five seasons or so: play the whole game. The game against Vancouver was probably the only out of the three where it could’ve gone either way. The Blues did take their foot off of the gas, but it started going in that direction in the second and continued in the third. It was a continual coast.
The losses to the Capitals and the Islanders on the other hand, those were absolutely winnable games. The Islanders pounced on the Blues’ weaknesses in the third period. Vancouver pounced on the Blues’ weaknesses pretty consistently through the second and third.
When they’re on, they are on - the Blues can control a game with the best of them. Why can’t they control the game the whole duration?
“It’s a staple of our game for years here, right, is closing out leads,” Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo said. “We’ve just got to find a way to keep playing the same way. A couple weird bounces the last couple games, not an excuse, but I think we can still do a better job of closing teams out and keeping things 5-on-5, but there’s a lot of things we can build off of here, and once you start closing out games, we’re going to be pushing things in the right direction.”
The Blues are an interesting team in that sure, one of their staples is closing out leads - when they feel like it. They can put a stranglehold on a team in a heartbeat (see: game seven against the Bruins). But the other staple of their play is spacing out and not being able to close out leads. The Canadiens last week won without having to overcome a Blues lead. They controlled the pace of the game for nearly the entire duration. Coach Craig Berube called their play “soft,” and with a team that’s as fast as the Habs, you can’t let them speed all over you.
A heavier game today to slow them down, especially Brendan Gallagher, is a good first step. Not allowing 38 SOG is another thing that the Blues need to look into. Jordan Binnington isn’t playing like he did last season, and it’s hard for him to do so when the team’s letting him get shelled.