The Blues have won four out of their last five games. Has it always been pretty? No. Has it always been perfect? Nah. But even without Vladimir Tarasenko, there are good signs. The power play seems to be clicking - it’s 11th in the league and scoring 23.8% of the time. The penalty kill is 12th at 82.5 percent effectiveness. That could be better, and should be better, but it seems to be improving. Their upcoming schedule is hectic to say the least - they’re in the middle of a four games in five nights stretch, and have another game against the Wild tomorrow in Minnesota - but getting some action in against the Wild and the Columbus Blue Jackets tonight might be what the team needs to prepare themselves for a tough Western Canada road swing.
The Blue Jackets are the team that everyone expected them to be this season. No Bobrovsky, no Panarin, no playoff position (as of November 1st). The season’s about a month old and the Jackets sit four points out of a playoff spot with a 5-5-2 record. Not bad, not great. After going 4-0-2 in six games, they’ve lost two in a row and seem to’ve flattened out. Torts called them out on a lack of urgency, saying.
The Blues’ issue isn’t necessarily a lack of urgency - though that can sneak in whenever they’re playing teams that are beneath them in the standings - but it’s a lack of consistency. They were very strong against the Wild in their last game on Wednesday night. Consistent pressure on Columbus is what can get them to crack, especially physical pressure.
The Blues could start Jake Allen in net with a divisional game against the Wild tomorrow night. Allen has started two games with a 1-1-0 record, a 4.17 GAA, and a .849 SV%. He needs to get the work in and those numbers down, and Columbus could be a good opportunity to do so if he’s completely over the horrible flu bug that sidelined him last week.
With Tarasenko out for the next five months, the Blues are going to need more from all of their players, especially Robby Fabbri, a frequent healthy scratch, and Robert Thomas. Coach Craig Berube hasn’t seen what he’s wanted to see from both players so far this season. They weren’t going to get temporary stewardship over Tarasenko’s A like O’Reilly has, but both players need to be significantly heaver if they want playing minutes.