The Blues had a fantastic December, complete with eight game winning streak and a sweep of a five game homestand. To be completely honest, it was the opposite of what fans were treated to last year, and we should be appreciative that the team has shown zero signs of a Stanley Cup hangover. They’re third in the NHL, lead the Western Conference, and have been playing outstanding hockey.
That last part may have come to a temporary close during the last brief road trip that the Blues found themselves on. A 3-1 loss to the Arizona Coyotes broke the winning streak, but it was just a typical loss. They happen. It’s fine.
Then came Thursday’s discombobulated and lopsided 7-3 loss to the Colorado Avalanche. Blowouts happen even to the best of teams. It’s not reasonable to expect a team to play perfectly every night, though the expectation of competency is still a fair one to maintain. Regardless, it was an atrocious effort from start to finish, but as long as it doesn’t become the norm, it’s not much to worry about.
Saturday afternoon’s 5-4 overtime loss to Vegas was a different beast.
As dominant as the first period was - the Blues ended it up 3-0 and had a 7-2 shot advantage at one point - the wheels came off in the second and, if you’ve watched this team for longer than a season or two, you could tell what was going to happen.
Small mistakes started to add up. Poor clears, not getting players away from the crease, bad cross-ice passes (Vince Dunn, that would be you), not protecting the puck along the boards, and general bad decisions began shortly after Marc-Andre Fleury made some stellar stops to prevent the Blues from taking a four-goal lead. MAF got his team back into it, and former Blues Ryan Reaves and Paul Stastny began the comeback that was complete by the third period.
The Blues’ strategy shouldn’t be “wait for David Perron to get angry so we can get this to overtime.” The Blues’ strategy also shouldn’t be “let’s allow a breakaway in overtime so Perron can’t win it for us.” The team relies on heroics sometimes when they know, as a group, they’ve played poorly. Sometimes, as the Blues’ many early-season overtime wins show, that works. But more often than not, that works in close games, or games where you’ve snapped the momentum back to your side by exploiting the other team’s small errors.
You know, exactly what the Golden Knights did to the Blues.
Three games is a hell of a small sample size, and no, this wasn’t a pleasant road trip to watch. The Blues are back at it at home Tuesday night against the San Jose Sharks, who need a win in the worst way. To calm fans down, so do the Blues.
There’s nothing wrong with having a few clunkers strung together. Just don’t make it a habit. The Blues won the Stanley Cup last year by realizing that overcoming small errors, most of them unforced, can help you be consistently successful. So far they seem to’ve held to that lesson. Fans only need to worry when it starts to look like the team’s forgetting what they’ve learned.