The Blues picked a hell of a time to go on a four-game losing streak, didn’t they?
There are worse times to lose four games in a row other than an exhibition game and three games intended for seeding, like, say, during a real playoff round. It’s not the end of the world that the defending Stanley Cup champions went from the top team in the Western Conference to the number four seed in the playoffs. After all, the Presidents’ Trophy winning Bruins didn’t even get a shootout loser point like the Blues did.
The Bruins are still a threat. The Blues are still a threat. The question is, when will the Blues start playing like it?
The 4-0 loss to the Blackhawks literally meant nothing, and the team played like it. The first round-robin game against the Colorado Avalanche was at least a defensive upgrade over the exhibition game. The Blues owned the face off circle, and after a slow start, peppered Phillipp Grubauer with 32 shots on goal. Unfortunately, they only got one past the Avalanche goaltender, and you can’t beat the Avs 1-0.
Losing to Colorado on a last second goal isn’t ideal, but the game served as a chance for evaluation and tightening up where things needed to be worked on for the next game against Vegas. That did not happen. The Blues only managed 17 shots on goal, and were fortunate that four went in. The defense was porous and incapable of shutting the game down in the third period, allowing three Vegas goals. On Sunday, the Blues shifted back towards defense first, but again at the expense of the offense. Jake Allen had an excellent game, allowing one regulation goal in the last 40 seconds of play, but scoring one goal isn’t going to win you a playoff game. Coach Craig Berube mentioned that the team’s compete level had to “come way up,” and in response the Blues played a game that was like watching two teams skate through quicksand.
The box score on NHL.com was down through the entire game, so I’m not sure how many shots on goal the Blues officially finished with, but halfway through the third period someone on Twitter mentioned 13 SOG for the game, and it felt like an overestimate. No one on either team looked interested in being out there and no one watching was interested past the end of the first period.
The Blues move on to face the Vancouver Canucks in the first round of the actual playoffs. Maybe the reality of being in a win or go home situation will sink in with the Blues at some point. Maybe the consistency of playing the same opponent for the whole round will jump start their game.
Whatever the catalyst is, there needs to be one. The Blues, and the other teams who played poorly during the round-robin, aren’t in danger yet and the first round is a completely different beast. Putting their performance over the last week in the rear-view mirror needs to be tops on the Blues’ to-do list once they rectify their problems.
They’ll need to rectify them fast. Round one starts on Tuesday.