Oh, how quickly the turn tables.
The Blues closed out their California road trip on March 8th with a 3-2 overtime loss to the San Jose Sharks, but that loss, and their previous overtime loss to the Kings, were seen as part of a successful road trip. The Blues returned home to St. Louis in second place in the West, lost to the Vegas Golden Knights in overtime, and it was viewed as a hiccup in their quest to overtake the top team. They then lost to Vegas in regulation. They then lost in regulation to Los Angeles on Wednesday night in an apathetic performance that saw the Kings score three goals in the first period.
The team’s defense over the past month and a half has been sub-part at best, awful at worst. Colton Parayko and Carl Gunnarsson’s absences are being felt hard, but so are lapses in focus up and down the lineup. Vladimir Tarasenko’s return was vital, but offense hasn’t been a problem for the Blues. Play in their own end has been the issue.
Luckily, a defensively aware forward is probably returning tonight. Jaden Schwartz, barring unforseen circumstances, will be back for the Blues. He’s missed the last fifteen games with a lower body injury, and often, when Schwartz is missing for an extended time, the Blues haven’t played well. It’s not a coincidence that mid-season slumps happen when he’s out of the lineup.
Now is a grand time not only for him to return, but for that slump to end. The Blues are 3-2-1 against San Jose this season, so a tight but decisive win isn’t out of the question tonight. One would be beneficial, as the Blues are just three points ahead of Los Angeles for control of the last playoff spot in the division. The Blues have sank to being eight points behind Vegas and five behind the Colorado Avalanche. The Minnesota Wild, assumed to be a solid four seed before the start of the season, is four points ahead of St. Louis.
The Blues have a lot of work to do if they want to keep pace in the second half of the season. The offensive explosion, last game notwithstanding, has been a pleasant surprise. Some defense, on the other hand, well the fans and the goaltenders might appreciate it.