After beating the San Jose Sharks 4-3 in OT on Saturday afternoon, the Blues officially completed the first half of their 2013 schedule. Now that 50% of their games are in the books, it's time to take a look at the first half and analyze what went right, what went wrong and what the Blues need to work on moving forward.
The Blues hit the midway point with a record of 13-9-2, good for 28 points. Their record places them right in the thick of thing in the playoff hunt in the West. For the better portion of the past two weeks, the Blues have hovered somewhere between 4th and 9th, playing good enough to mostly stay in the top-8, but not good enough to distance themselves from the rest of the Conference.
Chris Stewart, Patrik Berglund and Vladimir Sobotka. In my opinion, these are the only three players on the St. Louis roster that played 24 games worthy of the word "great". Even prior to his hat trick, Sobotka was one of a small group of guys that played with heart and desire.
– Stewart leads the Blues with 21 points – not too bad for a guy signed to a one-year, $3 million contract. – Berglund leads the Blues with 12 goals scored – not too bad for a guy that many chalked up as a disappointment as recently as 2011-12 when he only tallied 38 points.
– Sobotka has seven goals, a number that ties his career-high. He also has 13 points through 24 games and is on pace to approach his career-high of 29 points he set in 2010-11.
– Remember that nasty rumor during the lockout that Charles Glenn would be taking his services to California? Thankfully, those rumors were false and Glenn is still filling the Scottrade with sweet, sweet music.
– The team's power play is second in the NHL, clicking at a rate of 26.6%.
This section was pretty difficult. Nearly every St. Louis player has played well at some point during the first 24 games. If you look at the team's first seven games, you could probably list every player on the roster. At other times, you could make the argument that every single Blue belongs in the "bad" section.
With that being said, this section is dedicated to Jake Allen. He just barely missed the cut for the "great" section, but by a nose. His situation is tricky. He's played fairly well in net but his numbers outside of his outstanding win/loss of 5-1-0, aren't anything special. He has a 2.73 GAA and a .891 save percentage. Neither of those statistics are very impressive, but by comparison, Allen has played the best of the three St. Louis goaltenders. When he's in net the Blues appear to play harder. There isn't a statistic that shows this, but Allen's mere presence in net might have made him worthy of appearing in the section above. Allen probably benefits from having played in the AHL during the lockout, as seen in his ability to slide right in while Halak/Elliott struggle along with numerous NHL goaltenders.
– Alex Pietrangelo: Like every St. Louis defenseman, Pietrangelo has made plenty of costly mistakes. Technically, no defenseman should be in this section (more on this later) but Pietrangelo's contributions to the team's offense (5 goals, 12 assists) deserve to be recognized. He's tied for 4th in the NHL in points from a defenseman.
– Kevin Shattenkirk: Like Pietrangelo, Shattenkirk is here purely for offensive reasons. His 19 points are good enough to place him 3rd on the Blues and 2nd in the NHL among all defenseman.
– The "Long Live the Note" slogan is a breath of fresh air when compared to some of the atrocities the team has used in the past couple years. The commercials which combine past and present are almost enough to make us forget the "Don't Stop Believing" debacle. Almost.
– Vladimir Tarasenko. He started off extremely quickly but faded prior to going down with an injury.
– The Blues have played strong hockey on the road, compiling a 8-4-1 record away from St. Louis.
Where should we start?
It's a bit tough to place David Perron in this section considering he's tied for second on the team in points with 19. That being said, that's what we expect from Perron. Unfortunately, what we don't expect – and don't need – are the constant wave of penalties in the offensive zone. Perron has 26 PIM in 24 games – a startling amount when you consider he had 28 PIM in 57 games last year. There have also been times where Perron tries to do a bit too much, trying to make the play himself while his teammates are open. Cut down the penalties, cut down the unselfish play and Perron jumps into the good/great section.
– The St. Louis penalty kill has been pretty shaky, checking in at 80.2%, good for 18th in the NHL.
– Power play opportunities (79) vs. penalty kill opportunities (86). Blues are on the wrong side of this ratio.
– Brian Elliott. Sorry for piling on Brian, but your play so far in 2013 has left a lot to be desired from the best story from 2011-12. A 3-6-1 record mixed with a 3.65 GAA is ugly. Very ugly. This came when the Blues needed him to step up while Jaroslav Halak was down with an injury. Unfortunately, Elliott stumbled (to say the least) and currently sits third behind Allen and Halak.
– The actual defense from the St. Louis defense has been pretty ugly. The defense has been on the same page for most of the year. Unfortunately, that page has been one of turnovers in your own zone and bad passes that lead to fast breaks by the opponent.
– Injuries. Every team has to deal with injuries. Few teams have to deal with an entire line being lost over the course of a couple weeks. First the Blues lost Tarasenko. Next was a practice every fan would like to forget where both Andy McDonald and Alex Steen went down with injuries.
– The joy that is following the St. Louis bandwagon. Remember how full it was when the Blues started the year with one of the best records in the NHL? Remember how negative and empty it got when the Blues were in a nasty skid? So it goes.
– Dismal play at home. The Blues are 5-5-1 at home, outraging fans and causing attendance to slip.
Looking Ahead to the Second Half
The Blues have a list of items they need to address if they expect to be a Cup contender.
– Get healthy. The Blues might be able to hold their own without McDonald, Steen and Tarasenko for a while, but they won't be able to make a deep playoff run.
– Eliminate turnovers/bad passes. Defense, I'm looking at you.
– Eliminate bad penalties and penalties in the offensive zone. Countless opportunities have been lost due to penalties killing momentum/power plays.
– Get Halak and Elliott back on track. The Blues can't abandon Halak or Elliott and simply ride with Allen. They need to at least get one man back on track or preferably both back on track sooner than later.