The St. Louis Blues had a pretty tough weekend. They first dropped an ugly game against the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday before closing out the weekend with another defeat against the Chicago Blackhawks. In the scheme of things, the two losses weren’t too big of a story. They’re drops of water in the 82-game bucket of water. However, when you step back and examine the context, the team’s struggle suddenly looks a little bit more alarming.
As mentioned in the title, the Blues looking flat in arguably their last five contests is pretty discouraging. Granted, they walked away with wins in two of those games, but one was through the shootout after a fairly poor effort and the other was a struggle over the lowly Sabres. The Blues have been pretty unconvincing since they officially punched their ticket to the playoffs.
Surprised by the club’s recent streak? You shouldn’t be. In fact, it should have been expected based on how this season has played out. How many times have you seen the Blues jump to an early lead before coasting? How often have you seen the Blues let off the gas? It’s been a trademark of this team all season long. They reach a position they’re comfortable with and then toss in the towel. They’ll score a few goals and then sit back, waiting to see what happens instead of playing out the final period/shift. You can make the same comparison to the team’s play since they clinched a spot in the playoffs. They could have continued to fly high and play as if they were in 9th just trying to slip into the playoffs. Instead, they chose the easier, softer route. It’s a characteristic which has to be ditched if they hope to reverse the trend of an early playoff exit.
Perhaps the most troubling aspect of the Blues’ struggle is the manner in which they’ve lost their last two games. Specifically, the game against Colorado demonstrated just how easy it is to get the Blues off their game. Once you do that the rest is easy. No composure. No desire. Just plenty of goals by the opposition.
Another worrisome fact is just how different the Blues look without Vladimir Tarasenko. It’s incredible how the Blues can go from looking like an offensive machine to one that looks like the offensive zone is off limits. Tarasenko is a pure offensive talent. The Blues only have a few of these guys (Frank, Oshie, Schwartz and that’s about it) that can rise to achieve the unbelievable. They can create out of nothing. While it may seem harsh to exclude the team’s leading scorer (Alexander Steen) or other offensive options (David Backes), these two fall more in the category of offensive grinder than flashy weapon. Backes and Steen have great shots, but you’d expect them to bang a loose puck in rather than scoring a ridiculous goal while falling as we’ve seen from Oshie several times this year.
The Blues have a ton of grinders. The offensive depth of these players has meshed beautifully with the players who offer a bit more flare. Once one of the more dazzling players missed time, the rest of the offense was exposed. The Blues will be in big, big trouble if Tarasenko isn’t around for the playoffs.
It’s not time to panic. The Blues could win 20 games in a row and still be booted from the playoffs in four games. It truly is a second season. However, the Blues need to learn from their mistakes over the course of the last two weeks and build on them for the playoffs. Stop repeating the same formula. Don’t let the opposition dictate the play. Try something different.