Slumping into the Break and Goals for the Final Stretch
Following a 4-1 loss to Calgary, the Blues finally have some time off to collect themselves and try to put January behind them. The team really couldn’t have had a worse stretch of games leading into the break. Uninspired play ruled the day, the defense took time off and the offense continued to miss the net – it’s enough to drive a fan mad. The best thing the Blues can do is try to learn as much as possible from their slide, work on what isn’t working and come out firing in the final stretch of the season.
Currently, it’s really tough to point to an area of the game that the Blues are excelling in. There are far too many negatives for just one post, and frankly, if you have watched a game recently you have likely picked up on them yourself.
That being said, let’s move ahead and focus on what needs to be improved for the last chunk of the 2010-11 season.
Reliability in Net
Jaroslav Halak has struggled and Ty Conklin has been on the receiving end of some nasty luck for the better part of two months. Halak needs to step up and be the number one he is paid to be and Conklin just needs to lower his head and plow through adversity.
During the Calgary telecast, they highlighted that Halak used his day off to work on several areas of his game, like charging to the top of the crease and trying to not fall back into his own net. This is what we were hoping to hear. Far too often his approach looks more lackadaisical than planned and it was due time the whip was cracked and he worked on things. Hopefully he continues this over the break and comes out refreshed and with a focused approach on Tuesday.
Conklin really can’t be faulted too, too much. You know things are going poorly when your own defenseman, Erik Johnson, scores one in your own net. Add in breakaways and we’re lucky Conklin hasn’t fled town yet. He also needs to be a bit more focused and less hasty in net, but he also could use a few breaks and some help in front of him.
Protect the Front of the Crease
With Barret Jackman sidelined, the Blues are notably without a physical defenseman. Now, that’s not saying Jackman is the greatest physical guy out there, but he at least makes a point to try and clear the area in front of the crease.
Take the last game against the Flames. The second goal (Calgary’s first that they actually scored), Ty Conklin had a forward right in his face with no St. Louis defender anywhere in the vicinity.
The Blues blueliners have to give their goaltenders some assistance and have to take a responsibility in helping keep the crease clean.
Invade the Opposing Crease
By the same token, the Blues need to get bodies in front. When Keith Tkachuk retired, he took the team’s best presence in front of the net with him.
Brad Winchester does an admirable job, but too often the other team’s goaltender has a clear view of what’s coming his way. This can not happen and the Blues need to start turning up the pressure in the gritty areas of the ice.
Full, Complete Effort
Fans have been screaming it for months – play a hard 60. Too often the Blues fade and too often we see long spans of time where it looks like everyone is in slow motion. Sometimes they spring back to life just to barely miss out on two points but more often they fade with a lead and let the opponent walk their way to a victory.
Whether this is an issue with the message from behind the bench or some mental barrier perplexing the whole team, the Blues will never reach their next level if they can’t turn in a complete performance.
Injuries aren’t a Crutch
Losing skaters like TJ Oshie and David Perron for lengths of time are devastating. However, Oshie is finally back (well ahead of schedule) and the Blues may soon be seeing Andy McDonald back on the ice as well.
Little by little this team is more closely resembling the one that we saw on opening night against Philadelphia.
Still, you can’t always revert back to pinning the struggles on injuries. Even with a healthy Andy McDonald and David Perron, those two wouldn’t be solving the issues plaguing the Blues’ penalty kill. They would add some power to the power-play, but they wouldn’t be able to solve the mystery surrounding why seemingly every skater on this team can only shoot two feet wide of the target.
These guys would be a much needed bonus, but they wouldn’t miraculously turn the tide.
Keep an Eye on the Marketing Department
Want season tickets? This was the year to buy them as the Blues’ marketing team used a promotion where you could pay half now and half when the team makes the playoffs. If they don’t make the playoffs, you don’t pay.
I’ve said it countless times on Twitter. I love the attempt, but someone over there in marketing needs to pick up a marketing book. Twice now this organization has ran behind promises of winnings, and that’s just something you can’t do.
The “You’re the Final Piece of the Puzzle” campaign was a huge miss. You simply can’t run a marketing campaign over something you haven’t won yet, let alone something your club has never won in its history.
This year their campaign could have some serious big dollar effects. We don’t know how many people took advantage of the promotion, but one would imagine it was a decent sized amount.
At the very least, maybe this will get someone over there to actually open a marketing book before creating the next campaign for 2011-12. The “Bleed Blue” and “Whatever it Takes” were some fantastic ideas, but the last two are far too hinged on results – a major marketing “no no”.
Let’s Go Blues!