Late Leads, One-Goal Games Plague the Blues

Late Leads, One-Goal Games
Plague the Blues

Nashville Predators v St. Louis Blues

You could see it coming couldn’t you? The Blues clung to a tiny lead with time running out in the third with their opposition gearing up to throw everything they had at the St. Louis net. We’ve seen it many times already this season and the result usually leaves Blues fans disappointed. Nashville continued the trend by not only leveling the game at two a piece with just over three minutes to go, but by scoring the winning goal just under a minute later. Another frustrating home loss and another lead lost in the waning moments are sure to make this a very long offseason.

It really wasn’t all that surprising when Nashville tied and eventually won the game in the closing minutes yesterday – we’ve all witnessed it far too many times this season.

The Blues have struggled in numerous assets of the game this season, but perhaps late leads and one-goal games have been the absolute worst. The Blues have lost 16 one-goal games this season. Granted, these have not all be leads given away late, but do indicate how this team has struggled in close contests. For those keeping track at home, that’s 32 points left on the table by a margin of just one goal.

Another fact pointed out by the Post-Dispatch today was the Blues record when they enter the third period with a tied score. When tied after two periods, the Blues hold an 8-6 record – nothing glamorous about that.

No one can blame the most recent loss to Nashville on goaltender Chris Mason, who did well to keep the Blues lead as long as he did. The Predators rained pucks down on the Blues’ net, and it’s a miracle the lead didn’t slip away much sooner than it did.

The team obviously was missing the defensive prowess of Roman Polak Sunday, but the problem stretches well past just one missing component for one game. Polak has been a bright spot in the Blues defense for most of the season and usually can not be held accountable for the Blues late collapses.

There must be some sort of mental barrier that is causing all these late leads to slip away and to explain why this team struggles so badly on home ice. Perhaps it’s just the growing process of a young team. Perhaps it’s a mindset that will take a summer to shake loose and perhaps it’s a lack of confidence and the wrong mentality by this group as a whole. There really isn’t one set answer.

I hate to pin each loss on squarely one skater who fails to contribute and this loss transcends skill sets. This is a mental problem that the team shares as a whole. This team can not close out games because it doesn’t believe it can close out games. You can tell just by the effort displayed on the ice. The Blues’ skaters all seem to shift to a lower and lower gear as more and more time ticks off the clock. Of course, this isn’t something we can just label on the team as a whole as a few players, Alex Steen for instance, seem to keep churning and burning all game long regardless of the score.

There are numerous issues to address this offseason but perhaps the most difficult one to solve be answered through a new player, a new goaltender or a new coach, but possibly a therapist. Confident teams win games. Confident teams never give up and play a hard 60 minutes – something these Blues have done only a few times all season long.