Thoughts After Four Games
With four games in the books and their next game not until Thursday in Phoenix, it’s time to reflect on what has transpired thus far. We’ve seen some good, some bad and some things that are a cause for concern, but at the end of the day the Blues are at level ground with two wins and two defeats.
Rather than writing an enormous novel of a post, this entry will be broken down in a similar fashion as I do with the game recaps, with a Good, Bad and Meh section. This is just a rundown, not a complete summary of how things have gone, but rather just a collection of thoughts so far.
- Obviously, the two wins against Detroit. New environment, tough rival, two wins out of two. While the results was the best case scenario, the method in which the wins were reached was far from ideal (more in the BAD section).
- Keith Tkachuk. Boy am I glad the team brought him back. It is pretty hard to imagine anyone doing as great of a job in front of the net as he has so far. He already has four points with the man advantage and has been clearly one of the team’s best players.
Stats: 3 goals – 3 assists – 6 points. 11 shots. +1.
- Paul Kariya. It is highly likely that without Kariya and fellow veteran Tkachuk that the Blues would be 0-4 rather than 2-2. Kariya looks as speedy as ever with no evidence of having any issues with his hips. He could be posed for a big year assuming he holds up.
Stats: 2 goals – 2 assists – 4 points. 10 shots. (-1).
- Jay McClement. He has been a nice source of production so far and has helped pick up the slack from others who have gotten off to a slow start. McClement has worked hard on each shift and is alongside Alex Steen as the best two Blues in the early going.
Stats: 1 goal – 3 assists – 4 points. 7 shots. +1.
- Alex Steen. Your best Blue so far? Possibly. On the ice, Steen has looked the most energetic and has work the hardest of anyone on the roster. He tallied the lone goal against Los Angeles (shorthanded mind you) and is a source of intensity on a team that has seen little through four games. He hasn’t been afraid to fire the puck, which is a trait the rest of the team needs to learn.
Stats: 1 goal – 0 assists – 1 point. 14 shots. +1.
- Erik Johnson: While he still needs to work through some rust (and it shows), he still has done a pretty good job. EJ has stepped up to contribute on the offensive side of things which was an area the Blues more than struggled with last season. EJ is pinching in well to keep the puck at the other end of the ice, but still needs to continue to work at positioning and using his body in his own end. With time, this will come as he still tries to make his comeback from that devastating knee injury.
Stats: 0 goals – 3 assists – 3 points. 11 shots. +3.
- The power-play: Ranks 12th in the NHL at 23.5%. While the year is early and the pp% are tough to go by (Calgary is clicking at a 43.8% rate), it is nice to see the Blues finding some success with the man advantage. Ideally the team will be able to find consistent success rather than a few power-play points in one game followed by being shutout the next.
- Crowds. Big crowds the first two games of the year, and here is to hoping that continues.
- Goaltending. Chris Mason has made some unreal and incredible saves, but at the same time he (and the Blues) have allowed a bounty of early goals which simply needs to stop. Ty Conklin kept the Blues in the game in his lone start, but he too was guilty of giving up a couple early. So far the goaltending has been brilliant at times but overall it has been average when you include the first period woes.
Stats (Mason): 1-2-0. 2.70 GAA. .900 SV%.
Stats (Conklin): 1-0-0. 3.00 GAA. .910 SV%.
- David Perron: Some may argue he should be in the good column, but I can not justify placing him there quite yet. He has worked hard and been quick to the puck all over the ice. He has been checking hard and winning some battles down low. However, at the end of the day he has been on the ice several times when the opponent has scored, and was one of the reasons behind LA’s goal on Saturday due to him not making a change. He has performed very well doing the intangibles that don’t appear in the boxscore, but he, like many other Blues, has not been able to produce which lands him in this section.
Stats: 0 goals – 0 assists – 0 points. 5 shots. (-3).
- Darryl Sydor: His experience has served valuable and he has done a better job than some would have thought. While he may be shaky at times, the fact is he is on the ice more often when the Blues score than when the opponent does, as evidenced by his handsome plus/minus rating. Sydor is doing a fine job filling in for Brewer from the leadership side of things, and he has done an overall solid job at defending. However, Sydor has not always looked rock-solid in the Blues’ zone and sometimes struggles to win battles in the corner.
State: 0 goals – 1 assist – 1 point. 3 shots. +4.
- The PK: Currently ranks 17th with a 77.8% kill rate. Hard to judge this sample size through just four games, but currently the kill ranks as average in the league. Ideally, it needs to improve.
- Coming out in each game so far with absolutely no energy. More detail on this issue can be found here. The Blues need to come out of the game at a higher level and can not afford to continue falling behind or allowing multiple goals in the first period. As the saying goes, “Playing catchup hockey is playing losing hockey”. The Blues were fortunate to escape Sweden with four points despite giving Detroit a head start in each game.
- David Backes & Patrik Berglund. In a poll I ran called “Which Blue Has Disappointed You?“, David Backes and Patrik Berglund led the way in the voting. These two have gotten off to extremely slow starts which has resulted in Berglund receiving a healthy scratch in the team’s game against LA. Berglund’s lone bright spot this season came with a goal he scored in Sweden, but one could argue that the goal was a soft one, and it probably should have been saved. Backes on the other hand has looked a shadow of his 30+ scoring self that made an appearance in 2008-09. In short, both need to step up their game for the Blues offense to churn as it did at the end of last season.
Stats (Backes): 0 goals – 0 assists – 0 points. 10 shots. (-3).
Stats (Berglund): 1 goal – 0 assists – 0 points. 4 shots. (-2).
- T.J. Oshie. Expectations are enormous for Oshie but outside of a few powerful moves across the blueline and a few nice checks, he hasn’t really found his stride. Of course, this is a problem the entire team is facing outside of a few guys, but Oshie is one of the biggest fan-favorites and the pressure is high. While I am not advocating bad shots that lead to turnovers, I am suggesting he needs to fire the puck more. An average of one shot a game for Oshie is simply too low for a guy who could really have a breakout season.
Stats: 0 goals – 1 assist – 1 point. 4 shots. (-1).
- The Phantom of the Scottrade. Um, what? Here is to hoping that it was a one time stunt since Phantom of the Opera is playing over at the Fox. This was possibly one of the lamest attempts at stadium entertainment I have ever seen. The smell of failure lingered long after the Phantom disappeared.
- Dropping two at home to start the year. O.K., so the one victory in Sweden counts as a “home game”, but losing in St. Louis twice to kickoff the year is rough, especially when seemingly every St. Louis sport team is losing as well.
Some good, some bad and some that falls somewhere in the middle. What has troubled or excited you through four games this season? Sound off in the comments. The Blues return to the ice Thursday on the road in Phoenix where they hopefully will end this two game skid.