Scoring Drought – Thoughts Looking Ahead
The Blues fell last night to the Boston Bruins 4-2 thanks in most part to lousy play on special teams. The normally resilient penalty kill finally showed some weakness, allowing two power-play goals to Boston. The Blues power-play still lays dormant with no signs of awakening any time soon. It currently has a success rate of 12.2%, good for last (30th) in the NHL.
Obviously the power-play needs to start clicking if the Blues want to win games. They have done well in killing penalties (83.2% for 5th in the NHL) but quite frankly just need to start burying pucks in the back of the net.
The four goal outing the other night or the five goal thrashing in Carolina might make fans forget just how inconsistent the scoring has been for the team this season. The Blues average 2.38 goals forced per game. This total ranks 25th in the NHL, and really sums up the season so far. We have seen spurts of greatness and offensive dominance, but the majority has been a team that can fire shot after shot and continue to come up empty.
Speaking of shots, you might recall several games where the Blues out shot their opponent by a wide margin. Unfortunately, this has not been the norm. The Blues average 28.8 shot a game (22nd) but allow 30.0 (17th). These numbers paint the picture that the Blues aren’t just failing to score, but failing to generate shots that actually find the net, let alone the back of the net. Pucks coming in from the blueline seem to get blocked more often than they should while the pucks that get through frequently clank off the glass or the boards rather than testing the goaltender.
Continuing our walk around the Blues scoring nightmare is scoring by period. The early going of the 2009-10 season saw the Blues surrender early leads and never being able to crawl back out of the hole they dug in the first period. Overall, this hasn’t been the norm for the Blues either – in fact, the numbers show the Blues have been their best offensively in the first period.
1st Period – 17
2nd Period – 17
3rd Period – 15
As you can see (besides the fact all these numbers are extremely low and all need to improve) the Blues have been equally bad at lighting the lamp (seriously, no need to worry about the bulbs going out at this rate) regardless of what period it is. However, where their scoring by period totals rank around the NHL makes one thing stand out.
Scoring by Period Rank in the NHL
1st Period – 15th
2nd Period – 28th
3rd Period – 28th
Compare this to a team such as the San Jose Sharks who rank first in 2nd Period scoring with 42 goals. They know how to score when the game dictates they need to, and know how to put away a team late in the game.
David Perron and T.J. Oshie’s individual scoring skill has made many fans forget that on the larger scale the Blues have not been able to buy a goal through almost the entire first fourth of the 2009-10 NHL season. That’s right, the 1/4th mark crept up and now has come and gone. We still haven’t seen the well-oiled Blues team that ran wild through the league at the end of last season.
On to some questions that are filling my mind on this Tuesday morning:
Will we see that team again sometime this year that devastated the league late last season?
I think we will – but when it happens it might be too late. Last season was miraculous and isn’t something you can count on to happen again, however the Blues are setting themselves up where they will require another ridiculous late season run to fulfill their playoff aspirations. It still feels early in the season, but already the Blues have put 21 games of their 82 in the books and only have 20 points to show for it. Considering the usual mark for what a team needs to make it into the playoffs is somewhere in the 90+ range, the Blues will have to pick up their game in a hurry to make it past that total.
Will the power-play ever start scoring?
Yes. Eventually. At this point the Blues are bound to fluke a few in at the very least. The team is far, far too talented to keep being held in check when they are a man up. Something is going to give, it’s all just a matter of when. Is coaching on the power-play an issue? Or perhaps all the wide shots and blocked shots? In my opinion: it’s all of the above and then some. Plenty of blame to spread around.
The goaltending has been brilliant. Will it continue?
Yes and no. It will continue to be solid as Mason and Conklin offer one of the better combos in the league. However, if the Blues rely on Mason to make the circus-style saves he has been making to win games, then we could be in big, big trouble. Let’s put it this way: Goaltending is the least of our concerns and is one issue that really doesn’t need to be addressed.
What’s wrong with Paul Kariya?
He needs to start taking notes from fellow veteran Keith Tkachuk. Tkachuk experienced a long scoring drought of his own but has since stepped his game up and now has goals in two of his last three games. Kariya on the other hand has been a huge disappointment this season (especially when you see how much his contract is) with just eight points in 21 games. Some were expecting Kariya to return to his point-per-game pace he showed in his limited time skating last season, but that form has been absent all season. At the very least, the line of Kariya-Backes-Oshie has looked the most threatening and caused the most havoc in recent games.