What did Mike Yeo say about the Blues after a 5-4 overtime loss Saturday night to the Blackhawks? Oh…”shinny hockey”…glad we got that cleared up.
Yeo’s comments made waves through the St. Louis sports scene as he came out in Saturday’s postgame press conference firing on all cylinders, unlike his hockey team. However, I must say I thought it was a little bizarre to react the way he did following what I thought was a sloppy, but competitive hockey game played by the Note.
What I saw was a team that is so anxious to get up the ice, that they’re not playing responsibly with the puck in their own zone. And while I understand that can be frustrating for a defensive-minded head coach to watch, it’s better than what we’ve seen from past Blues teams, where they play uninspired hockey for large chunks of time.
Yeo’s decision to show a little emotion so early in the season is a measured one, I am sure. He’s not stupid, he understands that things can get out of hand early, but that being said I hope it’s an isolated situation because too much of that could backfire on him quickly.
So with all the “shinny” puns out of the way, and with the fanbase starting to calm back down a few days after another “Jake Allen special” of surrendering five goals, I think we are ready to try and figure out where the Blues can clean up their game.
Of course it all starts with Jake Allen.
If we have learned anything in St. Louis, it is that it almost always comes down to goaltending in the NHL and especially in the postseason. For further proof of this just do a quick google search on the 1995-1996 St. Louis Blues, and if you really want to depress yourself do another search on the 1999-2000 team.
So it went without saying that coming into the 2018-2019 season that Jake Allen was the number one key to the Blues success. And just two games into the season, the fact still remains that he will be the biggest factor in determining this team’s success.
Unfortunately for those fans who hoped he’d be placed on waivers after the Chicago game, that hasn’t and isn’t going to happen. Jake the Snake will be slithering in between the pipes for the Blues for the foreseeable future no matter how loud the cries get for goaltender prospect Ville Husso early in the season.
The team made it pretty obvious they felt Husso still needed AHL seasoning when they signed back-up goalie Chad Johnson to a one-year deal. Husso may be the future, but Allen is the now. I am not saying that this is the right decision, but it’s the one the team made and it’s the one the team will stand by for the time being. So if you are a fan of postseason hockey, and you enjoy when the Blues participate in it, then you better embrace Jake Allen and hope he finds the game that made him the team’s starting goaltender.
You might also want to start rooting for some discipline from the players in front of Allen, maybe root for the team’s d-men to be able to clear the zone cleanly.
The Blues have been far too careless with their passing when exiting the zone, and it has come back to haunt them early-on. Both the Jets and Blackhawks have plenty of playmakers that will bury extra chances, and the Blues gave them an abundance of them the first two games of the season.
On the other hand, Allen must come up with the crucial save when called upon. As it stood going into Wednesday night, the Blues had allowed 23 high danger scoring chances against (naturalstattrick.com added three more since Saturday.) Allen’s 69.75% save percentage on those high danger chances ranks 2nd worst in the league to only the Pittsburgh Penguins’ 55.56%.
Allen shouldn’t be expected to do it all by himself, however, when handed multiple leads, including a two goal lead, against a rival at home you have got to find a way to put that game away.
Second thing on the list is: finding the right partner for Alex Pietrangelo.
If you are coming here expecting me to talk about Jay Bouwmeester’s time in St. Louis being a complete disaster, or how Doug Armstrong should be fired and strangled for giving him five-year contract back in 2013, then you came to the wrong spot.
However, if you came here to read a rationale opinion about how a 35-year old defender coming off hip surgery is not an ideal candidate as a line-mate for a potential Norris Trophy candidate, then you can keep reading.
Bouwmeester has had a fine career, and despite his critics he has handled his assignment as a true lockdown defensemen who played valuable minutes on the PK with great poise. But, Father Time is undefeated and we are seeing the beginning of the end for Bouw.
This isn’t to say that he can’t still be a very valuable piece on a third pairing, teaching guys like Jordan Schmaltz and Vince Dunn the way to go about being a true all-around defenseman in this league. But if the team insist on putting No. 19 on the same pairing as No. 27 they are hurting themselves, and they are hurting the captain’s game.
In a very limited sample, Petro has been a more dangerous player without Jay Bouwmeester by his side during even strength hockey.
With Bouwmeester on the ice, he has a 47.5% Corsi rating, and the team has a “scoring chances for” percentage of 42.86%
Without Jay on the ice, he has a 55% Corsi rating, and the team has a “scoring chances for” percentage of 54.17%.
Unforturnately, this isn’t a trend that just started. Last year, when Bouw was rarely at 100% even before the season ending hip injury, the two struggled generate offense when they were on the ice together.
Petro had a 44.07% corsi rating with Bouwmeester by his side compared to a 52.82% corsi rating when he was paired with someone else. This is quite telling, especially when you consider the fact that Alex Pietrangelo had his best statistical season of his career last year.
Hopefully with the return of Joel Edmundson to the lineup, Yeo and the coaching staff will make the smart move and push Bouwmeester down in the lineup, and pair Petro with big No. 6, who he had some success with last year when sharing the same ice.
Third and final thing on the list is: let’s make sure we are rewarding the right players with ice time.
I know this is going to sound like I am trying to make a point to prove that my worries about Mike Yeo and his lack of success with young players are indeed warranted. But I couldn’t help but take note of a few of the discrepancies in the ice time logs.
Let’s start with the most obvious one, Robert Thomas.
The team spent the end of last season and the summer talking this guy up, and how they have been grooming him to be a top centerman on this team for years to come. So it comes as a bit of a surprise to see the team’s top prospect log 6:07 against a Central Division foe.
Mike Yeo was quoted by our own Jeremy Rutherford after Monday’s practice saying “Guys that are playing well are going to play and guys that maybe don’t deserve as much ice time aren’t going to get it. We’re here to build our team and we have to make sure we’re on top of that.”
“Hear, hear.” I am all about that. However, what did Thomas do to not deserve more playing time? I mean his line was only the most noticeable line during last week’s home opener, and there was nothing in the 6+ minutes we saw Saturday that says he warranted more time on the pine than on the ice.
Meanwhile, Alex Steen is averaging over 17 and half minutes of ice-time, and David Perron is averaging close to 13 minutes while putting up a combined -7 +/- rating between the two.
Perron is also carrying the team’s worst Corsi Rating at 21.43% and Steen isn’t too far behind at 31.43%. Both of these guys are seeing the ice more than Thomas, Jordan Kyrou, Ivan Barbashev, and Sammy Blais.
Yeo continued to defend himself by saying “I’m trying to win the game. We’ve got to win the game and we’ve got to build our team. A guy like Blazer ended up earning more ice time and worked his way up to the 3rd line.”
I get that it’s not all about offense and the amount of shots you generate, which is what the Corsi rating measures. But at some point you have to give the young guys a chance to prove themselves on the defensive end as well, I mean let’s face it Steen has been on the ice for 4 of 10 goals the opposing teams have scored against the Blues. I think anyone of those rookies and 2nd year players could accomplish that.
Mike Yeo finished his thoughts on the young players ice time “Obviously, we have to be mindful of our young players. But I don’t think we want to lose hockey games because we’ve got Vladi Tarasenko sitting on the bench or Jaden Schwartz sitting on the bench too. So we’ve got to walk that line”
Again, I say in agreement “hear, hear Mike!” However, #57 and #20 should be on the other side of that line because you’re losing hockey games with them on the ice for a bulk of time.