It’s true five games out of 82 doesn’t make or break a season, but it can help do so. Anyone doubting this needn’t look further than last year’s St. Louis Blues and the single point that sent them home for the summer in mid-April.
Which isn’t to say this year’s team will suffer the same fate, but giving up these precious October points is no different than doing so in April when it comes down to it; especially when you play in arguably the NHL’s toughest division.
While it’s premature to proclaim a Blues Doomsday, it’s not too early to be concerned. We’re not at ‘Threat Level Midnight’ yet, but we could end up there if the Note don’t seal up some cracks in their game soon.
Defense has been a (surprising) issue, as have blown leads in the third period. The latter is especially concerning and something NHL.com’s Lou Korac recently discussed with ‘The Kevin Wheeler Show’ following the Note’s 3-2 Sunday loss to Anaheim.
“You had a lead going into the third period again, and I think, really, that’s kind of the alarming thing that’s going on here in the early going,” Korac said. “This team has had a third period lead in the last two games and in three of the last four, and you’re 1-1-2 (in that span) and you have two points to show for it.
“In this league, third period leads are sacred, and right now the Blues just aren’t holding them for whatever reason. They’re going to have to figure out a way to start doing that here moving forward.”
While many have pointed to blown leads and defensive lapses as the team’s Achilles heels to this young point in the season, Korac also notes a deficiency in getting shots on-net, which has caused some chain reactions leading to opposing goals the other way.
“What I’m seeing is what I saw a lot of last year, where you get an opportunity to shoot the puck and you’re not hitting the net,” Korac said. “You missed the net 14 times again last night, and some of these were in a couple of prime scoring areas. And it’s just like, force the goalie to make a save.
“A lot of times when you’re missing the net, you never know where that puck’s going to go and sometimes your defensemen are caught in a vulnerable position if teams are jumping back, going the other way,” he added. “That’s where a lot of these odd-man rushes are coming from.”
Even with the Note’s 1-2-2 record, there have been bright spots. Young forwards Sammy Blais and Jordan Kyrou have shone bright and Pat Maroon’s taken opponents to task as advertised and added three assists. New addition Ryan O’Reilly has dropped four dimes of his own, and Brayden Schenn keeps proving himself the steal of the 2017 offseason with two goals on three helpers.
Not all is dire, but NHL’s Central Division — of Western Conference as a whole — won’t allow any of its clubs to dig a very deep hole and still hope to climb out.
“I still think they’re going to figure things out here eventually, but how long does ‘eventually’ go?” Korac said. “You really don’t want to stretch this too far and we start talking about this stuff in November, because if you are then you’re really fighting an uphill battle.”
You can listen to Lou Korac’s entire segment with Wheels below. Stay connected with 101 ESPN for plenty of Note chatter and analysis as they begin a Canadian road trip in Montreal Wednesday.