After a 9-1-2 start, the Blues went 19-27-7 over their next 53 games. Now, they’ve won three in a row, and they did it in the fashion we expected. Tight checking, close games, clutch scoring and toughness have been the hallmark.
Without question, the addition of Chris Stewart has been the linchpin that has changed the club’s fortunes. His nine goals in 14 games have approximated what David Perron was supposed to do. For the first time this season, the Blues have scored at least four goals for three games in a row.
But the Blues are also keeping the puck out of the net at key times. They’ve allowed four, three and then one goal in the last three games, and Jaroslav Halak has been, in his two-game return, what the Blues expected him to be. Not only has the goaltending been reasonably strong, but they’ve allowed 28, 22 and 28 shots in the last three matches. That’s a low enough shot total to succeed if your goalie is providing a respectable save percentage.
There are a lot of ifs with the Blues. If Halak is what the Blues thought he was when they traded for him, and if Perron can come back and be a 30-goal scorer, and if the Blues can get first-round quality play out of Ian Cole, they have a chance to compete for a playoff spot next year.
But that won’t be enough. The Blues must reinvest in some winning veteran players for 2011-2012. If they can add a big, two-way center (Mikko Koivu of Minnesota?) and a steady defenseman to mentor their young corps of Cole, Alex Pietrangelo, Kevin Shattenkirk, Roman Polak, Carlo Colaiacovo and Nikita Nikitin, they’ll go a long way.
This season is a disappointment. But what the Blues need is veteran quality, rather than quantity. And that’s an easier proposition to deal with than needing to completely rebuild.
Although they’ve driven me crazy with their inconsistency, I’m looking forward to next season already.